CALGARY- When Nicki Perkins was born, she wasn’t expected to live past the age of five.
“They told my mom and dad, ‘don’t even bother putting her in kindergarten, just take her home and snuggle her with love,’” the now-41-year-old recalls.
Perkins was born with cystic fibrosis, a progressive, genetic disease that attacks the lungs. Today, most people with CF live into their 30’s and 40’s, often with the help of a lung transplant.
“I’ve had several hospitalizations. I’ve been in the hospital probably 10 times and I’ve had 20 home IV’s,” she explains. “I ended up at 37 per cent lung capacity before I finally stabilized.”
Breathing does not come easily for Perkins. But three times a week you’ll find her doing pull ups and box jumps, taking part in what the Crossfit community refer to as the WOD or ‘workout of the day.’
“I tried it out 10 months ago and I can’t believe how much I underestimated myself.”
Her accomplishments in the Crossfit gym may be impressive, but they pale in comparison to what she’s been able to do for cystic fibrosis research. In 2005, Perkins created a foundation to raise money for local research. To date ‘CeFfort’ has raised over $650,000. For her new Crossfit community, Perkins has been an inspiration.
“She’s basically supposed to be dead by now, a lot of people don’t live until 40,” says Sandra Anderson, coach and owner of the Crossfit Motivate gym. “But she’s living life like she’s normal. I thought, ‘Wow! Why don’t we do something to help her?’”
This weekend, the gym is hosting a special fundraiser called ‘Burpees for Breath.’
“For seven minutes you do burpees,” Perkins explains. “The idea is to have healthy people know what it’s like to struggle to breathe.”
All money raised will go to a lab at the University of Calgary that was recently named in Perkins’ honour. Perkins says it’s a place where researchers are now working to give other with CF new hope.
“Generations that are being born right now have a chance to be grandparents, even parents, go to school, have a career. The future is bright for people being born right now with cystic fibrosis and I like to think I had a hand in that.”