Posted on March 2021 By Jamie Southwell
An NHS worker from Devon, England, details his experiences in dealing with cystic fibrosis and shielding during the coronavirus pandemic. Sharing his accounts publicly on social media to help fellow healthcare professionals struggling with feelings of isolation.
Having been diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at three weeks old, Craig Jones, now 35, spent almost the entirety of the pandemic isolating at home due to being classed as clinically extremely vulnerable. With work-life taking a tremendous toll on his mental health as he would spend the majority of the daytime on his job and little to none interacting with others.
The inherited condition affects over 10,600 individuals in the United Kingdom, with 1 in every 2,500 babies born with it. Cystic fibrosis causes life-threatening amounts of mucus to clog the internal organs and digestive system, making someone more prone to chronic infections, inflammation, and difficulty swallowing.
Between taking care of his 1-year-old baby with his wife Robyn, who is a paramedic, and spending the rest of his day working from home, Craig found himself struggling. He stated, "Throughout this whole pandemic, it has been tough, I think certainly in the earlier period of it,"
"In the first couple of weeks, there was a bit of a novelty of working from home but very quickly that wore off."
Jones began isolating during March, one week prior to the Prime Minister setting out the advice for vulnerable people to self-isolate. However, as time went on, the challenge of staying indoors was ever-growing for him.
Describing the feeling he shared among many of his colleagues and the country, he said "I think I was holding on for the fact it would be twelve weeks shielding, and then things would be eased,"
"I didn't ever feel that I could let that ease. It never was how I pictured life was going to be - I'm sure that was the same for everyone."
To deal with his condition, Craig takes medication and does physiotherapy, but expresses the benefits he received from counselling through these difficult times. Social media quickly became a prominent vocal outlet for Craig and finally allowed him to reach others dealing with cystic fibrosis, giving him a much-needed connection.
He said, "All of a sudden, I was speaking to people who had been living through the same experiences as I have, I started doing skits of me taking my medication for everyone to see."
Last year in September 2020, Craig managed to complete a 100km run in a month for Cystic Fibrosis Trust, a national charity focused on improving the lives of people dealing with cystic fibrosis.
Using the newfound following he built, Jones began a group dedicated to those dealing with the condition, supporting one another collectively by “reminding each other to take our nebuliser or inhalers or medication”.
With the vaccine rollout underway, lockdown is looking to get lifted and those like Craig Jones can return to their normal lives. He finished saying "Thankfully now, we can see there's a route out at last, and I had the vaccine at the beginning of the year - the same as my wife - so we've finally got a little bit of hope that this is all going to end soon."
Those looking to following him can search @Craig_J_85 on Instagram.