To talk with Maria Jose Zubizarreta (Mary Jo), a recent attendee to our  CFRI/IACFA Conference, is to be inspired. Single mother of three children: Florencia (who has cystic fibrosis), age 13, Dominica, age 11, and Constanza, age eight, Mary Jo lives in Asuncion, Paraguay, where CF is unknown to most doctors. Mary Jo found this out the hard way when her daughter, Florencia, had a bowel obstruction at 45 days old. She was hospitalized for two months. Despite Mary Jo's insistence that her daughter might have CF, after inconclusive sweat tests, no diagnosis was made and the child was discharged into the mother's care. Florencia thrived for two years, but after a bout of bronchitis at age two, Mary Jo felt certain her child had CF and flew to Buenos Aires to get a doctor to confirm her diagnosis. It was Dr. Lydia Aguero, a GI specialist, who eventually performed the test. Mary Jo's father had bought and donated the equipment for the doctor to perform the sweat test, and Dr. Aguero had to then fly to Argentina so she could be trained to use the equipment.
Mary Jo's persistence has gone a long way toward helping not only her own daughter, but other children who can now be properly diagnosed, although Mary Jo notes with a touch of dismay that half of her doctor's current 25 CF patients never returned for treatment once diagnosed. Her own attitude is so upbeat, it is almost infectious. She feels no pity for herself, only gratitude that God has given her the intelligence necessary to learn to treat her child. And she will do anything possible to educate herself. So when she heard about the CFRI/IACFA Conference, she was desperate to attend. She called Ann Robinson, executive director of CFRI, and was granted a scholarship to attend and promised a place to stay in a local home (Mary Jo says she will be eternally grateful to the Batchelders of Woodside, CA., for receiving her, a stranger, into their home so graciously). Then she contacted international airlines' representatives. It didn't take her long to convince the manager at American Airlines why she needed to come to the U.S. to learn about this disease that no one understands in Paraguay. She provided American Airlines with written proof of her daughter's condition and the conference, and was awarded a free round-trip ticket to San Francisco. It is heartwarming to hear of the generosity of American Airlines in a time of great corporate struggles in our country. Equally inspirational is the resourcefulness and indefatigable spirits of our South American friend, Mary Jo. Florencia is in good hands!
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