Erica led an independent and adventurous life before she was diagnosed with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis in 2014.
When she was 57, she left her homeland, South Africa, and moved to London to start a new life. She didn’t know anybody in London, but it was an adventure. Erica says “I have never regretted it – not for one minute.”
Erica developed a cough that would not go away and was told by her GP that it was nothing. The cough just didn’t disappear and then she started to have difficulties breathing. Erica pushed her GP for a chest x-ray as she just knew deep down that something wasn’t right.
Erica was referred to the Brompton Hospital and after further investigations she was given a diagnosis of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis because the cause was unknown.
Erica said “I was shocked. I had never heard of it before. I had never smoked and led a healthy life. I swam, dived and hiked.”
She was put on medication to help her breathing
“I felt OK, adapting to my slower pace of life. Then, at the end of 2017, I received a call from my specialist after a routine check-up. Apparently, my white blood cell count was low, but I was feeling fine. I went ahead and visited my friends in Austria for Christmas but on December 28th, my friend could not wake me. I was half-dead.”
Erica was rushed to hospital in Austria where she diagnosed with a severe case of pneumonia and spent three weeks in hospital until she recovered. She was eventually considered fit enough to fly home.
Arriving home, she contacted her nurse at the Brompton and arranged an appointment with her specialist. Unfortunately, Erica suffered a relapse before she made it and called an ambulance. It transpired that she had two blood clots on her lung.
Since then, Erica has battled with continual health problems and is on permanent oxygen therapy, but she is determined to try and remain positive.
“I don’t give up easily and I am generally a strong individual. I can deal with my illness to some extent, but the loneliness and isolation is really hard.”
Erica lives alone in a flat and has been shielding since February due to the pandemic.
“I am scared to go out in case I catch the virus. I struggle to get fresh air in my lungs because I am couped up in my apartment. People are kind and buy the food I need, but I feel very scared sometimes not because of my condition, but because of the unknown.
Despite the difficulties, Erica wants to raise awareness of pulmonary fibrosis. “People really need to know more, and I am determined that people aren’t kept in the dark about this cruel disease.”
The Pulmonary Fibrosis Trust continues to provide support to Erica and so many others like her. Please help us to continue this support by donating here.