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'I spend three hours a day on a nebuliser, but exercise helps my mental health'

Ireland has more cases of cystic fibrosis per head of population than any other country.

kirsty Kirsty Source: Kirsty Gillard-Daly

KIRSTY GILLARD-DALY wanted to be a competitive bodybuilder, but had to put this dream on hold.

The 26-year-old is one of about 1,200 people in Ireland who has cystic fibrosis (CF). This country has more cases of the condition per head of population than any other.

Kirsty, who has 47% lung function, said having CF “makes normal day-to-day life more difficult and tiring”.

“I spend about three hours a day doing nebulisers and airway clearance,” she told TheJournal.ie.

Kirsty, who lives in Glasnevin in Dublin but is originally from Mullingar, works as a business travel consultant.

She was pursuing becoming a competitive bodybuilder, but suffered a knee injury and the level of training required was putting her health at risk.

Exercise plays an important role in helping people with CF stay as healthy as possible, and Kirsty still goes to the gym about five times a week – where she does weightlifting and cardio.

“You go in and sometimes you can manage it no problem but the next day, out of nowhere, you struggle to do the very, very basics. It’s a lot more tiring.

Some days you can’t do it. You go there with the best of intentions but you only manage to last about 15 or 20 minutes and you say, ‘No, it’s too much today.’

Kirsty is also taking part in Cystic Fibrosis Ireland’s One in 1,000 campaign, which hopes to recruit 100 teams of 10 women to take part in the VHI Women’s Mini-Marathon in Dublin this June.

She told us, aside from the physical benefits, exercise is very important for her mental health.

“It’s one of the biggest factors in maintaining good mental health. If you’ve had a bad day in work, everybody has bad days from time to time, it helps to focus on exercise and let it distract you and clear your mind.”

Social life 

Kirsty, who also has CF-related diabetes, has to take over 40 tablets a day. Her health issues have also affected her social life. She can’t plan a last-minute night out with friends, for example.

I have to plan in advance to make sure I get home in time, get the nebuliser done, eat enough food. The average girl might take an hour to do her hair and makeup, it takes me another hour and a half to get my nebuliser and medication done.

Kirsty wants women who are running the mini-marathon to consider raising funds for Cystic Fibrosis Ireland.

“I’m a bit biased but they are fantastic, they give us so much support … They’re there for us when we have any issues or need financial assistance.”

IMG_0769 Kirsty at last year's mini-marathon Source: Kirsty Gillard-Daly

For anyone thinking about running the mini-marathon, Kirsty said: “Challenge yourself, you might not be that big into running or be looking to achieve a particular time but it’s a great event, there’s a big social element too.”

Lung problems 

CF is Ireland’s most common life-threatening inherited disease. About one in 19 people are carriers of the CF gene and when two carriers have a child there is a one in four chance of the child being born with the condition.

CF primarily affects the lungs and digestive system and can greatly impact a person’s lifespan. Symptoms reported by people with CF vary significantly in severity from mild to debilitating.

The most common symptom is recurrent chest infection, which results in lung damage, with the majority of deaths occurring through respiratory failure. Many people with CF eventually need lung transplants.

There is a high prevalence of CF in Europe, with the highest prevalence in Ireland – which is almost three times the average rate in other EU countries and the US.

Registration for the mini-marathon will open on 7 March. More information about the One in 1,000 campaign can be read here. The campaign has raised over €1 million for Cystic Fibrosis Ireland since 2010.

Read: ‘We’ve come so far’: Orkambi campaigners hail next step as children can now get ‘life-changing’ drug

Read: ‘In danger of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory’: How tension built ahead of Orkambi deal

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Órla Ryan

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