Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Time out for a Deep Breath; Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Hosts a Halftime Gala and Fundraiser for Jags Fans at Municipal Stadium

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Time out for a Deep Breath; Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Hosts a Halftime Gala and Fundraiser for Jags Fans at Municipal Stadium

Article excerpt

Byline: KEVIN TURNER

Football took a back seat during a fundraiser at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Sunday as Katelyn Sims told attendees of her lifelong struggle with the disease and how five of her young friends who had the disease died from it.

She spoke at the Southern Oak Insurance Company Tailgate Kick Off to a Cure benefit in the stadium's Terrace Suite during the Jaguars-Colts game halftime. About 420 watched the game, which was played in Indianapolis, on numerous TV screens and munched on food served up by cooks from 25 restaurants.

Sims, 18, the reigning Bradford-Union Strawberry Queen, choked back tears as she named the friends whom she'd met over years of treatment at Wolfson Children's hospital who have died in recent years: Brian, Jessica, Jonathan, Jeremy and Ben. She said before her speech she wanted people to understand what it was like to live with the disease and spoke with authority as she made one very painful part of that very clear.

"Today, I'm the only one left alive out of my CF friends," she said. "None of my friends ever got a chance to get married, have kids and to die an elderly person."

According to the American Lung Association, one type of cystic fibrosis causes a thick mucus which obstructs the lungs, causing chronic and deadly lung infections. Another variant attacks the pancreas, impairing normal digestion and causing malnutrition. Some sufferers have only one version, but others, like Sims, have both, said her mother, Lisa Sims.

Gregory Briggs, 55, has lost friends to the disease, too. And he nearly lost his own life in 1997. When he received a pair of donor lungs after a months-long wait, he was just hours from death because the disease had ravaged his lungs to the point where they had stopped functioning.

When he was diagnosed at age 12 in 1966, the life expectancy for those who had the then-mysterious disease was 16 - up from a previous expectancy of around 5 years old. Today, thanks to his lung transplant and medical advances, he's one of two of the oldest people in Jacksonville who have cystic fibrosis. …

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