High Five RVA’s Amy McCracken got to see Eliza McVicker at a dance recital where Eliza tore up the stage tap dancing! When Eliza was just a few months old she was still smaller than most newborns and so sick that even her skin began to deteriorate, the doctors told her parents, “It’s simply failure to thrive. We’re sorry.” But eventually Eliza was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis and proper treatment began. In the 1950’s when kids were diagnosed with CF many didn’t live through elementary school. Today, because of incredible advances in research and treatments (paid for by fundraising efforts of CF families), CF patients are living into their 30’s and beyond. CF is a genetic disease that causes chronic lung infections and damage. Many CF patients describe living with CF like breathing through a straw. In addition to hours of breathing treatments every day, Eliza dances every night after school and every weekend. There’s no evidence of CF when Eliza is up on that stage. I don’t know what it’s like to have a life-shortening disease, but I know what it looks like when someone is loving every moment they have. And that’s so Eliza.
H5RVA: What makes you happy to wake up in the morning?
Eliza: In the morning I get up to the smell of coffee brewing. Then I perk up.
H5RVA: What do you think about when you are dancing?
Eliza: Food! Food motivates me because I say to myself, “One more class then you can let loose and Eat!” I think about my counts too, and the emotion of the music.
H5RVA: What do you wish people knew about you?
Eliza: I wish people knew about my CF. Because people are like “Hey Eliza, Why do you take so many pills?” And I wish that I could tell the class why I take pills so they wouldn’t make me uncomfortable when they have to ask at weird times like trying to explain why I take pills while were in line at lunch or in the hallway.
H5RVA: Were you born with glitter on your face, or was that added on later?
Eliza: I was born with glitter on my face because I was born a star! It was natural. I was born with glitter on my legs, arms and head!!!
H5RVA: Are there ways in which having CF actually makes your life better, or is it always a drag?
Eliza: Sometimes it is just a drag, but sometimes it is good to be different. Like it’s a drag when you're in the hospital or when you're sick but, that is ok (life will go on). But it is good because you can educate if they don’t know. Like when I went to a different school this year, we had to explain to my new teacher what CF is and the handbook, oh my! I remember the name of this handbook “CF in the Classroom” we gave that to her. She had no idea how it worked. We had to explain to her my meds and my treatments and to every single teacher I have we had to explain. We explained what the illness does to the lungs and the pancreas and so on. I hope when we explain they will accept me for who I am and not ill child.
H5RVA: What are you going to do with this giant high five?
Eliza: With this high five I will be dancing!!! I will be dancing with the high five!!!!!