A personal trainer living with cystic fibrosis—also known for his resemblance to Thor, the superhero played by Chris Hemsworth—can now laugh for the first time without coughing. And it’s all thanks to a “life-saving” medication.
Ben Mudge, 31, from Northern Ireland, United Kingdom, was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at birth, but it didn’t affect him for much of his childhood. However, he grew up to be a pale and skinny boy.
But at 18 years old, his lung function suddenly plummeted to 66% capacity, causing him to be hospitalized.
After leaving the hospital, the personal trainer vowed to do everything he could to fight his condition, which can cause coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, chest infections, and damage to the airways.
In his teenage years, he began weight training, hoping to make his lungs stronger and improve his health to fight the condition, but the muscles he gained in the process were a welcome result of his efforts. This led him to become a personal trainer.
Ben had defied the odds and believed he was as healthy as he would ever be, but there was one thing he still hadn’t experienced: breathing normally.
But after trying a new medication in November, his life was literally changed. Ben can now breathe, speak, and laugh without coughing!
The medication, Kaftrio, became available on the National Health System in 2020. Ben says the experience after taking it feels like he is living “a dream.”
“I didn’t expect a significant change, but within hours of taking the medication, I noticed the difference,” he said. “I took a deep breath and I started to cry – I never realised what breathing should feel like!”
He used to cough all day long, especially when he laughed or trained. In fact, he even had to deliberately change the way he laughed by “forcing the air out differently so it wouldn’t make me cough.”
But after taking the drug, he can now laugh properly.
“Before, it felt like I had this shadow behind me and now I’ve been unshackled,” he said. “I’m blown away – it feels like a dream.”
When Ben started training, he became strong. He also began to appear in fitness magazines and slowly built a social media following.
“Initially, I never thought I would inspire even 10 people. I would’ve been happy with one,” he told Insider.
As Ben’s online visibility increased, friends and followers began comparing him to “Thor,” a character played by Chris Hemsworth. A superhero enthusiast, he decided to embrace this likeness by growing out his hair and channeling the hammer-wielding god of thunder with his “Thorsday” posts.
Ben also shared his story on Instagram to raise awareness of cystic fibrosis, a condition that can reduce life expectancy for some.
After taking Kaftrio, Ben realized how much he needed to clear his throat before.
“The medication showed me that what I thought was normal, wasn’t normal – like someone who doesn’t wear glasses wearing them for the first time and realising what they were missing,” he said. “It’s been totally surreal – like getting a brand new update.”
The drug’s positive effects even led him to shout at his neighbor accidentally because of how easy it was to speak. He noted that his voice also sounds different.
Ben, who has 109K followers on Instagram, hopes to show young people with cystic fibrosis that their condition “shouldn’t hold them back.”
“My mission hasn’t stopped now, I want to help even more people,” he said.
Watch Ben’s emotional reaction five hours after taking Kaftrio in the video below.
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