Jenny Agutter, one of the veteran stars of BBC's hit drama Call the Midwife, has opened up about how one of her family member's health battles once inspired a storyline on the show.
The 66-year-old, who plays Sister Julienne in the show, revealed to The Mirror that her niece, Rachel, has cystic fibrosis. Back in the show’s third season, Sister Monica Joan (Judy Parfitt) discovered a new born baby was suffering from the same condition, after the child’s parents were struggling to identify what was wrong.
Little was known about cystic fibrosis at the time, in the 1950s, meaning it was a difficult thing to diagnose and treat.
Jenny said, “One of the wonderful things about Call The Midwife is that we are seeing our future being shaped,
“Historically, it is very accurate and the scripts are wonderful at identifying the changes in healthcare which were good, and the problems which are still relevant today.”
The actress’ niece Rachel was similarly diagnosed months after being born, after her parents realised she wasn’t putting on any weight.
In the interview, Jenny revealed that there have been huge medical leaps since Rachel was born though, with expectations about how people can live with the condition improving all the time.
She said, “When Rachel was born, the median age for survival was about eight, and only a few people got into their teenage years. But in the past 40 years we have seen so many changes in medication, therapy and treatments for CF.”
Rachel has now recently celebrated her 40th birthday, which Jenny credits to medical advances and her own determination to stay healthy.
She said, “She [Rachel] has worked hard to remain healthy and kept moving along with the improvements in treatment and care,”
Jenny also confessed that despite her suspicions her parents carried the CF gene, she didn’t get tested herself until after she fell pregnant in 1990, with her son Jonathan.
The actress admitted, “I really should have been tested before I got pregnant, because I knew I had a 50-50 chance of being a carrier. But marriage and babies came rather on top of one another, and I wasn’t even sure I could get pregnant.”
“I worried all the way through the pregnancy, and then he was born early, on Christmas Day.”
Cystic fibrosis: The facts
Cystic fibrosis is an hereditary condition, caused by a faulty gene, which results in mucus building up in the lungs and digestive system. It can now be picked up at birth if the necessary tests are done.
While there is no cure for the condition, medicines can be used to help improve the symptoms and reduce the chance of complications, while physical activity is also said to help clear mucus from the lungs.