Opinion: Benat Broderick, a 15-year-old Cystic Fibrosis advocate and ambassador, writes about living with his condition and the isolating factors that come into play.
I was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis, a genetically inherited disease that affects multiple organs, when I was just 19 months old. My treatment requires nebulisers - to help get the mucus off our lungs - as well as airway clearance and, most importantly, physical activity.
With this illness, there is a golden rule when it comes to socialising. Those with CF can never meet each other in person because, if we did, we could pass the bugs that we carry back and forth to one another which could result in us becoming dangerously sick.
The only exception to this rule is siblings who are both born with CF because, obviously, you can’t separate siblings. In that situation, they would have to take more of a careful approach to living with one another, for example, not sharing things, very good hand hygiene, etc.
With most other conditions, there tend to be support groups and social groups where patients meet up for coffee and chat about what they are going through. For CF patients, that's not possible.
In this way, living with this disease can be quite isolating. I can never meet anyone who goes through the same things as me and I never get to hang out with CF friends. However, thanks to technology, things have changed.
I am very lucky to have been brought up in a generation that embraces technology. While many adults complain about how much time teenagers spend on their phones, social media platforms have made a massive difference to the CF community. Thanks to the internet, we can chat with other people who are going through the same things as we are and share our experiences with one another.
Thanks to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, I have had the opportunity to make such amazing friends with CF who are going through the same things as me - sometimes in the same hospital as me.
Quite often I have to go into hospital due to chest infections, and while we are all in isolation rooms, we CF's can now stay in touch through social media - I have gotten to know the other patients so well thanks to being online.
Social media, for me anyway, has been a massive lifesaver because I know I’m not the only one going through the everyday ups and downs of life with CF. Finding these friends online has definitely boosted my confidence and has helped me to talk about my condition more because I now have friends who know exactly what I'm talking about.
For more information on Cystic Fibrosis, visit Cystic Fibrosis Ireland.
The views expressed here are those of the author and do not represent or reflect the views of RTÉ.