Joshua’s Angels


Riley Johansen, Staff Writer

It’s a boy! When Joshua Paul Fitzgerald was born August 31, 2007, Emilie Fitzgerald was only five. Ten days later Josh was taken to the doctor’s office, and after a sweat test, they discovered Josh had Cystic Fibrosis. Cystic Fibrosis is a disease that causes a frequent build up of mucus in the lungs, impairs the pancreas, and compromises the immune system. Emilie at the time didn’t realize the severity of the issue, she stated, “I was pretty pissed I wanted a sister!” From that moment on Emilie’s life changed drastically.

Emilie and her family found out Josh had C.F. 10 days after he was born. She doesn’t remember much from this time, but she did say, “All I remember was there was a lot of crying and then I had to be tested for the disease too.” Cystic Fibrosis can be a terrifying disease. Emilie says the life expectancy used to be around 30 years of age, but now people with C.F. have grown up to be grandparents. Hopeful that treatments are gaining credibility, Emilie believes a cure will be discovered in her lifetime.

From the moment they found out about Josh, Emilie’s life changed. Every bit of attention from her parents fell on Josh, even her own.  Every event had to be scheduled around his doctor’s appointments and the times he had his treatments. The most notable change was always having to travel with a suitcase that contained his vest. They were stopped at the airport every time because they carried suspicious looking luggage, making air travel a nightmare. They constantly have to carry enzyme supplements in fear of her brother having accidents induced by food not being properly digested.

In the summer of 2010, Josh was admitted to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Children’s Hospital for pneumonia and was put on antibiotics through a picc line. A picc line is an IV that goes in between the shoulder and the elbow; it runs a line straight to the heart in order to deliver medicine in a more efficient way. The doctors used ultrasound technology in order to locate and push the tubing through the vein and into Josh’s heart.

In the summer of 2017, Emilie was on her own with Josh. The family was in a rough spot and Josh and Emilie were left alone. Emilie had to step in and take care of Josh. From then until September 2017, Emilie did everything for her family; her mother had been admitted to the hospital for ruptured intestines and they now lived with their grandparents.

Josh, now age 11, and Emilie, now age 16, act like a normal pair of siblings. They argue with one another, tease, and pester each other from across the house. However, at night everything changes, in the distance there is an air compressor going and it sounds like Josh is being shaken. “It’s all a part of his routine for his medicine,” Emilie says, “He has to use it to break up the mucus in his lungs.” He coughs up more mucus because of this violent shaking; he also has to do an extreme nebulizer treatment, which smokes up the room and leaves a good bit of fog.

Josh plays hockey to help strengthen his lungs. At the time they did not know, but Josh decided to play hockey because his buddy Chris from the Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth had played in the Battle of the Badges. They realized the extra exercise helps clear up his lungs and remove some of the mucus.

Emilie and her family refer to themselves as Joshua’s Angels. They have been there for him since birth and have joined and participated in multiple fundraisers to raise Cystic Fibrosis awareness. Everyday they get up and remind Josh to take his medications. From the outside it seems like they aren’t much different than any other family, arguing and bickering, running up and down the halls, and chasing each other yelling things like, “get back here brat.” Beneath the surface the family goes to constant doctor’s visits and have a fear of lurking illnesses that can devastating to people with Cystic Fibrosis. Emilie and her family are determined to help Josh hang on. Josh will always have his angels.