Friends Seek Funds For Young Patient 

Bowlin was released from the hospital last week and is eager to get her new laptop.

Bowlin is a medical transcriptionist, who types doctors' dictation on patients' diagnoses, therapy and treatment. It's work she can do at home, or even during hospital stays caused by complications of cystic fibrosis — if she gets a computer.

Richardson and friends have raised $3,150 so far toward the cost of a laptop and transcription software. Their goal is $3,500, Richardson says, and any extra will be donated to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disease affecting 30,000 Americans. It causes the body to secrete abnormally thick, sticky mucus that clogs the lungs and obstructs the digestive system, making it difficult to breathe and digest food. The median life expectancy for someone with the disease is 32 — and when Bowlin was diagnosed at age 5 months, she was not expected to survive her teen-age years.

Yet here she is, continuing to fight. The computer may sound like a small thing, Richardson says, but for Bowlin it's a much-needed boost of independence. "The more her body gets weakened, the more her will gets weakened," Richardson says, her voice breaking.

Bowlin and Richardson have been fast friends since kindergarten. They attended Powhatan High School together, where friends knew Bowlin as a good student and a cheerleader. "People in school were envious of her because they didn't understand her illness," says Richardson.

Sitting in her dim blue hospital room, Bowlin shrugs off conversation about her disease, talking instead about her favorite subjects: her friends' children, her boyfriend, and singing karaoke. "Everybody I know doesn't feel sorry for me," she says. "They just treat me regular."

— Melissa Scott Sinclair



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