“The kids that were going in were sickly, small,” Kathy said. “Murielle is just sitting up, six months old, ready to run. But she failed the sweat test and came back positive and, of course, changed our lives.”
Seventeen years later, Murielle is an elite soccer player, an All-Met whose size, ability and style of play would never suggest a disease that can affect her breathing. The 5-foot-10 junior forward and Virginia Tech recruit is a dangerous blend of speed and strength, a gifted goal scorer and passer who has notched 51 goals, 42 assists and a 50-6-5 record in nearly three full seasons at Stone Bridge. She also helped the Bulldogs win the 2010 Virginia AAA state title.
None who watch her terrorize opponents on the soccer field would ever know that, twice a day, Murielle uses a nebulizer, a machine that delivers medicine to her lungs, and that she lies on her mother’s lap so that she can pound her chest and back for 20 minutes every morning to loosen the mucus in her lungs.
Few see the rings of salt that collect around her eyes after she plays, especially after games on warm days, a byproduct of so much lost fluid.
“If you look at her, you wouldn’t think she has that type of ailment,” Stone Bridge Coach Joan Windows said. “She is so strong and so powerful.”
The first time others at her high school saw anything amiss with Murielle was May 27, 2010 — the second round of region playoffs of her freshman season in a game against Lee. On a hot, humid evening in Ashburn, Murielle made a run down the sideline within the game’s first 10 minutes. Then she stopped and immediately told the referee she had to leave the game.
“I couldn’t breathe,” she said.
Murielle is lucky. According to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, nearly 30,000 Americans have the disease, while 10 million more carry the defective gene but don’t show symptoms. Compared with other cases of cystic fibrosis where people struggle to breathe regularly, visit the hospital often and their quality of life is affected, her case is mild.
From an early age, her parents have vigilantly watched her treatments. When they first started her daily chest pounding, her parents cried as baby Murielle cried. But it soon became a fact of life. They watched over her diet and acted quickly on any sign of a cold or pulmonary infection, because those can be worse for her, and promoted sports and exercise.