Saturday's 'Kid Captain': Kristin Klemesrud

Sept. 17, 2009

IOWA CITY, Iowa —Kristin Klemesrud has been down, but not out, too many times to count. Kristin was born with cystic fibrosis (CF), an inherited disease that causes thick, sticky mucus to build up in the lungs and digestive tract.

The buildup of mucus makes it hard for her body to break down and digest food and also causes chronic infections in the lungs. Not too long ago, children born with this fatal genetic disease rarely made it to elementary school. Today, thanks to specialized care like that available at University of Iowa Children’s Hospital, Kristin not only expects to live into adulthood, but also enjoys a life full of school, sports, and community activities.

Until six years ago, Kristin’s disease was managed at a hospital closer to home. But when she developed an infection with the bacteria B. cepacia, Kristin’s parents, Kevin and Judy, brought her to UI Children’s Hospital where the staff has experience treating this infection and other complications of CF. In fact, UI Children’s Hospital is the 2009 recipient of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation’s Quality Care Award.

Except for flare-ups, Kristin now just comes for quarterly check-ups at the UI Cystic Fibrosis Clinic. Her father notes that Kristin “is in the best health she has been. We owe Kristin’s improved quality of life to the nurses, doctors, dieticians, and social workers at UI Children’s Hospital. We are indebted to them.”

As if living with a chronic disease wasn’t enough, at 15, Kristin developed severe scoliosis, a curvature of the spine that would eventually impede her lung function. The surgery to straighten her spine was also performed at UI Children’s Hospital by a pediatric orthopaedic surgeon, who worked closely with her CF doctor to help her have the best possible outcome after surgery.

In the 15 years since her diagnosis, Kristin, her sister Kacey, and their parents have sought to educate the public about CF. Their work has encouraged the entire community, through the leadership of the Osceola Rotary Club, to raise almost $150,000 for CF research. As her mother puts it, “Little did our family know this seed of education would blossom into a field of caring.” The Clarke High School senior, whose life has been so full of giving, plans to go to college to become a social worker so she can help others get over life’s hurdles.

Through it all, she has continued to be active as a community volunteer, in school activities, music, and 4-H. Kristin will be lettering for her fourth year in cross country. At graduation, she will be a recipient of the Silver Cord for volunteering more than 200 hours in her community.

Kristin has met her health problems with courage, grace, and a positive outlook on life. It is an honor to recognize her as Kid Captain.