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Jennifer Nelson - Midland teenager continually fighting cystic fibrosis

Since Jennifer's birth, her family has primarily used a hospital in Omaha, Nebraska, to help with her condition. The family makes regular trips several times a year for what they term as a "tune-up" for Jennifer and, on average, are there for a week to ten days for these treatments. Last year, Jennifer spent a great deal of time in Omaha due to several severe lung infections. In fact, she spent most of last summer in the Omaha hospital or traveling back and forth for treatments.

Jennifer is the daughter of Wes and Nikki Nelson of Midland. She, a sophomore, and her older brother, James, a senior, are students at Philip High School.

The Haakon/Jackson 4-H will hold a pie auction at 8:00 p.m. on Friday, November 17, following their annual 4-H Recognition event. All proceeds will go towards Jennifer's ongoing medical expenses. The public is encouraged to attend and purchase a homemade pie auctioned off by Dan Piroutek. Homemade ice cream will also be served. The festivities will be held at the Philip American Legion Hall.

Cystic fibrosis is a hereditary disease affecting the lungs and the digestive system. It is caused by a defective gene that normally regulates the movement of salt in and out of the cells. This most directly affects cells which produce mucus, sweat, saliva, and the digestive juices. CF causes body secretions to be thick and sticky, plugging the body's tubes, ducts, and passageways in the pancreas and lungs.

Though cystic fibrosis is a genetic disease, most people are unaware that they carry the gene which causes this disease. Most cystic fibrosis cases are diagnosed by the time the patient is three years old.

Jen has to be very careful not to be around others who have colds, flu, viruses, and other contagious diseases. Contracting any of these could be fatal for her. Cystic fibrosis patient's lungs and digestive systems are highly susceptible to infections. This has caused Jen to miss quite a bit of school throughout the years. School is important to her; she is an attentive student, gets good grades and works hard at keeping up in her classes.

Since her lungs only work at a fraction of their normal capacity, Jen requires a great deal more sleep that most teenagers. Her body works so hard just to breathe that she simply does not have a lot of stamina. Jen has to take numerous daily treatments - the first one at 5:30 every morning and the last right before she goes to bed.

Jen and her mother laugh about the way they are going to have a huge celebration when Jen gets to be five feet tall and weigh 100 pounds. Because of the problems with digestion and nutrients, most CF children are quite small. She is actually encouraged, unlike most of the rest of the population, to eat snacks that are higher in fat and protein so she can maintain her body weight. The thickened mucous makes it difficult for Jen to digest fats and protein and to absorb key vitamins, and she must take oral doses of pancreatic enzymes to help her digest food. Most of the calories she absorbs in a day are used to simply help her breathe.

Jen annually looks forward to going to a special camp held each summer for cystic fibrosis kids. Last summer Jennifer had to forego this camp due to her immediate health condition. Jen cannot participate in the normal overnight trips that most teenagers take part in. Her mother must be with her to help administer Jennifer's treatments. The special camp is staffed by nurses and doctors who constantly work with the CF kids, thus allowing these children the opportunity to enjoy a normal summer camp experience without their parents.

Jennifer Nelson, her family and many friends in the Midland and Philip community treat each day as it comes concerning cystic fibrosis. Her smile is reflected in the faces of those around her. People do not see CF when they are around Jen - they see Jen.

A "burgers and brats" barbecue benefit was held for Jennifer Nelson and Cooper West before a home Philip football game on September 8. The money raised was matched by National Mutual Benefit's home office in Madison, Wisconsin, and was split between both Cooper and Jennifer to help pay medical expenses.