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Sacred Heart grad with cystic fibrosis wants to learn to help other patients

Being a teenager is not an easy task within itself. However, Briana Hansen has managed to do it while having a life-threatening illness.

Briana, 18, who graduated from Sacred Heart Acdemy this week, likes to spend her free time skiing, cheerleading, working as a camp counselor and vacationing with family and friends.

However, she goes through her daily routine a little differently than the average teenager. When she was 18 months old, Briana was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, a life-threatening disorder that damages your lungs and digestive system. This disease produces sticky mucus that clogs and often infects the lungs. As a result, patients can experience wheezing and shortness of breath as well as persistent coughing.

Although Briana has to perform extensive and time-consuming treatments every morning and night and take a variety of medication to maintain good health, she says having CF does not restrict her from living a “normal life.” She still goes to school, hangs out with her friends, has a job and much more, but, she says, she faces these things with additional challenges.

“The biggest struggle is the time I spend in the hospital,” Briana said. “It is upsetting when I have to miss out on activities and other things due to illness, but I make up for it with the fun times I get to have when I’m healthy.”

She also said she always makes it through her stays in the hospital thanks to her friends and family.

Along with hospital stays and treatments, Briana lives each day knowing that CF continues to damage her lungs as she gets older. However, Briana said that knowing this is “the motivation needed to push through and stay positive and upbeat.”

Because treatment is so crucial to Briana maintaining a healthy life, she has participated in the nationwide Cystic Fibrosis Great Strides Walk every year since she was 1. Last month, Briana participated in this year’s walk along the canal at Wide Water in Lockport. Her team started out as Team Hansen, but in fifth grade it transformed into Briana’s Buddies because of the many friends that decided to join her.

She said she loves to see how her team has grown over the years and feels blessed to have so many people supporting a great cause.

Briana said that CF has impacted the person she is today.

“CF has been my ultimate teacher and motivator, teaching me dedication, responsibility and how to live life to the fullest,” she said.

Briana said she wants to contribute to “treating, caring and empowering patients to thrive in a healthy life as my doctors have done for me.” She will be attending Le Moyne College to study the physician assistant program.

Advances in CF treatments have extended the lives of many people living with CF, and Briana hopes to contribute.

For other teens living with an illness, Briana encourages them “to live life to the fullest and stay positive. As cliche as it sounds, it is definitely something to live by.”

Hollie Gfroerer is a junior at Sacred Heart Academy.