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Dublin: 12 °C Wednesday 8 July, 2020
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Opinion: As a Cystic Fibrosis patient, the coronavirus is a major worry for me

Benat Broderick writes about his concerns regarding Covid-19.

Benat Broderick

I AM ONE of the people you keep hearing about lately – the immunosuppressed. I am 16 and was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis at 19-months-old. For me, a good day consists of me taking medication such as the well-known drug Orkambi, and many others to keep me well. I take nebulisers multiple times a day, and I do airway clearance to stay well and to prevent catching an infection.

Over the last few days, the number of confirmed cases of Covid 19 has been increasing and no doubt that will continue. As someone who has such a chronic lung condition and a weakened immune system, I’m urging people to really consider when out in public to consider those who may be around them when, for example, they are coughing and sneezing. 

Cystic Fibrosis is quite a hard disease as you’re always on guard. You’re always trying to stay away from sick people, as we don’t want to catch whatever they have. If I catch a head cold, for example, which progresses into a bacterial infection, I could be hospitalised for up to three weeks. This is why I’m so worried about the coronavirus. My immune system is so weak. 

For someone like me, with Cystic Fibrosis, I can literally pick anything up with my lowered immune system, and it can be extremely serious and dangerous if I do.  But now, the thought of the coronavirus is making me and others very concerned about our health.

That fear of potentially getting the coronavirus is something that no doubt myself and most in the CF community are experiencing, but because of our condition, that fear is heightened. I think the public needs to be aware of the potential damage it can do to people with CF, and anyone who has a low immune system or an underlying condition.

coronavirus-washing-hands Source: DPA/PA Images

Wash your hands

Due to the nature of CF, hand hygiene is a big part of the condition, as we are constantly trying our best to prevent catching infections, colds etc. Washing our hands and trying to keep ourselves well is something we are constantly doing as CF patients.

The support from the public so far, with everyone agreeing to wash their hands, makes a massive difference to how we feel, but now my fear is that the public “forgetting” to cough into their arm may actually cost my life as the virus potentially spreads further. 

I am really encouraging people to follow the advice of the HSE, and take the appropriate steps to help prevent spreading it. It is crucial now that we stop Covid-19.

It is a worry though when I constantly see people coughing and sneezing into the air, and if it continues, I feel I and others will have to avoid going places. Mind you, the decision has been taken out of our hands in the past couple of days, and it is a relief to see the government taking the strict steps that it has done.

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My life and wellbeing matters

I don’t want to risk my health and life exposing myself. I need to “try” live my life, but this extra fear is really causing me to consider everything I do and everywhere I go.

I obviously don’t want to avoid going places, but I almost feel like I’ll have to if things continue the way they do. If this virus spreads over a long period of time, I feel I am going to be very isolated and will be cancelling things, which is stressing me out.

As I said, I am always on guard in terms of avoiding sick people, and always doing the best to avoid catching things through cleaning my hands and practising other hygiene techniques. But now that Covid-19 could potentially spread through the community,  people need to embrace the advice of the HSE.

For the sake of people with lower immune systems, the elderly and exposed, please just be careful in public and follow the advice below:

  1. Wash your hands properly, and often 
  2. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue, or your sleeve, when you cough or sneeze
  3. Put used tissues in a bin, and ALWAYS wash your hands 
  4. Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces 
  5. Avoid close contact with people who are not well 

For further information visit https://www2.hse.ie/conditions/coronavirus/coronavirus.html

Benat Broderick is in transition year in secondary school and is a student activist and advocate for Cystic Fibrosis patients.

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Benat Broderick

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