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Surfing can Benefit Cystic Fibrosis Patients

Update Date: Aug 18, 2014 10:06 AM EDT
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Cystic fibrosis is a genetic condition that causes thick and sticky mucus to accumulate in the lungs, digestive tract and other regions of the body. The condition is considered life threatening with average lifespan of around 40. Since there is still no cure for the chronic lung condition, researchers have attempted to find ways to alleviate the symptoms and discovered that salt water can help patients breathe better. After this discovery, many organizations were created to provide these patients with better access to salt water through surfing.

One of these organizations, the Mauli Ola Foundation, which is Hawaiian for "breath of life," pairs cystic fibrosis patients with professional surfers. The surfers, such as Kelly Salter and Sunny Garcia, help teach patients how to surf. One family that has been a part of the organization stated that surfing has become a form of natural treatment that helps them deal with their condition.

"We have found the silver lining to it all, and that has been through surfing," Paulette Montelone, a mother of five, said reported by the Seattle Times. "It's helping them breathe better ... but it's also helping us, as a family, enjoy something together."

Three of Paulette and her husband, Rob's children, 12-year-old Michael, 10-year-old Brooke and eight-year-old Gavin, have cystic fibrosis. In order for children to have cystic fibrosis, both parents must carry the gene. The other two, Brain who is twins with Brooke and Grace who is twins with Gavin, did not test positive for the disease. The family, who has been nicknamed the "Brady bunch," tries to surf at least one week during the summer.

"They're spitting up their mucous. I mean I'm out there going, 'Hey cough it up man. No shame,' " said Josh Baxter, a world-champion surfer who is also a volunteer with Mauli Ola. Baxter frequently surfs with the Montelones.

The discovery that salt water helped clear up mucus was first made around a decade ago when Australian researchers noticed that cystic fibrosis patients who were surfers breathed better than patients who did not surf. More studies following that one led to many new saline-based treatments in 2006.

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