My wonderful Nan was diagnosed with Pulmonary Fibrosis in 2009 at the age of 64. Initially, none of my family or I, including my Nan, understood the severity of the disease and we didn’t for some time. My Nan was already suffering with other respiratory diseases, and this almost overshadowed her new diagnosis.
In the beginning, her symptoms started off slowly and included a cough, the build-up of excess mucus and recurrent chest infections. But the gradual onset soon led to shortness of breath, the appearance of clubbed fingers, extreme fatigue, multiple hospital admissions and conjunctively she had pulmonary hypertension.
I always said, on the third of November 1944, God placed an Angel onto the earth and that was my Nan. Kathleen Reddington’s life began in a small village in the County of Kilkenny in the southeast of Ireland. At the age of 16 Nan travelled to England to make her life here. Nan appreciated life’s simple pleasures like laughter, good conversation, great food and liked to remind me of how mind-blown she was when she first tried Coca-Cola. She was a very hardworking, and inquisitive of the new life that she had made for herself. What’s more, Nan was always able to make anyone feel at ease through her deep kindness and compassion; people felt great comfort in her company like a hot cup of tea at the end of a tough day which was something that I greatly admired. She was instrumental in her involvement with charities, which she made me walk with her from door to door for the local collection. What I will always fondly remember is her incredible sense of humour and her love of any sports and that she would be cheering at the television louder than the regular fans.
Above all else, my Nan provided her family with an abundance of love, something we shall be forever grateful for.
In the last few months of her life Nan was prescribed home oxygen therapy. It was apparent that Nan was struggling with the smallest of tasks including walking into a different room or making herself something to eat. Nan had a great relationship with her doctor, and she explained to our family how very ill my Nan was. Additionally, the doctor emphasised the importance of rest and how she disagreed with my Nans determination to visit my Grandad in a care home every day without fail. It was decided that Nan went to live with my Mum and Stepdad as she slowly weakened which was heart breaking to see.
During this time, I was finishing my undergraduate degree in Human Biology and where I was educated about respiratory diseases including Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis.
I distinctly remember the lecturer explaining that the cause is still unknown, it is irreversible and clinical symptoms are not identified quickly enough; sometimes stages of progression are not recognised and monitored closely enough leading to an unalignment of the correct treatment. Seemingly some of the statements proved correct. She became delirious, developed pressure sores on her ankles and slept a lot which we didn’t know if it was associated with the disease. Yet, Nan and I would discuss what I had learnt at university, the pathophysiology and even compare her own spirometry test results and chest X-rays.
To her dying day, she was the kind, caring and witty lady that I will always remember. On a cold, crisp December morning in 2019 I received the devastating phone call that my Nan was to leave this life for the next one. In the early hours of that morning our family gathered around her to say farewell and until we meet again.
Since my Nan has passed away, I began a master’s degree in science communication at the University of Manchester. A recent essay was to create a campaign of my own and I chose to create a campaign aimed at potential stakeholders that would promote a greater awareness of IPF, something which I am passionate about. During my research I discovered that in the UK 70,000 people are affected per year and that yearly diagnoses worldwide have found to be like that of stomach, brain, and testicular cancer, with the survival rate worse than some cancers. I will always continue to conversate with people about pulmonary fibrosis and create as much awareness as possible and raise funding for research which is something I know she would have liked to have been involved with.
As difficult as it is to discuss how this debilitating disease stripped my Nan of her former self towards the end of her life, it also motivates me to be involved with this amazing charity so that a family like ours might relate to it and find consolation.
My Nans legacy will live on and all her beautiful attributes through her family. Her memory will always be alive, but I know that she, more than anyone, would be delighted that progression of research, therapies or if an eventual cure was discovered.