‘Miracle’ drug transforms life of young woman with cystic fibrosis

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To those who just pass her in the street Isobel Richards comes across as your typical healthy young woman.

But throughout her life the 20-year-old, from Roath in Cardiff, has been battling a hereditary condition that severely affects her lungs and drastically reduces her life expectancy.

Living with cystic fibrosis has meant that every day she takes multiple tablets, uses a nebuliser twice a day to open up her airways, and has endured numerous hospital stays in recent years.

Even when it comes to choosing what to eat Isobel, known as Izzy, has to plan every meal and take more tablets to make sure she’s getting enough nutrients into her body.



The 20-year-old previously had to take tablets every day as well as using a nebuliser twice a day

“It affects almost every part of your life,” she said. “Every morning when I wake up I have to take a handful of tablets and I take vitamins. Every single time I eat I have to take tablets depending on the amount of fat in my food.

“Our bodies can’t absorb the nutrients from food so we have to measure and make sure we take the right amount of enzymes. You can’t just eat something v you have to think about it.

“I use a nebuliser twice a day every day to help open up my airways and help me cough up the mucus that my body overproduces. I’ve done this all my life and it’s not something you can forget about. It’s mentally draining.”

Until she reached the age of 14 Izzy, who studies product design at Cardiff Metropolitan University, had only been admitted into hospital twice. But in recent years she’s seen that increase to “two or three times a year” whenever she suffers with chest infections that result in her needing intravenous antibiotics.



Izzy called dealing with her condition ‘mentally draining’



Over the last six years she has been admitted into hospital ‘two or three times a year’

She added: “My family have always encouraged me to be healthy and when I was younger I played netball and did lots of swimming.

“When I left school and then went to university I think with the change of lifestyle I wasn’t keeping as fit as I was and cystic fibrosis kind of started to take set.

“The life expectancy for someone with cystic fibrosis is 41 as you naturally decline as you get older. I got into a bad headspace and was struggling to accept it.”

When the country was placed into lockdown last year Izzy, like many others with health conditions, was told that she would have to shield.

It was during this time that she made the decision to be more open online about her condition and even began writing weekly blog posts to try and help others going through similar experiences.



During lockdown she decided to set up a blog to raise awareness of the genetic condition



She wants other people to understand the condition while also raising awareness of the new drug

“I’ve always found it hard growing up to accept that I have cystic fibrosis and I’ve always been embarrassed to talk about it,” she explained.

“I was told to shield during lockdown and I decided to start speaking up about it because not many people know about it.

“I set up a blog where I would blog daily and weekly about what I’ve gone through and I reached a massive audience of other people with cystic fibrosis as well as mothers and fathers to children with it.

“Not enough people know the extent of cystic fibrosis and how it affects a person’s life and their family’s life.”

Last year the drug Kaftrio was approved in the UK and has been used to treat cystic fibrosis in patients aged 12 and above.




Now Izzy is hoping to raise awareness of the “lifesaving” treatment for others suffering with the condition.

She explained: “A lifesaving miracle drug has just been permitted in the UK which is a drug that has changed my life and the lives of thousands more.

“The drug kind of starts to repair broken genes in your body and where I take tablets every day to eat it does that anyway and it also thins the mucus in my chest.

“It’s the closest thing we have had to a cure but it depends on what gene you have as there are 10% of people with cystic fibrosis who can’t take it.

“I take two tablets a day – one in the morning and one in the night. It’s completely changed my life and I’ve only been taking it for one month.”

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Izzy said she now feels as though she can start to plan her life properly. She is now able to walk up the stairs without stopping for a break at the top and can even enjoy going for longer walks with her family.

“I’m such a happier and healthier person than I was before taking it,” she said. “I feel like I can actually start to plan my life past the life expectancy. I’m so overwhelmed with what I can do with my life.

“I can walk up the stairs without having to have a break at the top and I feel confident to go for a long walk with my family and not slowing them down.

“I feel I can eat more and enjoy my food and time at the dinner table so much more. If you looked at me you would think I’m a normal person.

“I just want more people to understand it and to show that you don’t have to be defined by it.”

You can find Izzy’s blog here.



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