Going to college is an exciting time no matter how you slice it, between pursuing a degree, meeting new people, studying hard, and being away from home (sometimes for the very first time!). For students living with cystic fibrosis (CF), attending college presents other unique challenges as well.
Cystic fibrosis is a rare genetic disorder which results in the formation of thick mucus in the lungs and throughout other parts of the body. While this condition can lead to severe respiratory and digestive complications, for recent MSU Graduate Julia Ruggirello, co-founder of Spartans Fighting Cystic Fibrosis (a student-led group with continuous goals of raising awareness and funds to help find a cure for cystic fibrosis), it hasn’t slowed her down one bit.
As an activist, offering advice, hope, and help, Julia completed her master's program at Michigan State University in 2019, earning a degree in Education Administration. Despite her busy schedule, Julia maintains an exercise routine to support her health and hopes to continue to inspire her special education students and others in her community by maintaining a positive mind and body, working through the obstacles of life. According to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, the life expectancy for the 70,000 adults and children worldwide suffering from CF is 37 years. Be that as it may, according to Julia: “Nobody can tell me when my time is up. The doctors can say what they want, but I’m going to live to be 93!”
Julia is a twice-recipient of the RCPD’s Anita Giampalmi Cystic Fibrosis Scholarship. Awarded to a student with cystic fibrosis who possess educational and professional objectives, and who demonstrates a positive outlook and tenacity in the spirit of meeting challenges, this award honors the memory of Anita Giampalmi, an MSU graduate in 1993 who passed away from complications due to CF. Anita was a teacher, and her life symbolized the values of education, hard work in spite of physical challenges, and the pursuit of life goals.
Recent scientific breakthroughs are driving positive change, with a new drug being introduced in Fall 2019 which can treat up to 90% of those affected by CF, particularly younger patients. There is also a team right here at MSU working to study the harmful bacteria that live and thrive in the lungs of patients with decreased oxygen capacity, causing chronic lung infections.
Thanks to brave Spartans like Julia, Anita, and the research team, the future looks bright for people with cystic fibrosis, making the goal of a college degree even more accessible.