Success against the odds

Woody thrives in school in spite of cystic fibrosis



Junior Micheal woody talks about Cystic Fibrosis doesn’t stop him from doing what he loves, “I don’t let it control my life. Cystic Fibrosis is my merely a part of it,” Woody said.

Growing up, junior Michael Woody always knew he was different. Being diagnosed with cystic fibrosis before he was even born, meant he would have restrictions for the rest of his life.

“I don’t let it control my life. It’s created a lot of issues for me in the past. It is a background thought… but overall, it doesn’t interfere with a good amount. I do a lot of things. There are some things that restricts… there’s very few things that really affects,” Woody said.

Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disease that is passed down from two carriers or parents that both have the gene. In Woody’s case, both his parents carried the gene.

“It affects different people in different ways. Most generally, it affects the lungs, the pancreas, the digestive systems and the male reproductive systems, and it really comes about through a salt inconsistency around the body,” Woody said. “The gene it affects is a gene that codes for the creation of mucus around the body, and that gets altered. It’s thick, sticky. Not right. It clogs pores of organs, it fills the lungs, it basically prevents organs from doing their job.”

Growing up, Woody always knew he was different. Being one in almost 40,000 people in the country living with Cystic Fibrosis, he’s considered to be on the healthier side.

“I do treatments daily. I have a vest that I do. It… breaks up any mucus in the lungs helping to breathe. There are digestive pills I take [that] help me absorb the nutrients that I wouldn’t really be able to otherwise,” Woody said. “I am one of the healthier ones, by a long shot. So I don’t do as much as the average cystic fibrosis patient would. So me personally, it’s really more about noticing the things I have to do, compared to what others have to do, which is a lot more varied in different ways.”

Woody is able to attend school, taking advanced placement classes. He’s able to work at his local grocery store. He’s able to participate in theater. Having cystic fibrosis has not stopped Woody from doing anything he wants.

“As long as I can remember, I knew that I was different. I always knew something was different about me. My parents never held any information back from me; they always told me everything that was going on, why I did what I do,” Woody said. “And so from a very early on, I had always taken my meds…knowing why I was doing them. But even since I was born, I always knew something’s weird with my lungs. This isn’t what the average person goes through. But it’s always been a part of my life.”

Aydann Turner has been close friends with Woody since middle school. Even though they have been friends for years, Turner and Woody never had a sit down conversation about his cystic fibrosis. It all just came as the years progressed.

“I’ve seen the vest treatment… and he told me to take like 30 minutes for you and put the vest on. It just vigorously shakes for like 30 minutes… anytime we go out to eat he has to take two, three pills to help with digestion. So I’ve seen him do that,” Turner said.

Even when times became difficult for Woody, Turner offered his support to his close friend, helping and encouraging him in any way.

“Understanding where it’s coming from, I’ve never shown annoyance or anything when you have to take 30 minutes… I never pointed it out or anything… every time I see something new I kind of just like ‘yeah, that’s something Michael has to do’,” Turner said. “I don’t know when he started to do all… any of the treatments, but I know he’s been getting more used to it. Like every year I’ve known him.”

Meghan Grech, Woody’s AP Language and Composition teacher, has taught him all year.

“Michael is so genuine. He’s very smart, and he’s so unique. His perspective is different from other students. He’s very kind. He’s thoughtful, and he’s real. He wears his heart on his sleeve, you kind of know exactly how he’s feeling. And I think he’s just a really special kid,” Grech said.

As Woody’s teacher, Grech was aware of his condition, but didn’t have complete understanding about it.

“I think I asked him about it, because I’m not as familiar with this as I am some other things that students are experiencing or have to deal with. And… I asked him about it. He was happy to talk to me about it. But he didn’t really come to me, because I think, for him, he just kind of wants to keep… moving,” Grech said.

Even with his cystic fibrosis, Grech says she hopes that as he continues to put himself out there both as a student and individual.

“I hope he continues to find people here at the school, who can appreciate him, other students who can appreciate him, lift him up while he lifts them up,” Grech said. “I know that he puts a lot of value in other people, like with me, taking the time to tell me all that stuff or to give me that heartfelt gift. I mean, he really wants to connect with others and to help others, which I think is such an amazing life’s purpose.”