Paul FitzPatrick's Story

I’m Paul FitzPatrick and I’m 61 years old. And at the end of January 2018 I was diagnosed with two life-changing conditions. The lung disease that I have is called IPF which is Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis and what it is, it’s the hardening of the lungs. Your lungs are like a honeycomb and it blocks up the honeycomb and it stops you breathing properly.

There’s no actual cure for it. The only cure for it is a lung transplant but I’m not eligible for a lung transplant because I also have a cancer and they can’t operate on the lungs with the cancer and they can’t operate on the cancer with the condition of the lungs. So I’m caught between a rock and a hard place.

Before I got my illness, I was working fulltime as a truck driver and I was enjoying life to the full. I have a few grandchildren which I enjoy being with and I’d go down to the park with them and I was fairly active. But when I got these diseases everything just changed.

The consultants recommended that I should go to St Francis Hospice for palliative care. And when I heard this it scared the life out of me, I didn’t know what to do or think, but I’m glad I took the step.

Debbie, physiotherapist
We’re never going to be able to fix patients’ lung disease and you know the patients are aware of that when they come into it. But what we aim to do is improve their cardiovascular fitness and strengthen up their leg muscles and their arm muscles to make them a bit more efficient as well. We have a programme here called Exhale, which is an exercise and education programme set up here in St Francis Hospice for people with advanced lung disease.

I then went down to the hospice and the first day I arrived it wasn’t like what I thought it was going to be. The staff were so caring and they explained everything that they wanted to do and how they wanted to help me manage and treat my pain. So I started doing complementary therapy first and this helped me relax and helped my breathing and gave me more confidence.

And so the people that will come onto this programme will probably have tried the more standard pulmonary rehab programmes in the community before, but might have found it a wee bit too difficult or too challenging. So a really unique part of our programme, I believe, is that we pitch our exercises to each individual’s level.

And after the first couple of sessions I could feel my breathing getting better and I could start to do the simple things in life, like going up the stairs or going to the shops which I found very hard to manage before. From being down in the hospice and the treatment I’ve got down there, and the love and care and kindness has helped me progress through this and from this time last year I’m out and about which I thought I’d never be able to do again.

When you go into the Exhale class you do maybe six different exercises where they’re all basically done to help you control your breathing and to strengthen your leg muscles and your arm muscles. You go down and you’d be doing your different exercises and you’d be discussing with the people how they got on in the week and little incidents that happen and little stories and stories from your life and especially funny stories and people will have a laugh and genuinely looking forward then to going down to the next session to meet up with the people and wondering how they’re feeling and some people have bad days. We all have bad days. But you get over them. It’s part of life even when you’re in the best of health you have bad days.

The two grandchildren’s communion is this Saturday so I’m looking forward to that to seeing them and it should be a good day. It’s a thing that a year ago I thought I wouldn’t have seen.