Our friendship could kill us; DEADLY: PALS IN FEAR OF CHANCE MEETING.
THEY'RE the best of pals, but they can never meet face to face... because it could kill them.
Pretty Maria Delaney, 25, from Carlow, knows just who to go to for advice on the upcoming Flora Mini Marathon, her good friend Jillian McElhinney.
After all, both girls are planning to take part, and often chat about training and the best way to prepare.
But they won't be running it together. In fact, they don't intend to meet up that day, or any day.
Both Maria and Jill, 21, from Dublin, live with cystic fibrosis, and meeting another sufferer face to face could be deadly.
CF patients have to constantly guard against cross-infection, which means the only way these girls can be friends is online.
Maria, who works in a pharmaceutical company, said: "I'm not allowed to meet up with other people with CF.
"The only way I know anyone else with CF, like Jillian and my other friends, is because of the forum. The strain that I have, I can't even be in the same room as anyone with CF, though anyone without it is grand.
"It's been really brilliant, like a lifeline. My family and friends are great, but if you're angry or worried about something to do with CF, it's great to talk to someone who knows it.
"It's great to talk to Jill about the mini-marathon. I have to take medicine and do exercises every day, but I plan to jog it, we'll see what happens though."
Bubbly Jill, a make-up artist from Dublin, said: "I've been on the forum about a year, it's helpful to be able to discuss problems with people who are also going through them.
"They're my friends, and I talk to them a lot, but it can only ever be an online friendship as I can never meet up with them, you'd be leaving yourself open to cross infection.
"My twin sister Amy has CF, and she wouldn't meet up with people with CF, but because I work , you never know when someone could have CF.
"But even in Beaumount hospital, they won't leave two people with CF in the same room because of the danger of cross-infection."
Now the Cystic Fibrosis Association of Ireland is teaming up with the Irish Professional Photographers Association to raise EUR100,000 of badly needed funds.
The Happy Faces 2010 campaign will see some of the country's top photographers work for free for all of April. Just pop along to a participating studio, pay a small fee, and get your very own professional portrait.
Jill said the money is desperately needed to save lives.
She explained: "I want to raise awarewho ness of CF, it's appalling that it's the most common life-threatening inherited disease in Ireland, but people don't know anything about it.
"I just can't grasp the fact that in Northern Ireland people with CF are living 10, 15 years longer than us, in the USA they're living to 40 or 50, but we only have a life expectancy of our early 20s.
"We have to fight for every breath we take, but when we're unwell we're forced into A&E where we could catch the winter vomiting bug, swine-flu, anything. An isolation unit for patients with CF is what we need to survive."
For more information on Happy Faces 2010 visit http://happyfaces. irishphotographers.com/index.
WHAT IS: CYSTIC FIBROSIS
IT'S the most common life-threatening inherited disease in Ireland, and one in 19 of us are carriers of the CF gene, but how much do you know about cystic fibrosis? CF makes the body produce a thick, sticky mucus, affecting the lungs and stomach.
A spokesman for the CF Association of Ireland said: "A build up of mucus can make it difficult to clear bacteria and leads to cycles of lung infections and inflammation, which can eventually lead to damage of the lungs.
"CF can also make it difficult to digest and absorb adequate nutrients from food. "As a result, persons with CF must consume artificial enzymes with food, to help them absorb adequate nutrition from their food. They must also follow a demanding daily routine of physical therapy to keep the lungs free of congestion and infection." What is Cross Infection? While sufferers of other life-threatening illness can at least have the comfort of support groups, CF patients are denied even that.
A spokesman for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust explained: "Those with CF attract different bacteria or 'bugs' that grow in their lungs. These 'bugs' are rarely harmful to those who do not have CF but may be harmful to others who have CF but who do not have the same 'bugs'." To a CF patient with already weakened lungs, someone else's bug could be deadly.
Online... Maria Delaney Brave... Maria is going on a run Bubbly... Jill McElhinney would like to meet pal Maria face-to-face