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Studies look to sea for cystic fibrosis cure

LOS ANGELES
July 10, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
If you've ever breathed in the air at the beach you know how cleansing it can be. Researchers say the salt in the air and in the ocean has a beneficial effect for cystic fibrosis patients. And surfing can actually be therapeutic.The sound of the surf. The smell of the sea. It's a medicinal combination for 24-year-old Emily Haager. Because she has cystic fibrosis, she values every breath she takes.

"I'm really grateful for every moment that I live and I want to live every moment that I can," said Haager.

That is one of the reasons she likes to surf, it makes her feel alive. And it's good for her - studies show the salty sea air offers a great benefit to cystic fibrosis patients.

"When I'm out in the water my lungs clear out. I feel great. I cough up a lot of stuff. It opens up my airways and it makes a big difference," said Haager.

Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disease that prevents mucous from clearing the lungs. It leads to life-threatening infections and lung failure.

The life expectancy of a child born with this condition is about 37 years.

Australian researchers created a concentrated saline solution therapy after they observed cystic fibrosis patients noticeably improve after surfing. Scientists say the salt mist hydrates the lungs and helps move the mucous.

"It actually helps create an environment in the lungs that healthy people have," said Paul Motenko from the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

Besides her other medication, Emily inhales the salt solution twice daily. And she gets out to the ocean whenever she can.

She's working with surfing champ Mickey Munoz on a new cystic fibrosis campaign called, Pipeline To A Cure.

He hopes all cystic fibrosis patients can feel the joy Emily has when she's in the water.

"When she catches that wave her face lights up she's got this big smile on her face and you know that's as good as it gets," said Mickey Munoz.

"It's very freeing, I get to be in the ocean I get to paddle around and feel normal. I'm out doing something that is fun and taking care of myself at the same time," said Haager.

Experts say the life expectancy of someone with cystic fibrosis has doubled in the last two decades from 18 years to 37 years.

Emily is hoping in her lifetime, scientists will be able to come up with a cure.

 

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