Monday, February 4, 2013

Amercian Idol

I’m sure many people have seen the American Idol episode that aired last week featuring Kayden Stevenson, a sixteen-year-old boy with cystic fibrosis. The kid has guts and swagger and he was given a golden ticket and put through to the Hollywood week (meaning, the cattle call in which everyone who was accepted in their respective audition cities begins competing for a spot in the actual show).

This boy said something about his disease that has been sitting heavy on my mind ever since it was broadcast. When describing CF as a terminal illness, he said that he has a life expectancy of 35. As soon as he said this I felt like something was left out. That is, "the average life expectancy age is 35." I knew there might be some misunderstaniding about this fact. Indeed, some TV critics picked up on what Kayden said and wrote things like, "he has Cystic Fibrosis, which means he probably won't live past the age of 35" (Zap2it) and "Ridiculously cute kid with cystic fibrosis and a life expectancy of only 35" (TV Line).

I've never met any CF'ers who tell you that they're only going to live until they're 35. Every person I've ever met who has CF recognizes what the average life expectancy is and how they plan to do whatever they can to live well beyond that age.

The average life expectancy doesn't mean that a person with CF will only live until 35. In fact, with the medicines that are on the horizon, people with CF may live very long lives, well beyond the average expectancy. And all CF parents know this. A person of Kayden's age should know this. Watching the video that American Idol presented about this young man made me a little angry because I felt like they were trying to manipulate the audience into thinking that this boy was on the verge of dying, when that may not be the case.

Maybe I'm being overly sensitive because I'm a parent of a CF kid. Maybe I'm being cynical because I work in the entertainment industry and I know how video can be edited to elicit a particular feeling (and, let's be honest, it makes for better ratings when you have a kid fighting a chronic illness audition). But I want people who watched that show to understand that having CF doesn't mean you will die at 35. Not if I have anything to do with it.
Kayden's appearance on the show will surely inspire millions of people, in particular those kids who live with CF. Hopefully it will also inspire people to find out more about CF and ways they can help find a cure for the disease.

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