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‘I was gasping for breath’: How lung disease research could help COVID-19 patients

Published: (Updated: ) in Australian News by .

Noni Strawbridge first noticed there was something wrong with her lungs when she tried to blow up balloons for her husband Lee’s birthday – but couldn’t.

Noni Strawbridge first noticed there was something wrong with her lungs when she tried to blow up balloons for her husband Lee's birthday but couldn't.

It was confusing for the 31-year-old from regional NSW, who was fit and had done bikini bodybuilding.

When her breathing became so bad she was bedridden, it was a shock.

"I was gasping for breath," she told

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Doctors, after extensive tests, discovered Ms Strawbridge's lung capacity is 30 per cent less than what it should be and found scarring on her lungs.

While they don't yet know her final diagnosis, it's likely she has an autoimmune condition similar to a lung disease called pulmonary fibrosis.

It makes it difficult to breathe because some of the tissue in the lungs becomes thickened.

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Ms Strawbridge, who lives near Goulburn, now needs to take oxygen tanks with her wherever she goes.

Doctors say it's too soon for them to do anything until her disease progresses, though lung transplants can be an option for patients.

"We don't really know the path it's going to take," she said.

"I've been told by two doctors that I am definitely going to get worse. It's a bit terrifying.

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"If you Google pulmonary fibrosis, you see there's a life expectancy of three to five years."

However, a new $1.1 million boost will help not only patients like Ms Strawbridge, but those with coronavirus.

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A mystery donor who lost their father to pulmonary fibrosis has handed the cash to the Lung Foundation Australia for research.

The charity's CEO, Mark Brooke, said the research could also help tackle the after-effects of COVID-19.

Some COVID-19 patients are left with major health issues after they recover, including with breathing, but not enough is yet known about it.

"Due to COVID-19 now, more than ever, Australians appreciate that our respiratory health determines how we live our lives," Mr Brooke said.

"With the early insight into the long-term health impacts of COVID-19, it's vital we invest in respiratory research now to support what could be the next generation of pulmonary fibrosis patients."

Ms Strawbridge, who had to give up her job as a dog groomer and now helps run the family farm and makes jewellery, backed the cash boost.

"Obviously COVID-19 is awful but it's actually bringing to light so much research and information for lung disease sufferers in general," she said.

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Source: 9News

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