Caption: Eleven-year-old Christian Collins is a student and an athlete, and is one of 30,000 Americans who deal with cystic fibrosis, a disease that affects the respiratory system. (courtesy photo)
Encouragement comes in so many forms and eleven-year-old Christian Collins is one of them. His biggest goal in life, he said, is to inspire others; to make sure they know that anything is possible. It would be a venture in cliché’ except for the fact that Collins is one of 30,000 Americans who suffer from Cystic Fibrosis.
A hereditary disease that affects the lungs, the prognosis for CF is grim. People with the disease are expected on average to live 44 years. But Collins is already beating the odds. He is an athlete, he loves basketball.
He’s a vibrant, outgoing, bright young man, according to his mom Angel Fennel and his primary physician, Pediatric Pulmonologist Dr. Danieli Salinas of Children’s Hospital.
“I’ve been working with a team that has been working on a cure for CF,” said Salinas, who has been involved in research for a CF cure as well as ways to improve the quality of life for CF patients.
Currently there is no cure but medical experts have been working on they are calling a “breakthrough”. Recently, two preliminary trials have found that either of two triple-drug regimens could potentially benefit 90 percent of people with the disease.
The trials were short-term, finding that the drug combinations improved adult patients’ lung function over four weeks. But experts said they were optimistic the results will hold up in the larger, longer-term trials already underway.
“What’s most exciting, they said, is that the triple-drug approach could open up new options to nearly all cystic fibrosis patients,” according to Amy Norton, reporting for Health Day.
And, according to Dr. Steven Rowe who led one of the trials, while not a cure yet, that could be game changing.
And, with Collins’ brand of ambitious spirit and attitude, the chances of him being here for that cure are significantly great.
“Attitude is everything,” Salinas said.
Fennel, Christian’s mom agrees wholeheartedly.
“Sometimes at school kids can be insensitive and talk about [Christian’s mortality],” Fennel said.
“He has come to me and asked if he is going to die…”
She tells him, in so many words, that he has just has much of chance and a right to life as anyone else.
CF leads to the creation of thicker, stickier mucus than is usual. This mucus is difficult to cough out of the lungs. This can make breathing difficult and lead to severe lung infections.
The mucus also interferes with pancreatic function by preventing enzymes from properly breaking down food. Digestive problems result, potentially leading to malnutrition.
A patient like Collins needs to be sure to get at least 3000 calories a day.
Also, CF patients need to keep their airways clear to allow easier breathing and minimize infections. Inhaled medication is effective at reaching the airways and commonly used. The medication can be given by aerosol or as a metered dose inhaler. These medications can thin mucus, kill bacteria, and mobilize mucus to improve airway clearance.
Treatment can manage the symptoms of the disease, say medical experts and improve quality of life. Symptoms can vary and treatment plans are usually individualized.
So, as it is, Collins gets up very early before school so that he can go through a series of treatments. In a video, sent by his mom, he dances during the breathing treatment. And off to school he goes, to learn, study and play along with his peers.
On April 11, Collins will be honored at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles’ CF Family Education Dinner. He won’t be able to physically attend the event due to issues with infection control. CF patients must be vigilant in avoiding lung infections by , among other precautions, avoiding unnecessary contact with people who could possibly carry contagious diseases.
Over 10 million Americans carry the CF gene and are unaware, according to Medical News Today.