This month’s blog has nothing to do with teeth. It’s about supporting research and promoting awareness for a cause that is very important to my husband, myself, and our families.  As a dentist I am constantly working hard for my patients so they can “put their best face forward” and “smile with confidence.” Today I am writing this post to help people living with Cystic Fibrosis (CF). I am writing to help raise awareness so that the 70,000 people living with CF worldwide may have more days to fill with healthy, confident smiles.

Cystic Fibrosis is a life-altering condition that causes the body to produce abnormally thick and sticky mucus secretions that clog the lungs and obstructs the pancreas from secreting enzymes necessary to break down and absorb food. As a result, individuals with CF are more prone to life-threatening lung infections and malnutrition. Thankfully, advances in research and medical treatments have enhanced the quality of life and life expectancy for children and adults with CF. Where these people were once expected to only live through elementary school, individuals with CF are now living full lives into their 30’s, 40’s and beyond. Still, daily challenges exist and further research is needed to help these patients breathe easy.

Parker with my sister-in-law, Kelly, at a recent basketball tournament.

Parker with my sister-in-law, Kelly, at a recent basketball tournament.

In the United States alone, over 30,000 children and adults are living with Cystic Fibrosis. People with CF struggle daily with persistent coughing, frequent lung infections, shortness of breath, stunted growth, malnutrition risks, and a regiment of treatments and medications aimed at helping them survive beyond the predicted median age of 40. My 13-year-old nephew, Parker, is one of these people. I once heard someone compare living with CF to living life while breathing through a straw. If you take the time to try this the next time you are at a restaurant, you will realize how difficult and even scary this can be. Thanks to advances in treatment and assistance from the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, my nephew is able to maintain the lifestyle of a typical teenager – riding four wheelers, playing basketball, and getting stitches for sport-related injuries (he has pictures to prove it!). Since infancy, Parker has depended on medications and therapies available thanks to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

My husband, Bob, and I at the Joker's Wild Casino Night in support of the Metro DC Chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Gound

My husband, Bob, and I at the Joker's Wild Casino Night in support of the Metro DC Chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Gound

In February my husband and I attended the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation’s Joker’s Wild Casino Night in McLean to show our support for the individuals and families living with CF. We had the pleasure of meeting the Riedy family who founded the fundraising event to raise awareness and research dollars for the disease that affects their own son, Chad. Chad was diagnosed with CF at a time when few people with the disease made it to adulthood. He is now in his 30’s and is married with two young kids. Thanks to medical advancements and his participation in current therapy trials, he is managing his CF symptoms and looking forward to watching his family grow.

The Reidy Family with Chad (pictured carrying his new-born baby) at the Joker's Wild Casino Night. 

The Reidy Family with Chad (pictured carrying his new-born baby) at the Joker's Wild Casino Night. 

As my husband and I listened to Chad’s wife address the crowd, I felt deeply touched and hopeful for those people living with CF. I remembered watching my sister-in-law during Parker’s early CF days struggle with airway clearance techniques to clear her baby’s lungs, and later watching Parker pull on a mechanical vest that physically loosens up the thick mucus accumulating in his lungs. Before he could even crawl, Parker was on multiple medications to reduce inflammation in his lungs, help him digest his food, and prevent infections that could lead to a two-hour drive to see a specialist. And despite consuming a high fat and calorie diet fit for an entire wrestling team, Parker is one of the smallest kids in his class. But despite all of this, Parker is the wittiest kid (young man!) I know. He’s active and bright… He’s a stellar basketball player. He doesn’t make excuses. His small frame is home to a big heart and a pair of lungs that need all of our help.

Parker taking it down court during a basketball tournament. 

Parker taking it down court during a basketball tournament. 

As I listened to Chad’s wife at the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation’s Casino night, I was reminded of Parker. I was reminded of the 70,000 others in this world who do not take for granted the power of a breath. Chad and Parker are lucky to have manageable forms of the disease and to have access to care. How many others do not? There are other people struggling with CF who are waiting for lung transplants. Others who cannot afford their medications or the expensive nutritional supplements required to help their bodies grow. This is where the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation has helped.

The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and its many supporters have raised millions of dollars to fund research and much-needed assistance programs to help CF patients and their families breathe easier. To help these individuals – these sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, neighbors – remain hopeful for a cure.  

Please help me spread this hope! I invite you to join me and Team Breathe, Walk, Smile on May 18, 2014 in Reston for the Cystic Fibrosis Great Strides 5k walk. Help us increase awareness and reach our fundraising goal of $1,500!

Raise Cystic Fibrosis Awareness, Help Others Breathe Easy

To join Team Breathe, Walk, Smile, or to donate directly to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, please visit our team fundraising page. You can also contact me directly at joannaclaustrodmd@gmail.com. We all thank you for your support!!!!! 

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AuthorJoanna Claustro