Family of PHS student with CF to hold charity event Friday
Above, PHS student Kyle Watters with Big Canoe tennis pro Bruce Monhollen. Watters, 15, was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis as an infant. Monhollen and Big Canoe are allowing the Watters family to use the gated community’s tennis courts this Friday, June 22 for a Juniors Tennis Charity Event Tournament. Registration begins at 8:30 a.m. Matches begin at 9 a.m. Junior tennis players are invited to play both singles and doubles.
Everyone has heard of it, but do you really know what cystic fibrosis is?
Sue Watters, mother of 15-year-old Kyle, said she was clueless when her son was diagnosed with the genetic condition just weeks after he was born.
“I told the doctor I had heard of it, and being a special ed teacher I knew it didn’t cause mental issues, but that was all I knew. I had no idea.”
Cystic Fibrosis is a life-threatening condition that causes thick, sticky mucus to build up in the lungs, according to the U.S National Library of Medicine.
The mucus inhibits breathing and stops digestive enzymes from getting to the intestines. These enzymes can’t break down food and give the body the nutrients it needs.
“The doctor told me he had CF and when they started explaining it, it was like horror stories,” Sue said. “They said we’d be in the hospital multiple times a year for multiple weeks at a time and life expectancy was not pretty.”
But even though Kyle has mandatory doctor’s visits every three months and takes a laundry list of medications each day to combat the effects of CF, including seven prescribed by a doctor and three over-the-counter supplements, he is living more or less symptom-free.
“We’re kind of in a Catch-22, and I wouldn’t have it any other way,” she said. “But because he’s so healthy when people hear about CF and see him they think that it must be something minor.”
Right now Kyle is in advanced-placement classes and participates in track and cross-country at PHS where he will be attending 10th grade in the fall. But for children with a more severe case of CF the condition can be debilitating, even deadly.
Symptoms include persistent coughing, frequent lung infections, wheezing, poor growth difficult bowel movements and other issues. Many CF children are forced to do daily vest treatment therapy that helps break up the thick mucus and clear out breathing passageways.
Sue gives kudos to the advancements in medicine for making Kyle’s quality of life so good, and to the ongoing support of Kyle’s lifelong doctor.
“A lot of these medications weren’t here when he was a baby,” she said. “They have been developed in the last 15 years. We credit Kyle’s doctor, too, whose whole philosophy is quality of life. The goal is to help him keep his lungs as healthy as we can until the next drug comes out that will hopefully make things easier.”
So Sue and other Kyle supporters are holding a fundraiser for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation this Friday in hopes of raising awareness about the condition and raising money to help fund further research. The Watters family, who lives in Big Canoe, is holding a Juniors Tennis Charity Event at the Big Canoe Tennis Center, where Sue and her husband have been playing since Kyle was five.
“We feel hopeful because medical advances are making profound differences in not only the quality of the lives of people with CF now, but also the average life expectancy,” she said. “We know that there are more breakthroughs on the horizon, but there has to be funding available for them to come to fruition, so we are doing what we can to help our son and all children who live with this disease.
“We hope as more people learn about the severity of the disease and realize there are family members, friends, and neighbors here in Pickens who are affected by CF maybe we can help be part of the solution- a cure found,” she said.
Watters said as charity foundations go, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation is rated highly. She says they spend 90 cents of every dollar on research.
“It’s always been listed as one of the better organizations,” she said. “We believe that they will find a way to cure Kyle's CF. Our mission is to gather people with us for a fun weekend of tennis while we raise money to fight for that cure.”
All levels of middle and high school players are invited to participate. If you're not a tennis player, the family invites you to show Kyle your support by cheering on the junior players Friday morning at 9 a.m. or by sponsoring a player by donating to the cause.
There will be drinks, food, prizes, and even a ping pong table for people who don’t play tennis.
You can register by visiting www.cff.org/Great_Strides/SusanWatters, or by calling either the Big Canoe Tennis Center @ 706-268-3367 or Sue Watters at 678-313-1556.