Open and close mobile menu


Insights Matt's journey with cystic fibrosis

Throughout October, as part of National Inclusion Week and AtkinsRéalis ’s first-ever global ED&I month, we’re publishing four interviews with colleagues who are living with a hidden condition to help shine a light on their experiences and what we can all do to support them.

This week, we’ve spoken to Matthew King who is a senior mechanical engineer in our Infrastructure business. Matthew was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis (CF), which is a hereditary disease that affects the lungs and digestive system, shortly after he was born. In our short interview below, he talks about how living with CF has impacted his life.
image of Matthew in safety clothing
Matthew, could you tell us how you were you diagnosed with your hidden condition?

How I understand the story is that I was born on 2 December and then admitted into hospital on Christmas day, as I was not gaining weight and was continuously crying (my poor parents). The hospital carried out a sweat test and that was when I was formally diagnosed with CF. 

My parents had never heard of the condition before, so the first thing my mum did was go to the local library to research it. The information at the time was that I’d die of the condition in my teens. But thanks to vast improvements in the understanding of this condition and the management of it, I’m going strong at the age of 33. The life expectancy now is 47 years of age. 

I have a younger sister who also has the condition and like me, she is also going strong.  

Unfortunately, though, CF is often a very cruel condition. We’ve experienced the heartbreak of losing friends that we grew up with, when the CF community was more social and cross-infection was not widely understood.   

How is your personal and professional life affected by this?

I’ve been very fortunate that CF hasn’t been the blocker in my life – others haven’t been that lucky.

From a personal and professional perspective, I’ve been able to lead a relatively normal life. While the treatment regime and the amount of medications I have to take can be demanding and tough, I have not known any different way of living, so it’s all normal to me.

Are there challenges you’ve had to adjust to as a result of your condition?

The business and my line manager, Owen Elson, have been fully supportive of the adjustments I’ve needed or the hospital appointments I’ve had to attend, for example. In my experience, our business is a truly supportive company to work for should you have any hidden illnesses.

While I may have a serious condition, it doesn’t define the person I am, nor do I wish it to alter the way I’m seen as an employee.   

Has the COVID-19 pandemic has any particular impact on you as a result of your condition?

As CF is predominantly a lung condition, all CF patients in the UK are identified as ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ and placed on the shielding register. While at times it was a challenge being stuck indoors for 3-4-months, it was not as bad as the sacrifices that some key workers had to make.  

How do you like to spend your time outside of work, and does your condition affect how you approach or experience these things?
image of Matthew running
I am a keen runner and cyclist, and they play an important role in my daily physiotherapy.

In general, most people would not identify that I have CF. The only times people may question whether I have a medical condition (if they don’t know me) is when I take my enzymes with my food as I’m pancreatic insufficient due to CF.

Every time I eat, I must take enzymes to digest my food. The number of tablets I take is dependent on the fat content of my food. If it’s a large, fatty dinner (curry being the biggest culprit), my tablet intake can be upwards of 40 tablets - I get some pretty strange looks from people who are likely making assumptions about what I’m taking.    

How can colleagues and the business support those who live with your condition?

All-in-all, I think our business does a great job for its employees with hidden illnesses and any illnesses for that matter. I have a strong relationship with my line manager, and he is fully supportive of my needs.