Helping Kids With Cystic Fibrosis

Bonnie Ramsey

Dr. Bonnie Ramsey helps patients with cystic fibrosis.

No one appreciates the perseverance behind medical research more than Kari Foss, a member of Kentwood High School's volleyball team, who was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis (CF) at age 2.

Cystic fibrosis can take its toll in a number of ways.

Symptoms can include persistent coughing, shortness of breath, sinus infections and poor weight gain – all caused by a defective gene that causes the body to produce abnormally thick mucus.

The mucus clogs not only the lungs, but also the pancreas, where it prevents enzymes from reaching the intestine to digest food.

"Cystic fibrosis sounds like such a terrible disease, but with all the research that's going on, people with CF can accomplish a lot in their lives," she says.

"I know it slows some people down, but I've never really had any respiratory problems and I've always been able to keep up with everybody else in sports. The biggest problem is dealing with all my treatments and the time it takes each day."

Kari has participated in four cystic fibrosis studies at Seattle Children's. Not only does she feel like she's helping future CF patients, she considers it payback for the care she's received at Seattle Children's Cystic Fibrosis Clinic.

Learn more about research at Seattle Children's.

A Doctor’s Quest

As Dr. Bonnie Ramsey sat at a patient's bedside nearly 20 years ago, she came to a life-changing conclusion.

"Two of my cystic fibrosis patients died within a week of each other. I decided that I couldn't continue to hold the hands of young boys and girls without personally trying to affect this illness," recalls Ramsey.

While still caring for patients, she became deeply committed to researching cystic fibrosis (CF), a genetic disease that attacks the respiratory and digestive systems.

The CF research field was significantly changed in 1989 when scientists discovered the gene that causes CF. This discovery led to a dramatic increase in international interest and expanded funding for research.

Since that time Ramsey has been very involved in clinical research to develop new treatments that improve and extend the lives of children with CF. In 1980, adult CF care centers were rare since many children succumbed to their illness in their teenage years. Today, more than 50% of all CF patients are adults.

Through her work, Ramsey has helped to give children with CF hope for a full life.