Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Young People's Takeover: Holly van Geffen

Baby Me
Me now, aged 23
Hello everyone!

So I have been asked to do a social media take-over today with the Cystic Fibrosis Trust to talk about being a young person with CF and the issues we face, and to talk about the help and support we need.

I am Holly and I am 23 years old. I was diagnosed when I was six weeks old and have the most common delta f508 mutation. In February 2015, aged 22, I received a double lung transplant; I had been waiting for two years, since the age of 20.

I think I will begin my story from the age of 12 as I think is the age I became fully aware of my CF and how it affected me. I was lucky as a child and only required intravenous antibiotics (IVs)  twice, aged five and 11! So up until the age of 12, CF was very much in the background of my life. As I moved to high school, I had to take on more responsibility for my own CF treatment. Although I still had a helper who would do my lunch time physiotherapy in the form of postural drainage with percussion, I was now in charge of my own enzymes at lunch time (at primary school my helper would also do that side of things for me). In the lead up to having this responsibility, me and mum discussed what I would have in my packed lunch and the amount of enzymes I would take with each item, so I felt well prepared and never had an issues of taking too many or not enough!

Outside of school, particularly in the evenings, I began to think doing my treatment was a chore and my compliance dropped. It was around this age that the hospital wanted to change my usual physio technique of my parents giving me postal drainage with percussion to using a breathing device. This gave me the control and responsibility of doing my physio which they saw as a good step toward independence. I tried the Pep mask and the Accapella, but I unfortunately didn't feel the same benefit and that I did with postural drainage, so would only do the physio sessions half heartedly! By the age of 14 my compliance was so bad with physio that my mum and dad fundraised and we were able to buy 'The Vest airway clearance system'. It was the best thing we ever did and an attitude changing moment for my young teenage self. The vest allowed me to still have independence in doing my physio, but not so much responsibility in carrying out the correct technique. Instead, I could sit and watch TV or read a book whilst the vest did the work for me. It sounds lazy, and it was, but that is the teenage brain for you! There are a lot of mixed opinions on 'The Vest', but for me it was a saviour in my compliance to treatments and was by far better than doing no physio at all.

At the age of 14 I took up cheerleading in my free time; I trained for seven hours a week over the course of three different nights.  It was great that I found a 'sport' that I loved and was passionate about at an age where often exercise decreases because it isn't cool! I would really recommend cheerleading to CF girls as a hobby that is exercise based but has a great social side to it and sense of achievement. I was a cheerleader for five years and took part in competitions with my team nationwide! It definitely kept me better than I would have been if I'd done no physical activity.

Me in the centre with my leg up! I was a flyer!
My health remained stable until I was 15 and I was diagnosed with atypical Mycobacterium abscessus. Until this diagnosis I had mainly had issues with ABPA (allergic response to Aspergillus fungus), which was treated with high-dose steroids and anti-fungal medicine. My symptoms changed from a wheezy tight chest with the ABPA to a loose crackly chest full of mucus with the mycobacterium.

This change in symptoms and the
With the trophy we won
infections in my lungs prompted a change in my treatments. IV's became a regular occurrence, because of this I had a portacath fitted because my veins couldn't cope with the long lines!

Between the ages of 15 and 19 the regularity of IVs increased from every six months, to every three months, to every month. At the age of 19 I was told I no longer grew the mycobacterium but was kept on a maintenance dose of the oral antibiotics it was sensitive to just in case.

With the mycobacterium gone my lungs became infected for the first time in my life with Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Now the competition with the mycobacterium was gone, the Pseudomonas took full advantage of colonising my lungs! I was unfortunate in culturing an extremely antibiotic-resistant strain of Pseudomonas, so treating it was very difficult. My lung function had dropped to 22% in July 2013 and I was referred for a double lung transplant. I was  reliant on permanent IV's for over two years to be in a stable condition until I got my transplant. Just a weekend off could cause the infection to flare up to the point I was bed ridden. My doctors came up with three antibiotic cocktails to rotate every two weeks; I was lucky my mum was my full-time carer so could do the IVs for me in the comfort of my own home instead of being in hospital permanently. In the two years leading up to my transplant I required oxygen and taught myself to insert a naso-gastric feeding tube for overnight feeding.

Since my transplant my routine has changed massively and I no longer need a lot of the CF treatments anymore. I don't have physio, nebulisers, inhalers, IV's or oral antibiotics anymore. I do however have to take anti-rejection medication and exercise is a key part of keeping my new lungs well and raising my lung function to its full potential.

Now you have a brief history about myself, I would like to welcome you to ask me questions about anything you like, from puberty to socialising, and letting people know about my CF to diet ideasbasically anything CF or transplant related you can think of, and I will try my best to answer from my own experiences.

I will be posting more issues I feel passionate about during the day!

Thanks for reading


1 comment:

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