Benat Broderick is a 17-year-old Cystic Fibrosis patient, ambassador, and advocate. Here, he writes about living through a global pandemic as someone who is considered high risk.

At the start of 2020, I was acutely unwell in hospital with a severe chest infection. I never could have imagined then how different my life would be in just 12 months. I never could have anticipated just how much things would change in terms of both my health and my day to day life.

As someone who is high risk, I had to adapt quickly to "cocooning" due to the risk posed by COVID-19. Unfortunately, a year on and things remain pretty much the same as when it started. The only excitement now is that we have the arrival of numerous vaccines which offer great hope for myself and others. That’s especially the case for me as they have now been approved for those over the age of 16.

I am still scared of this potentially deadly virus and I am not afraid to admit it. I think if you were to ask anyone who has an underlying medical condition, and hasn't yet been vaccinated, they too would fear the getting sick, especially when you consider just how severe the side effects can be.

For the past year, my daily life has been centered around my health and keeping myself as well as possible - even more so than before the pandemic. The need for nebulisers, medication, and exercise – regardless of the times we are in – continue.

I am very lucky that in the midst of everything, I have started a new life-changing drug for CF patients called Kaftrio. For me, it has lived up to its incredible reputation and I feel so lucky to have it. It has, by far, been the highlight of my life, and just happened to come along during the worst of times.

Life during a pandemic is difficult. I found that having a routine has been the biggest thing that I could do to help both my physical and mental health. If I did not have structure, I know I would not only have gotten very sick but also become very demotivated. 

Unlike most students, I didn’t get to return to school when they re-opened their doors, primarily because of the potential risk posed. Instead, I have fully adapted to home schooling, which I had been somewhat used to anyway due to previous hospitalisations.

Even in the best of times, Cystic Fibrosis is tough. Hand hygiene and mask-wearing are things that I am glad to say I am used to, and something I have had to do from a very young age. In fact, I first started wearing a mask at the age of six.

When you live with a condition that requires you to be extremely careful in all aspects, you don't have the privilege to forget about your health or think that these safety measures doesn’t matter. Those of us with CF know more than most how important and fragile life is. 

I think living with a disease has helped me to adapt to the precautions surrounding COVID-19 as they are very similar to that of CF patient’s world. For example, we do everything we can to prevent contracting the flu and other viruses so that we don’t end up in hospital on intravenous antibiotics or worse.

As the country moves in and out of Level 5 restrictions, I've had to avoid attending hospital appointments in person. I find it more difficult to have a consultation over the phone and I miss not being able to attend clinics regularly as I miss seeing my team in the flesh. I missed them!

Yes, for many the pandemic has been very negative and I have found cocooning extremely difficult. However, staying in and not going to shops and cafés, and not meeting friends, has meant that for the first time in about nine years, I have not had a hospital visit these past 12 months.

It is my biggest achievement, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. 

I do feel life is going to be hard for the next while, but I am hoping that as society begins to slowly re-open, I will gradually be able to return to a more normal life. To help things along, I make sure to set myself goals and focus on events that I can look forward to. For example, my birthday last January, Easter coming around the corner and, of course, 65 Roses Day.

Unfortunately, Cystic Fibrosis Ireland cannot proceed with its usual 65 Roses Day collections on Friday, April 9, due to COVID-19. However, members of the public are instead being encouraged to show their support by donating online at 65RosesDay.ie or by taking part in a 65 Roses Challenge.

For more information on Cystic Fibrosis or COVID-19, visit HSE.ie.