I tend to keep my condition to myself, mainly because you just don’t want people to judge, you don’t want to be treated any differently.
My name is Jeff Fisher, I am 34 years of age and I have moderate bronchiectasis, a lung condition characterised by chronic infection in small airways that results in some parts of the lung becoming damaged, scarred and dilated, allowing infected mucus to build up in pockets.
I’m not one hundred per cent sure when I was diagnosed with bronchiectasis as I was quite young however the primary cause was pneumocystis pneumonia which I had when I was three months old. The infection was caused by an underlying immune deficiency that made me susceptible to frequent chest infections. This resulted in scarring and thickening of my bronchi. I believe the diagnosis of bronchiectasis was made progressively using CT scans in the following years. This is when I experienced symptoms including a persistent cough, frequent chest infections, increase in chest secretions and shortness of breath.
When I was initially diagnosed with bronchiectasis, I was fairly unaware of it and what it meant, as I was young. To me, it was an annoying cough and the occasional chest infection, similar to what other kids would experience in the cooler months of the year.
I’ve managed my health well through exercise and regular airway clearance which means I can minimise my cough and conceal my symptoms. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more aware of the condition though as it has affected my fitness and I frequently experience shortness of breath.
When I do experience a flare-up of my symptoms, which happens once or twice a year, symptoms include a persistent cough and increased secretions (phlegm or mucus) and this is when I’ve experienced the stigma attached to lung disease.
People’s automatic reactions range quite significantly. Some people are genuinely concerned whilst others are repulsed and appear disgusted – which is particularly understandable in the flu season although I do wish people would give me the benefit of the doubt. It can be quite demoralising.
Whilst most people are understanding and sympathetic when I inform them of my condition, I feel like I shouldn’t be judged before having the chance to explain it to them.
“When you think about what you go through day-to-day, to think people out there think it’s self-inflicted and that is my own fault is quite hurtful.”
Whilst there are some things I can’t do as easily as others, I do manage my condition well and live a regular day-to-day life. I’ve taken up rowing again recently which has been great for my lungs. I use an indoor rowing ergometer daily and when I am able, I like to get out and row on the Brisbane River or Moreton Bay. I’ve also travelled all over Europe, New Zealand and Asia and am really looking forward to exploring the other continents in the future.
I studied civil and electrical engineering and I now work in the water sector in strategic network planning and hydraulic modelling. I’m enjoying applying electrical engineering techniques to traditional civil engineering applications. I’ve also continued to work on my electrical engineering thesis project which I finished earlier this year which was an electro-mechanical oscillating positive pressure expiratory (OPEP) device. I’m in the middle of designing a new prototype which I hope to finish over the coming weekends.
I’m also really into maker culture so I always have a lot of tech projects on the go – I dabble in building robotics, drones, 3D printing and other gadgets.