Category: Community Involvement
Breath of Life
Laird Hamilton and Dave Kalama support cystic fibrosis fundraiser on July 19
Story by Lori Denman Photos by Adam Latham
While they battle and conquer fierce elements by choice, two legendary watermen now hold a new hero in their hearts – surfer and cystic fibrosis survivor Emily Haager. Laird Hamilton and David Kalama launch down 70 foot walls of water, completing feats that leave other surfers speechless. Risking their lives for the perfect ride, their idols have always been surfers who bring home the gold. That was until they met those who surf to survive.
Haager, a surfer from Diamond Bar, has been battling cystic fibrosis since six months old. At this age, she was not gaining any weight. Numerous tests revealed no connection to CF. Prompted purely by intuition Haager’s parents took her to a CF specialist and insisted on treatments including the ingestion of special enzymes, Haager finally gained the weight necessary to survive.
Lung infections and issues began at age four, when she began necessary breathing treatments to maintain her lungs. A few months later, she entered the hospital for a month. She has battled lung infections ever since.
At the age of ten, Haager’s cousin died from complications of CF at 19 years old. In 2006, the predicted median age of survival was 37 years. Now at the age of 25, Emily stands strong against the odds of doctors’ predictions. She undergoes numerous therapies including four daily breathing treatments that clear her lungs for air passage and ingests numerous medications for her digestive system. Although her life has consisted of strife and struggle, a shining smile breaks the barrier of any pain written across her face, thanks to a natural treatment she has enjoyed for the past three years – surfing.
She is now the face for Pipeline to a Cure, a fundraising campaign recognizing the connection between surfing and the deadly genetic disease. “I am really excited to be a part of Pipeline to a Cure and working with the CF Foundation because there is so much hope ahead for cystic fibrosis,” Haager said. “I fully believe that there will be a cure during my lifetime and I can’t wait to see it.” The correlation between surfing and healing surfaced two years ago when patients with cystic fibrosis in Sydney, Australia reported feeling better after hitting the waves, stating that their chests felt relieved as the ocean water cleared the mucus from their and sinuses and lungs. The finding made complete sense, as the top daily treatment for the disease, Hypertonic Saline Solution, mimics a “surf session” for the lungs.