Young new mum with the flu fights for her life, unaware she’s given birth

Sarah Hawthorn

Sarah Hawthorn became a mum last month but is yet to cuddle her “gorgeous boy” who she doesn’t even know has arrived because she’s in the hospital in a coma. Towards the end of her pregnancy the new mum was struck down by the terrible flu epidemic that’s swept the nation this winter, and now she’s fighting for her life.

Not just a cold

Thirty-three-year-old Sarah from Cobram in northern Victoria, was apparently fit and well throughout her pregnancy until contracting the flu when she was seven months along. Despite seeking medical help for over a week and being sent home from Yarrawonga hospital, it wasn’t until things got really serious that she was finally admitted to the Alfred Hospital and diagnosed with influenza A, pneumonia and other complications.

An early arrival

Due to Sarah’s condition, an emergency delivery was required with her baby boy arriving six weeks early on August 28. He is perfect and doing great but sadly Sarah herself is still in an induced coma where she remains in a critical condition with her husband Robert at her side. Nicknamed “Bomber Hawk” for the time-being, her little boy won’t be named until his mum wakes up.

Sarah Hawthorn nephew
Sarah and her nephew (image via Facebook)

Sharing her story

Sarah’s sister-in-law, Rachel Holt, has set up a Gofundme page to raise funds to help cover costs such as travel and accommodation (they live 270km away from the hospital), general living expenses and all of her costly current and future medical bills – Sarah will have a long recovery ahead of her once she finally pulls through.

Support has flooded in already from around the country with the original fundraising target of $20,000 reached in just over a day, however this isn’t the only goal her family has in mind. Another key reason for sharing Sarah’s story is that they’re aiming to create more awareness for the high risk of influenza in expecting mothers.

The dangers of influenza

Over 105,000 cases of influenza have been reported nationally this year alone, with it being estimated that the flu contributes to over 3,000 deaths in Australia each year. Children, the elderly and pregnant women are most at risk but it can be contracted by anyone. Even a healthy 30-year-old father, who died this spring on what should have been his first Father’s Day.

Signs and symptoms

Sometimes it can be hard to tell the difference between a cold and the flu. The most common symptoms of influenza include:

  • A sudden high fever (38 degrees or more)
  • Body aches (especially in the head, lower back and legs)
  • Feeling very weak and tired
  • A dry cough
  • Chills
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose

Tips for expecting mums

The flu virus is highly contagious, making it extremely important when pregnant to avoid anyone who might have it and wash hands thoroughly after being in public or when around anyone sick (particularly during the flu season). The best prevention method is to get the flu vaccination. It is free for pregnant women and is very effective in protecting against the most common strains of influenza. Contrary to some myths, it doesn’t actually give you the flu.

If you do contract the flu, the best methods for recovery are to:

  • Get as much rest as possible – in bed if you can
  • Stay at home – don’t go to work or do other activities
  • Drink plenty of fluids

Unfortunately, there are not many medications you can take while pregnant (a decongestant spray can help), and antibiotics don’t work as influenza is a virus. If at any point you think you might have the flu please speak to your doctor immediately, particularly if you are expecting.

Our thoughts are with Sarah and her family at this difficult time and hope the new mum makes a speedy recovery. To donate funds simply head to their Gofundme page, and messages of love and support are also being welcomed via the website Sending Sarah Love.

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