When you think of an inspiring athlete, who comes to mind? Jesse Owens, who went to the 1936 Olympics held in Nazi-controlled Germany and proceeded to win four gold medals under Hitler’s nose? Pat Tillman, who walked away from a professional football career with the Arizona Cardinals to join the Army in the wake of the September 11 attacks and died in combat in 2004? Jackie Robinson, the first African-American to play in Major League Baseball in 1947? Michael Phelps, who is the single most decorated Olympian ever with 28 medals?
The thing is, it doesn’t require breaking down the race barrier or winning nearly two dozen Olympic gold medals to inspire people. Mason Moerdyk inspires others by being an athlete who happens to have cystic fibrosis (CF).
According to the Grand Haven Tribune, Mason was diagnosed with CF just shy of his second birthday. Needless to say, he does not remember life without it. The genetic condition affects the respiratory and digestive systems.
A person with CF produces a thick mucus, which causes breathing issues. The mucus also results in reduced capacity to produce and release enzymes that facilitate the absorption of food nutrients in the stomach. Without the ability to absorb nutrients, people with CR must consume large quantities of food, more than most can handle, and thus have difficulty gaining weight.
When Mason was younger, his weight fell dangerously behind the growth curve. Fearing for his life, his mother, Amanda, and the doctors agreed to have a feeding tube inserted. Mason spent several years having nutrients infused through the tube while he slept. Unfortunately, the process resulted in Mason waking with a bloated feeling, unable to eat breakfast.
Eventually, a doctor recommended Mason volunteer for a clinical trial for a new device that adds the enzyme he lacks to the nutrients during the nightly feedings. The device, called Relizorb, had previously been approved for adults. The trial aimed to test its effectiveness on juveniles.
It took some time for the device to start showing an effect for Mason. However, he started to notice his weight slowly increase. He was gaining weight despite the rigors of training for the diving team at his high school. Soon after his weight started to increase, he noticed development of more muscle mass in his chest and shoulders.
Before the clinical trial, Mason was determined to have his feeding tube removed as soon as he turned 18. Since the success on the trial, Mason looks at the feeding tube more favorably now.
His technique and scores at the pool are constantly improving, too. Once difficult dives became easier since the introduction of the device. Instead of taking time off to recover from the grueling demands of the diving season, Mason joined the track team.
Facing down cystic fibrosis and not being defined by it is something that can inspire even Jesse Owens, Pat Tillman, Jackie Robinson and Michael Phelps.
Read the original story from the Grand Haven Tribune by clicking here.