While the COVID-19 pandemic has made most of us hyper aware of the importance of hand hygiene and social distancing, for some members of society those things were already a matter of life and death.
Launceston local Meg Alexander is one of those people.
She has cystic fibrosis.
The inherited genetic disorder causes severe damage to the lungs, digestive system and other other organs.
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It affects the cells which produce mucus, sweat and digestive juices causing fluids which are normally thin and slippery to became thick and sticky.
Meg is a relatively healthy CF patient but her treatment regime is still extensive.
She takes about 20 tablets every day and spends about an hour doing inhaled therapies to combat the symptoms of CF.
Exercise also plays a big part in keeping Meg healthy.
She usually goes to the gym but that has been impossible due to the pandemic.
"I have been doing home workouts or walking my dog almost every day," Meg said.
"On top of that I have a clinic where I meet with a dietitian, physiotherapist, doctor and a psychologist every two to three months.
"I see my physio once a fortnight, I have muscular issues due to the rest of my body trying to cope with the stress on my lungs.
"Behind the scenes there is a lot going on to keep my body functioning."
The life expectancy for someone with cystic fibrosis is 38 years old. Meg turns 27 next month.
She hopes this pandemic teaches people some lasting lessons.
"I am fairly hopeful that ... people will find it less confronting if they see me wearing a mask or using hand sanitiser," Meg said.
"Or maybe [they'll] have more of an understanding about what it is like to be fearful of contracting something."
Meg also hopes our understanding of what makes someone vulnerable to respiratory illnesses improves.
"It is easy for people to see people who are visibly unwell or elderly as vulnerable but it would be good to remember there are people in the community who have invisible illnesses," she said.
"We are contributing members of society who have jobs and want to get back to normal as well.
"Following the guidelines is really important not just for our ageing populating but for a really big number of people who present pretty normally in day to day life."
It is easy for people see people who are visibly unwell or elderly as vulnerable but it would be good to remember there are people in the community who have invisible illnessesMeg Alexander
Meg recently returned to her job as a hairdresser but for the last few months she hasn't been able to leave her house.
Most of us have been cooped up waiting for restrictions to ease - but even a trip to the shopping centre to get supplies was too dangerous for Meg.
"I have basically had to stay home ... a regular infection or cold is quite dangerous to me ... obviously coronavirus would be really, really bad," she said.
"That has meant that I have had to stop working and I had been self isolating for [more than] two months now.
"My world has sort of become very small to try and minimise my risk of contracting [COVID-19]."
Despite the isolation and her circumstances Meg remains quite positive about the future.
She believes a renewed focus on hygiene and increased public awareness of the vulnerable members of the community could lead to positive permanent changes.
"I think, like the awareness around sanitising, the fact that everyone has been forced to accommodate telehealth will mean that if vulnerable people need to access stuff regardless of COVID-19 ... then those services might be a little bit more accessible for people," Meg said.
"If it has opened people's eyes to what vulnerable people can look like and how serious some viruses can be for people, maybe that will be good."
May was cystic fibrosis awareness month but due to the pandemic normal fundraisers were not able to go ahead.
Cystic Fibrosis Tasmania would usually run fundraisers and rattle tins to promote the condition throughout the month but due to public health restrictions that was unable to happen.
The organisation have a website and Facebook page where you can learn more about CF and donate to help support suffers.
"Cystic Fibrosis Tasmania provide us with all of our equipment as well as subsidies for psychologists," Meg said.
Meg said even if people are unable to donate just having people understand what they are going through is important.
"For our community because it is kind of invisible it is really powerful when people do actually know what CF is," she said.
"Even if [people] can't given just knowing about it is really helpful for us."
She said now is the best time in history to be born with CF due to the significant advancements being made in regards to treatment.
"There is a lot of technology around modulator therapy which treats the underlying cause of CF and tries to repair that salt water channel which is having really great results," Meg said.
"But obviously those things needed to be funded and then they need to be approved ... to give us access to them. So people just knowing what CF is understanding the impacts it has and how serious it is means that when those things pop up they are more likely to sign the petitions."
- This article was written from an interview conducted by Ella French from the Launceston Global Shapers Hub as part of the Outside the Bubble series.
- Outside the Bubble is a partnership between The Examiner and the Launceston Global Shapers Hub aimed at showcasing Tasmanian and international guest speakers. To view more interviews visit the Shapers Hub YouTube channel.
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