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Student with Cystic Fibrosis flies out for paddleboard challenge

  • Date

    Wed 5 Jun 19

First year student Jack Cox, who was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis (CF) at the age of 18 months, is embarking on an ambitious challenge, paddling 80 miles from The Bahamas to Florida to help fund research into the life-limiting disease.

When he was first diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis, Jack’s family were told that he would be unlikely to make it to the age of 25. Now 20, he will be one of only four people with the condition participating in the Crossing For A Cure challenge.

Jack and his fellow participants will leave The Bahamas just after midnight on June 15. The challenge's organisers estimate the crossing will take 12 hours.

Through his efforts, Jack hopes to raise $10,000, to fund research into the condition and provide financial support for fellow sufferers and their families. In advance of his departure, Jack has been fundraising on campus, supported by team-mates from the University Swimming Club.

Although an accomplished swimmer, the Business Management student's experience as a paddleboarder is limited.

Jack said: “When I signed up, I thought, “Right, now I need to learn how to paddleboard!” I haven’t fallen off yet, but I think endurance is going to be the real issue. The furthest I have paddled in practice is 15 miles, so I don’t know how an 80 mile challenge will affect me."

Jack, who also trains daily in the gym at Essex Sports Centre, says that his intense exercise regime has always been motivated by fear of the condition.

A childhood doctor encouraged him to take up swimming. As a teenager, he was the first person with CF to compete in the British national championships, competing in the 100 and 200 metres freestyle.

CF is a genetic condition which affects over 10,000 people in the UK. People are born with CF and there is no cure. Many of us carry the gene responsible, but for a child to have CF they must inherit two such genes, one from each parent.

CF affects the lungs and digestive system and requires significant daily medication, which places an additional, financial burden on families: people with CF are not entitled to free prescriptions.

Jack estimates that dealing with the condition takes three hours every day.

Jack said: “I wake up every morning and I have to do two rounds of inhaled antibiotics to loosen the mucus in my lungs and reduce inflammation. Each round of antibiotics takes about 15 minutes. Then I do 15 minutes of physiotherapy. And then I take another round of inhaled antibiotics, to make sure that any bacteria get killed. I take about 80 tablets a day to help my body absorb fat. And then I take more antibiotics in the evening.”

Jack and the other three paddlers with CF will be joined by 50 other participants, plus support staff.

You can contribute to Jack’s fundraising bid online.

Student with Cystic Fibrosis flies out for paddleboard challenge