The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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April 19, 2014

SLIDE SHOW: Teen with cystic fibrosis finds widespread support

NEVADA, Mo. — When the Nevada Show Choir performs its spring show on stage, it’s impossible to pick out the student with cystic fibrosis because there are no outward clues.

Gabby Gire, 18, is just another performer. She sings, she dances, she smiles for the audience.

Later, at home, she’ll put on a vest for a 20-minute session of chest pounding to prevent mucus build-up that would render her lungs useless.

She’ll use a $58-a-day breathing treatment.

And every time she eats or drinks she’ll take three to four $2 enzyme pills so that her body can break down and absorb food.

It’s costly, but something to which only today’s CF patients have access as the result of years of research. In the 1950s, few of them lived to attend elementary school.

Paying for that research are fundraisers in hundreds of towns across the United States. On Saturday, a fishing tournament was held in Rich Hill, home to a young girl with CF.

On Saturday and Sunday, a fishing tournament will be held in Lamar. It was started 15 years ago in Gabby’s name.

And next month, a fundraiser walk will be held in Lamar, also started in the name of Gire and other area youths with CF.

About cystic fibrosis

Gabby is not unusual. In the Four-States Area, there are dozens of people living with cystic fibrosis. In total, there are about 30,000 children and adults with it in the United States.

“I have a lot of friends with CF that I’ve met through fundraisers; there are some kids in Liberal with it, and one in Arma, Kan.,” Gabby said.

Cystic fibrosis is an inherited chronic disease that affects the lungs and digestive system. A defective gene and its protein product cause the body to produce unusually thick, sticky mucus that clogs the lungs and leads to life-threatening lung infections; and obstructs the pancreas and stops natural enzymes.

There are several forms of CF, but Gabby has the most common: both parents must be carriers of the gene, which gives her two copies of the gene Delta F508.

The result can be persistent coughing, at times with phlegm; frequent lung infections; wheezing or shortness of breath; and poor growth/weight gain in spite of a good appetite.

About 1,000 new cases of CF are diagnosed each year; more than 70 percent of them are diagnosed by age 2.

In Gabby’s case, it was at birth.

“At less than 24 hours old, she had her first surgery,” said her dad, Leon Gire. “At less than 48 hours, she had her second. We spent the first 10 days of her life in NICU in Joplin.”

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