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Enlighten Me: Townsend teen with cystic fibrosis nominated for "Athlete of the Year" award

Courtesy of Jen Caruso
Michael Davis running the NYC Half Marathon.

Newborn babies in Delaware are screened for Cystic Fibrosis. It’s a genetic disease where a thick build-up of mucus in the lungs causes infections and can obstruct breathing.


Everett Meredith Middle School student Michael Caruso Davis was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis when he was three weeks old, but has overcome the challenges associated with it to become a star athlete.


He’s one of 17 athletes from nationwide nominated for former NFL quarterback Boomer Esiason’s Team Boomer Athlete of the Year Award. The competition features athletes who either have Cystic Fibrosis or know a family member or close friend who has it.



The diagnosis and raising awareness:


After hearing the news of her son’s diagnosis, Michael’s mother, Jen Caruso, said her family was shocked. The genetic disease has no known cure and data from the U.S. National Library of Medicine shows a person with Cystic Fibrosis is expected to live for 37 years, though newer medicine and treatments can enable them to live longer, healthier lives.


“I didn’t know anyone in my family with Cystic Fibrosis and neither did Michael’s father,” Caruso said. “We had to do some digging through family history to try and find it and we think we located it - the gene that is - in Italy through a distant cousin. That’s how far removed it was from us.”


From that point on, Michael’s family rallied around him, doing what they could to raise awareness for CF.


They started a local Great Strides walk for Cystic Fibrosis that they do annually and Michael runs a 5K every summer that raises money to send a child with CF on a “Make a Wish” trip. Last year alone, Michael’s family raised $50,000 to find a cure for. 



Living with Cystic Fibrosis:


“Living with Cystic Fibrosis is very hard and emotional,” Michael said.


He wakes up at 4:30 a.m. every day and does an hour of breathing treatments, inhaling medications and wearing a vibrating vest to break up some of the mucus he has in his lungs. He does these treatments two to four times a day and swallows over 40 pills daily.


Last year, he was admitted to the hospital for a small airway collapse in his lungs. He missed over 50 days of school, but he still made honor roll and his town’s lacrosse team.


He continues to be undeterred. He also found a passion in running, which has helped improve his lung function and breathing. 


“A few years back, I started to run and I noticed my lung function started to go up,” Michael said. “I figured if I keep running, my lung function will keep going up, which it has been.”


Last summer, he was supposed to do a long-term treatment for bacteria in his lungs, but after running all summer, doing consistent breathing treatments and taking medication, his lung function improved and he did not need to go forward with the treatment.


“So I kept running ever since and decided to go do a half marathon and 5Ks, and it became something I love to do,” Michael said. 


He ran the 2017 New York City half marathon in March in just over two hours, and continues to run almost every day. 



Nominated for a national award:


Michael’s efforts to raise awareness for CF got him noticed by the Boomer Esiason foundation. In June 2016, he was nominated for Boomer Esiason’s Team Boomer Athlete of the Month award, and took home the recognition for the month of July. Months later, his mom told him he was in the running for Athlete of the Year.


“Winning this award would make me just very excited and I would feel accomplished for everything that I’ve done to really be recognized for it,” Michael said.


“When I run, I think about all the kids that can’t run and the people that are laying in hospital beds who can’t run and I run for them and I run for the CF community. I would just be really honored to be Team Boomer’s Athlete of the Year,” he continued. 


Caruso said she’s proud of Michael, having instilled in him from a young age that he should never let Cystic Fibrosis define him.


“We’re super proud of him and all the athletes that have been nominated,” Caruso said. “We hope it sends a message to the CF community and those who might have CF that this is a really good thing, and to get involved and stay fit and active.”


Michael will find out if he’s won the Athlete of the Year award on June 7. 


Whether he wins or loses, Michael said he’ll still continue to raise awareness for Cystic Fibrosis and continue to fight for a cure.


“In the end, my goal is to make Cystic Fibrosis stand for ‘cure found’,” Michael said.


You can vote for Michael for Athlete of the Year here. Voting ends June 6.