A 14-year-old soccer stand-out in Gig Harbor has Cystic Fibrosis but never lets it slow her down.
Lily Paulson started playing soccer when she was three-years-old. Now she’s a star on the Washington Premiere U-15 ECNL girls’ soccer team, one of the top select team in the Northwest.
“I was born with a genetic lung disease and basically I have a lot of mucus in my lungs which makes it harder to breathe sometimes,” explains Lily.
Doctors discovered a blockage in Lily’s stomach as soon as she was born.
“The blockage was so severe they had to remove more than half of her intestines.” Said Heather Paulson, Lily’s mother.
In the first few months of her life, Lily lived in the hospital while she had two surgeries.
"As a mom, it's hard to watch your kid have to suffer and fight for things that other kids take for granted,” said Heather.
But Heather and Tony Paulson, Lily’s father, didn't waste much time asking why, they educated themselves and their daughter.
365 days a year Lily hooks up to a machine twice a day.
"Basically she spends an hour in the morning and an hour at night doing therapy and then with every meal she has she has to take pancreatic enzymes, the enzymes are needed to help her digest her food,” said Tony. “There is two tubes, looks like a life jacket. It fills the vest with air, then when it osculates it shakes the mucus off the surface of her lungs.”
She spends another hour on a breathing nebulizer and after that, it's out to the yard for a little practice at home.
Then it's off with her team 3-5 days a week 2 hours a night.
According to her doctors, it's soccer and all the running that comes with it that's actually helped strengthen her lungs over the years. But those that know Lily best, say it's her attitude that makes her so strong.
"Don't give up, keep fighting, always push yourself, don't worry about what you have, and if you don't keep fighting you won't experience any great things that you could be possibly doing if you don't try,” said Lily.
The Paulson family and Team Lily Grace have helped raise nearly $500,000 for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation's Washington Chapter.
The 30th annual Tacoma Tennis Ball&Auction is Friday and Saturday. It benefits the CF Foundation.
May is National Cystic Fibrosis awareness month. C-F affects the lungs and digestive system of 30,000 children and adults in the United States and 70,000 worldwide, but more than 10 million people carry the defective CF gene.