Jayden Gabbard, like many seven-year-olds, loves video games, fishing and swimming. “He is an energetic kid,” said Jayden’s dad, Mike Gabbard. “It’s go full-throttle all the time.”
Jayden also has cystic fibrosis, but he hasn’t let that slow him down one bit. Even though his daily routine includes two breathing treatments, nine prescriptions, a percussive vest to loosen up mucus, and paying attention to what and how much he eats (and getting up early and sitting still for long stretches is sometimes frustrating!), his life is full and fun.
“He hasn’t come across anything that he can’t do,” said Mike. At one point, Jayden even set a goal of swimming five laps in their 40-foot pool. He just kept going after the first five. “He stopped at 62 laps.”
Mike and Amanda, Jayden’s mom, first found out that Jayden might have CF when she was pregnant in 2014. An ultrasound, and follow-up tests, revealed that it was highly likely. They were terrified.
“It was kind of a shock, because neither of us has a history of CF in our family,” said Mike. “With social media and also the ability to look things up on the internet … it can be tremendously scary.” At the time, they were living in Louisiana. Fortunately, a longtime nurse who went by Ms. Antoinette “talked them off the ledge.”
“It was a test of faith, but we made it through.”
Jayden was diagnosed at birth, and the Gabbard family’s journey with CF began. In 2016, Mike and Amanda decided to relocate to Idaho, where the air is drier, which they knew would be better for Jayden’s lungs. Again, Ms. Antoinette gave the Gabbards the help they needed, connecting the family with St. Luke’s Cystic Fibrosis Center of Idaho. The transition was “seamless,” according to Mike.
“Everybody’s just been wonderful since we’ve been here. It’s been amazing,” Mike said. “With the care we’ve received from St. Luke’s, we’ve only had one hospitalization, which is unique for his situation.”
Mike attributes Jayden’s continued good health to their relationships with the center’s providers, who have given the family the tools they need, from medications to resources, and are available to answer any questions that come up. Staff also coordinates with Jayden’s school on diet accommodations and made sure the family could get through the hardships of the pandemic.
Mike and Amanda are thankful for Jayden’s energy and positive attitude, but they are most proud of his generous spirit. Two years ago, inspired by the St. Luke’s holiday toy drive, Jayden decided to raise money for Toys for Tots — a program that means a lot to Mike, who served in the Marine Corps.
Jayden donated all his profits from selling farm-fresh eggs. With the support of a local radio host, he raised over $2,400. Toys for Tots named him a junior ambassador.
“He’s always been that kind of kid — a big heart,” Mike said. “He’s taught me a lot about empathy.”
Jayden is now on a maintenance plan with St. Luke’s Cystic Fibrosis Center, with visits about every three months. A drug recently FDA-approved for his age group has improved Jayden’s lung function and helps his body hang onto the calories he eats. The support from the center, the Gabbards’ church family and their community has allowed them to make a great home in Idaho for Jayden and his two older half-brothers, Jason and Joshua.
“There’s going to be struggles, there’s going to be trials and tribulations, but you’ve just got to trust your team, and they will get you through it,” Mike said. “We’re able to put a higher power to it. It gives us comfort and hope. You don’t walk alone, even when you’re alone.”
Jayden’s philosophy? “Just have fun — do as much as you can do. Don’t let it beat you.”