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  • 11 Years Old

  • Cystic Fibrosis

Even before she was conceived, her parents prayed for and anticipated the arrival of a sweet baby girl. Their wish was that one day they would be blessed with a little girl and her name would be Breanna Noel Blackburn. The name Breanna means “to be strong” and Noel means “to be born” so it was perfectly fitting.  Little did they know how fitting it would be. 


Breanna’s parents were thrilled when they found out they were expecting.  Knowing that there was a history of cystic fibrosis in the family, they made sure to take precautions and be prepared.  At twelve weeks gestation they had genetic testing done and it revealed that Breanna did in fact have Cystic Fibrosis.  Although they were prepared, it was still heartbreaking news. Cystic fibrosis is a genetic lung disease that causes thick sticky mucus to build up in the lungs, digestive tract and other parts of the body making it difficult to breathe.  It can also affect other organs.


At birth, Breanna needed enzymes to help her digest her food as she could not tolerate the fat in the milk.  This caused her to cry incessantly from the unbearable pain it caused her. Thankfully the CF Center was prepared and got her on the medication she needed to be able to digest it properly and what a difference it made! She went from crying non stop from sunup to sundown to eating and napping like a happy little baby.

Breanna feels more at peace by the ocean and if she had her way, she’d be a mermaid.

Life with cystic fibrosis hasn’t been easy.  Breanna has endured many admissions to Children’s Hospital of Atlanta over the years since she was born to treat lung exacerbations, chronic sinusitis infections, endure seven surgeries on her sinuses alone, removing polyps and infection.  A typical hospital stay for Breanna includes a strict schedule of respiratory therapy, IV medications and physical therapy.  Physical therapy in the hospital gym is a crucial part of her recovery as the more active she is the more clear she can keep her lungs which helps her to regain strength.  In addition to the typical symptoms that come with CF, Breanna suffers significant joint and muscle pain on a daily basis.  The pain is so intense that it nearly cripples her at times.  On a daily basis, Breanna requires twenty pills and two treatments that include three inhaled antibiotics and percussion therapy to clear her airway. Despite this, she does not let CF define her or places limits on what she can achieve.


Breanna loves the ocean!  She feels like she can breathe better when she is near it.  The sea can be beautifully calming, yet invigorating.  Breanna feels more at peace by the ocean and if she had her way, she’d be a mermaid.  Swimming is also a form of therapy for Breanna as it feels really good on her joints and muscles.  There is nothing more special than nightly walks on the beach, watching her sing and dance along the shoreline.  For those few moments, there is not a care in the world.  Breanna and her family treasure those moments deeply wishing they could last forever.


When she can’t be near the shore Breanna loves to be outside in nature.  She has a huge heart for animals and her greatest wish since she was four years old is to be a veterinarian when she grows up.  She dreams of being able to save every hurt or injured creature in the world.  Hopes and dreams don’t stop because of CF, it just makes everything in her world much more important.  Breanna’s family finds new hope on the horizon as there is a new medication that has recently been approved for Breanna’s age group by the FDA and they expect that it will do great things for Breanna!

Photography by Niki Murphy Photography