#DoItForWalter: Arlington, Virginia, High School Spotlights Inspiring Student Battling Cystic Fibrosis – More Than $4 Million Raised Over Four Decades
This past Saturday, from noon to midnight, students at Arlington, Virginia’s Bishop O’Connell High School came together as they do every spring for the 41st Annual Superdance for Cystic Fibrosis. The theme for this year’s event was “May the Cure be with You!” The school has a personal connection to cystic fibrosis (CF), which spurred the first Superdance in 1976. Through the four decades, students have raised over $4 million to support research to find a cure for the lung disease
A video chronicling this year’s Superdance features Walter Whitt, a senior at O’Connell who is battling CF. Walter shares his personal story with the disease and explains his treatment which includes 7-10 different types of medicines, 10-11 enzymes per meal, multiple inhalers, and an inflatable vest that he wears for one hour at the beginning and end of the day. As Walter explains, the vest vibrates and helps loosen up the mucus that has built in his lungs throughout the course of the day/night. Walter goes on to describe what happens when he forgets to take his medication, comparing it to getting buried in the sand at the beach. “Especially when I’m sick… you really have that weight that you feel,” said Walter.
Walter’s spirit is buoyed by the awareness and attention the school community provides for CF. He remarks, “It really gives me hope. Not just for the next four years, you know, being in college and that transition, but really just looking into the future, really does give me so much hope to see that.”
When asked about hidden blessings with having CF, the young man comments, “Knowing that life expectancy, knowing that I could only, potentially, live to be 40 or 45, that’s really, even at this age – even being a teenager, it’s really given me a sense of time. And it’s really motivated me and made me want to go out and do as much as I can do and kind of experience the world.”
Walter’s optimism and hope is inspiring for everyone on the #Path2Cures. The 21st Century Cures effort is about helping kids like Walter, and finding safe treatments and cures for diseases like CF. Superdance is a highlight of the year for the students and alumni of Bishop O’Connell. It also has a special place at the Energy and Commerce Committee, with several former O’Connell students on staff.
Please watch the six-minute video below to hear more about Walter’s journey, and get a true sense of the importance of raising awareness for cystic fibrosis to the Bishop O’Connell community.
Watch the video on this year’s Superdance and learn more about Walter’s battle with CF HERE.