When 12-year-old Sabrina Ness takes the stage, her soulful, bluesy voice startles listeners. Think Norah Jones or Adele. Her songwriting is just as mature.
“All of my songs are about making a difference in the world,” says Ness.
There’s a reason for that: This Stillwater, Minn., sixth-grader has been successfully defying the odds against hospitalization since she was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis (CF) at 3 months old.
This genetic disease produces a thick, sticky mucus in her lungs, obstructing her pancreas, and preventing her body from absorbing food. To combat the disease, Ness takes 35 enzymes daily and wears a CF compression vest twice a day. The vest is a novel therapy developed by CF pioneer Warren Warwick, M.D., at the University of Minnesota.
Fifty years ago, few children with CF lived to age 5; today, thanks to leaders like Warwick, those who are treated at the U’s Minnesota CF Center live more than a decade longer than the national average.
“It helps further,” says Warren Regelmann, M.D., Sabrina’s U physician and the CF Center’s co-director, “to attend a center whose doctors led the development of this treatment plan and continue to research better ways to diagnose and treat people with CF.”
Sabrina’s family is thrilled with her continued good health. “If anyone would have told me this is how she is going to do, I never would have believed it,” says mom Naomi Ness. “It really is too good to be true.”
For her part, Sabrina is planning on a long and successful singing career. She recently recorded her first CD, Revolution, thanks to the Make-a-Wish Foundation.