'Life-changing' drug gives Welsh student Izzy a new outlook on living with Cystic Fibrosis

Credit: Izzy Richards

Izzy Richards has lived with Cystic Fibrosis her whole life.

A university student in Cardiff, she says she struggled to open up about her condition in the past.

"Making new friends in university I found really difficult because I didn't want them to judge me for being different."

Cystic Fibrosis is an inherited condition, which causes mucus build-up in the lungs and digestive system.

For Izzy that means taking multiple tablets every day, a nebulizer to open up her airways, and numerous hospital stays over the years.

It all takes a toll she says, on her mental health.

Izzy sometimes spends a few weeks at a time in hospital Credit: Izzy Richards

"It's not like I can miss it or not have CF for a day", she said, "It's there every single day."

"The life expectancy for someone with cystic fibrosis is 41 as you naturally decline as you get older. I got into a bad headspace and was struggling to accept it."

Even when it comes to choosing what to eat Izzy has to plan every meal and take more tablets to make sure she's getting enough nutrients into her body.

But Izzy, who's 20, says she feels like she's been given a second chance, due to a new drug called Kaftrio.

Health Minister, Vaughan Gething, announced in July last year that a deal had been secured with Vertex Pharmaceuticals to make Kaftrio available on the Welsh NHS.

Izzy has been taking it for the past month, and says for her it has been life-changing.

She said, "it helps to thin mucus so essentially we can breathe easier, it also helps with my digestive problems."

"It's honestly just been life-changing and I feel so lucky to be able to receive it."

A shielder during lockdown Izzy decided to open up about her experience with Cystic Fibrosis in the form of a blog.

She also dedicated her Instagram account to raising awareness of the condition, in the hope of helping others.

Izzy said she now feels as though she can start to plan her life properly. She is now able to walk up the stairs without stopping for a break at the top and can even enjoy going for longer walks with her family.

She has aspirations for a career in interior design, after she graduates.

There currently is no cure for Cystic Fibrosis, but Kaftrio is said to be successful for 90% of people with the condition, improving lung capacity in some cases by 40%.

The Cystic Fibrosis Trust previously said the drug will "truly save lives."

Opening up about her experience, Izzy says she's found a new online family, and a more positive outlook on her future.

She hopes others can do the same.