Incoming freshman receives cystic fibrosis scholarship

Incoming freshman Chanlar Mann, 18, received a $5,000 scholarship to attend WKU in the fall. Mann was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis when she was 5 years old. “I want to beat the odds, and I don’t want my disease to control me,” Mann said.

Nicole Ziege

Incoming WKU freshman Chanlar Mann, 18, of Bowling Green, lives with what she calls an “invisible illness,” or an illness that often cannot be detected from the outside. It is a rare genetic disease called cystic fibrosis.

Cystic fibrosis causes persistent lung infections and limits the ability to breathe over time, according to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

Mann is one of more than 30,000 people living with cystic fibrosis in the United States. Approximately 1,000 new cases are diagnosed each year, according to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

Mann was diagnosed with the disease when she was 5 years old, and she said the disease has affected all aspects of her life.

Regarding her daily routine, she has to undergo treatments to pump air and boost her respiratory system every morning and night. The treatments consist of a vest that is connected to a machine and helps pump air into her system, and she must wear this vest for one or two hours. If she is sick, Mann said she has to use the vest treatment about four times a day.

Specifically, in the lungs, cystic fibrosis causes thick mucus to build up, which clogs the airways and traps bacteria. This can lead to infections, extensive lung damage and potential respiratory failure, according to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

Because of this, Mann said she has to be careful about what she is exposed to because she can quickly become sick. Common and more insignificant illnesses like a cold or the flu can cause her to have serious respiratory problems.

“You never know when you’ll get sick,” Mann said. “It just progresses super fast.”

Mann said she also has to visit the hospital at least once a year because of the disease, and she said she was admitted three times last year due to her illness.

Her parents, Tedd and Jody Mann, said they have to be careful about where she goes and what she is exposed to in order to protect her.

“You want to make her life as normal as possible, but there are things she cannot do,” Tedd Mann said, also saying he and his wife were shocked when Mann was diagnosed.

Jody Mann said her daughter has become responsible and well-structured as she has learned to cope with her disease, and Tedd Mann described his daughter as a “spit fire” because of how she was self-driven and strong.

“I told her this was the hand that God dealt to her and she has to take ownership of it,” Tedd Mann said regarding his daughter. “She definitely has done that.”

Mann graduated one semester early from Greenwood High School in December 2017, and she chose to attend WKU in fall 2018 instead of University of Louisville and Bellarmine University.

During one of her hospital visits, Mann said her doctor told her about scholarships for people with cystic fibrosis, and she decided to search for them. In doing so, Mann found the “All in for CF” scholarship, provided by Vertex Pharmaceuticals. Mann received the $5,000 scholarship in order to support her WKU attendance in fall 2018.

Vertex established the All in for CF Scholarship program in 2017 to help people living with CF and their parents and siblings pursue two-year, four-year or graduate degrees. This year, Vertex doubled the number of recipients, awarding 80 scholarships in all, totaling $400,000, according to a press release from Vertex Pharmaceuticals.

“Chanlar is an incredible young woman—a gifted student, a passionate marching band member, and community activist,” according to an email from Riley Calhoun, an associate at Ten Bridge Communications. Calhoun’s email released the news of Mann receiving the scholarship from Vertex Pharmaceuticals.

Mann will be majoring in architecture at WKU in the fall, and she has been admitted into the Mahurin Honor’s College program. She said she does not want her disease to define her.

“I want to beat the odds, and I don’t want my disease to control me,” Mann said. “I want to be as normal as possible.”

Nicole Ziege can be reached at 270-745-6011 and [email protected]. Follow Nicole Ziege on Twitter at @NicoleZiege.