Healthy Living: Trials inspire Julia to make most of life

Julia Finney, aged 69, who is helping clinical researchers who are looking into her illness, bronchiectasis, is pictured at Sheffield's Northern General Hospital, with senior research sister Julie Sorrell (right) and senior respiratory physiologist Jenna Hobson.
Julia Finney, aged 69, who is helping clinical researchers who are looking into her illness, bronchiectasis, is pictured at Sheffield's Northern General Hospital, with senior research sister Julie Sorrell (right) and senior respiratory physiologist Jenna Hobson.
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Julia Finney was once a busy midwife, working around the clock delivering babies in a demanding job. But now the 69-year-old has so much trouble breathing that she struggles to get dressed, and even has trouble performing everyday tasks such as gardening.

Julia, from Wath-upon-Dearne, suffers from bronchiectasis, a poorly-understood condition which causes severe tightening in the chest.

Around one in every 1,000 adults in England suffer from the disease, and while there are a range of risk factors, in some cases there is no known cause.

But despite tackling her debilitating illness, Julia says she has been inspired to make the most of life by Sheffield medical researchers, who are conducting tests into lung diseases.

Julia has already taken part in two studies, and researchers from Sheffield Teaching Hospitals’ respiratory medicine department are currently leading a number of trials looking at new drugs and treatments which could benefit people with diseases such as bronchiectasis.

The NHS’s National Institute for Health Research Clinical Research Facility operates from both the Royal Hallamshire and the Northern General.

“Since my illness got worse I’ve had to really slow down – even taking my daughter out shopping can be difficult,” said Julia.

“I used to really enjoy gardening, too, but I can only manage half an hour before I have to stop.

“When I was a midwife I used to work round the clock, working on-call and doing night shifts, so I just want to give hope to other patients.”

She continued: “I’d urge anyone thinking about getting involved in clinical research to go for it, as everything is carefully monitored and I know much more about my condition than I ever did before.

“The care is absolutely first class here – when I have a tightening in the chest it’s picked up early, and you never know what impact new treatments might have on people’s lives in the future.”

In one of the trials, Julia used a nebuliser to inhale drugs which treated the affected areas of her lungs.

Meanwhile Dr Stephen Bianchi, a consultant in respiratory medicine at the Northern General, is participating in an international study testing a new drug which is hoped will reduce or prevent inflammation in the airways that contributes to conditions such as bronchiectasis.

Julie Sorrell, senior research sister at the Northern General, added: “Imagine your worst chest infection and then multiply this by 20 – this is what life is like for bronchiectasis sufferers.

“It’s a little talked about disease, and as well as supporting patients to manage an illness which can make them really poorly, our research gives realistic hope for the future.”

Earlier this month Sheffield Teaching Hospitals was chosen as one of 15 trusts throughout the country which will hand out £25 million of research funding each year.

For more information about trials email getinvolved@sth.nhs.uk or call contact 0114 226 5935.