Jenni's Story - Institute for Respiratory Health

Jenni’s Story

Friday, June 08, 2018 | Community

My name is Jenni Ibrahim and in 1998 after a severe episode of pneumonia, I was left in a coma fighting for my life.

This year marks my 20th year of living with a chronic lung condition.

It all happened so quickly. I developed a cough and thought I was coming down with the flu or a virus. Despite being prescribed antibiotics, the following day I felt worse. I was feeling lethargic, in severe pain and struggling to breathe.

Jenni out walking with home visiting physiotherapist in 1998.

Fortunately, my neighbour checked in on me and took me straight to the hospital – possibly saving my life!

As a result, I have less than 50% lung function. I was diagnosed with bronchiolitis obliterans, bronchiectasis and fibrosis. All caused by irreversible lung damage due to the pneumonia.

After being in hospital, I started a pulmonary rehabilitation program through the Physiotherapy Department at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital. Thanks to this program, exercise is now a crucial part of my life – regardless of how I am feeling.

Advocating for lung health

Since 1999 I have been involved with and subsequently led the community support group L I F E and have been an advocate for people living with chronic lung conditions.

I also want to help educate people who don’t have a lung condition. Never having smoked, I’d like people to understand that not all lung conditions are related to smoking. What it means to have a chronic cough, for example, if I’m in a lift people tend to step back thinking I’m contagious. Also why I have a disabled parking bay even though I don’t look sick.

Mostly I don’t get hung up about it. People react like this because lung conditions are not well understood in the community. I can help that by letting people know.

In 2017, I was diagnosed with stage four liver cancer metastases in my lungs. I am lucky to be the first person in Western Australia having access to a drug which is still in clinical trials overseas. If this doesn’t work then there is nothing more, but early results look promising.

I have wound back a little but am working with the groups I lead, to help them transition to new leadership and develop greater sustainability for the future.

My message is – be active in managing your own health, and don’t leave it up to others to control your health care. Look for health professionals that will answer your questions and help keep you as healthy and active as possible. Quit if you still smoke, eat a healthy balanced diet and learn everything you can about living with your lung condition.