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Saturday 25 March 2023 Dublin: 12°C
Benat Broderick
Benat Broderick, who has cystic fibrosis, has been cocooning at home and says he’s grateful for the time to focus on his health and wellbeing.

A FEW MONTHS ago, just days before the whole “lockdown” happened, I was in the hospital with a chest infection for three weeks. Due to the nature of cystic fibrosis, we tend to get recurring chest infections that usually require IV antibiotics in the hospital.

Unfortunately, during that last hospital admission, I had deteriorated and had become quite sick, was left oxygen-dependent and wasn’t able to do much at all. Which, looking back, was quite scary but I overcame that infection and was discharged from hospital.

I then went straight into the Covid-19 lockdown after that and began to “cocoon”. This was before the rest of the country had locked down. I had a feeling Covid-19 may progress and from then on and I just accepted then that my life would be different, for the next while.

About a week after being discharged, I remember reading and waiting for the news to be officially announced by the government regarding cystic fibrosis patients and what they should do, whether we should be shielding ourselves or not.

It came as a surprise to no one that we had to cocoon. I had effectively been cocooning since my latest visit to hospital. However, I did feel more nervous when being told officially by the government to cocoon. I quickly realised, “this is not a joke, it’s actually real”.

My life in a ‘cocoon’

Exercise is vital for someone with CF and at the early stages of the lockdown we were advised to remain indoors. This is bad news for CF patients as they need to be able to move and it usually involves being outdoors. With this in mind, I had to come up with some home exercises so I could remain as healthy as possible.

It was certainly more challenging than I realised because suddenly you are restricted to your house and garden, and that is it. I am very thankful that I was lucky to have an exercise bike, so that didn’t require much organising. But like everyone else, exercise is something you do outside of the home, so for me, I felt very limited.

I began to start to feel a sense of “disconnect” with what was going on outside. All my hospital appointments were cancelled, I could not go out and exercise, or socialise, so my only way of finding out what was happening outside was through my phone and social media.

After I realised this could potentially be my situation for a long time, I started to take the Covid-19 lockdown as a moment to “focus on my health” and put all my efforts into not only making sure I didn’t catch Covid-19 but also that don’t get any other infection. The only way I could achieve this throughout this time has been primarily through exercising and getting myself into good routines.

A new passion for gardening

During this pandemic, trying to stay calm and relaxed was quite challenging. Trying to not look at the news every day and avoid reading Covid-related things was also a challenge until I discovered a new interest that helped me to distract myself from everything – gardening.

I never had any interest in gardening, until everything happened recently and I wanted to get my mind off Covid-19. I started to think of things I could do so I began by painting our fence which is something I really enjoyed. The act of something simple like that meant I only needed to concentrate on the fence and therefore wasn’t thinking about what is going on in the world.

We had planters that we had never used, so I assembled them and planted some vegetables that we had and through doing all of this. I have really enjoyed this and every day I am coming up with other ideas for the garden.

While gardening is weather dependent and we are thankful to have had great weather, I did also take up some baking, as many others did through the shutdown. I always wanted to make some nice desserts and foods for myself so I felt this was the right time.

I began by rooting out some books and reading through loads of them so not only was I learning new things, but I was also able to put them into practice and I never realised how therapeutic I found cooking and baking. So I began by making some delicious cheesecakes and I have since continued on and I find it such an amazing thing to do on a rainy way (once I have all the ingredients).

A positive outlook

I feel something that has helped me through this has been staying positive. I made sure I got myself into the right mindset because I knew if I didn’t that this could be a very long road. I decided that by turning everything into a positive I made everything so much easier.

I could have been sitting at home thinking the worst of everything, doing nothing, and getting myself into bad routines, but I thought of the positive things and I feel that certainly helped me overcome a lot of things, mainly developing good habits during all of this.

My exercise bike became my new friend until I was allowed back out for exercise. So, I was on my bike twice a day and lifting my weights, which I thankfully bought before Covid-19.

I am now feeling better than ever before. I think this is down to the effort to stay fit and having some quiet time at home, which I would not usually have.

Most people would have seen the pandemic as a negative – having to stay at home. But personally, as someone living with a medical condition, I feel it has been great. I could tailor this time to my health requirements. Thankfully the government has said we can go out for walks now and have people over, while we are partially cocooning, which is nice.

Benat Broderick is in transition year in secondary school and is a student activist and advocate for Cystic Fibrosis patients. You can follow him on Instagram.

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