Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pasco family finds hope in battle against cystic fibrosis


Ray and Wendy Meddaugh tried for years to have their first child, Rachel, and when she was 16 months old they discovered she had cystic fibrosis. In the beginning, they only knew there was no cure and it was terminal.

"We were devastated," Wendy said.

A few years later, they had another child. The chances were 75 percent in their favor that the baby would not have cystic fibrosis. Unfortunately, Jacob — who likes to be called Jake — was also diagnosed. There are about 30,000 children and adults in the country who have CF. The Meddaughs have two. It is an inherited disease that makes a person's mucus thick and sticky, clogging lungs, obstructing the pancreas and creating havoc with digestion.

The Meddaughs — Wendy, 39, is a part-time surgical technician and Ray, 44, is a corporal with the Pasco County Sheriff's Office — don't know of any relatives with CF. Ray's father had a brother who died in childhood, though the cause is unknown. They think now maybe he had the disease.

Years ago, children with CF were lucky to live long enough to attend elementary school, according to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. But now many people live into their 30s or 40s.

Rachel is 11. Jake is 7.

They are doing really well.

"This is a story of hope," Wendy said. These two children have had multiple hospitalizations and several surgeries. They are at All Children's Hospital so much that the Meddaughs send the nurses Christmas cards.

Every day, there are rounds of medication — things to inhale, things to swallow. Sometimes they have to be on steroids, which make their bones brittle and easily broken.

Rachel has had five broken bones. She and Jake burn so many calories just trying to breathe that getting enough calories is a huge issue. Their sinuses get packed and have to be drained. Rachel has a feeding tube for injections of extra calories when she can't eat much. The kids spend 20 minutes twice a day strapped into vests that inflate and shake them to loosen the mucus in their lungs. They constantly use hand sanitizer to ward off infections.

"It's just our life," Wendy said. "It's not who they are — it's what they have."

Ray said well-meaning, good-hearted people give him sympathy. But he doesn't look for it.

"This is our world," he said. "This is our life. This is all we know."

Rachel, a blond fifth-grader who is quiet with a beautiful smile, loves to play the guitar. Jake, the first-grade spitfire, plays the piano and does karate.

"Our goal is to keep them as healthy and normal as our life can be," Wendy said on a recent afternoon in their Holiday home.

"I mean, Jake climbs on things," she said and her husband nodded for her to look behind her. Jake was climbing on the arm of the sofa, wiggling to a nearby chair, a grin on his face. Then he ran off and brought back a small toy lung to show how CF affects his respiration.

"It's not contagious," said Jake, who also made it clear he does not like IVs.

"I hope soon there is a cure for CF," he said.

When asked if she's sad or upset about her diagnosis, Rachel shook her head.

"Not really," she said. "It's pretty much just life."

Ray served in the Army prior to joining law enforcement. He has a logical outlook on life. After getting the news of Rachel's diagnosis — a phone call from a doctor at 3 p.m. June 21, 2001 — he sat on the edge of his bed and his mind shut down. Then, after a bit, he wanted to know what they could do to save their little girl. The doctor gave Ray and his wife a big, thick book about CF. They read it and understood the disease more, which made it less scary. They trusted their doctors and followed what they told them to do. Their daily routines take much dedication.

"This is the way we do it," Ray said. "Is it not fun? Yeah. But this is the world we live in."

Ray and Wendy feel blessed. Money is tight but the family laughs and hugs a lot. They have three dogs that cuddle with Rachel and Jake.

"My kids are wonderful," Ray said.

Erin Sullivan can be reached at or (727) 869-6229.

>>fast facts

Want to help?

The Meddaugh family will participate in Great Strides: Taking Steps to Cure Cystic Fibrosis, which is the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation's largest fundraising event. Thousands of people throughout the nation come together each year to participate in these events. In 2011, nearly $38 million was raised to support CF research, according to the organization's website.

There are many walks planned, but the Meddaughs will be at an event at 9 a.m. May 19 at Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, 4150 S. Suncoast Blvd. in Homosassa. For information, visit or call 1-800-FIGHT-CF (344-4823).

Pasco family finds hope in battle against cystic fibrosis 05/04/12 [Last modified: Friday, May 4, 2012 9:52pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Jones: Bucs need success to get national respect


    Tampa Bay Times columnist Tom Jones offers up his Two Cents on the world of sports.

    No respect

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter walks the field during the second day of mandatory minicamp at One Buccaneer Place in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday, June 14, 2017. LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times
  2. Hopes fade after landslide destroys Chinese village (w/video)


    Crews searching through the night in the rubble left by a landslide that buried a mountain village under tons of soil and rocks in southwestern China found 15 bodies, but more than 110 more people remained missing.

    Vehicles and people line a road leading to the site of a landslide in Xinmo village in Mao County on Saturday in southwestern China’s Sichuan Province. More than 100 people remained missing after the village was buried under tons of rocks and soil.
  3. Rookie Jake Faria dissatisfied with performance in Rays' loss to Orioles

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The rookie pitcher walked to his locker Saturday after tossing the fourth quality start in as many tries to begin his career. He held the potent Orioles bats to three runs and for six innings gave his team a chance to win.

    Orioles third baseman Manny Machado tags out the Rays’ Mallex Smith at third after a rundown in the first inning.
  4. Thousands converge in two St. Pete locations celebrating LGBT rights

    Human Interest

    ST. PETERSBURG — Tom Rockhill didn't know what to expect Saturday, but by noon people were knocking on the door of his bar Right Around the Corner in Grand Central.

    (From left to right) Emma Chalut 18, gets a rainbow sticker on her cheek from her sister Ellie, 15 both of Jacksonville before the annual St. Pete Pride parade in downtown St. Petersburg on Saturday. This year the route was changed from the Grand Central and Kenwood area to Bayshore Drive.
[EVE EDELHEIT   |   Times]
  5. Retired Florida Supreme Court Justice Parker Lee McDonald dies

    TALLAHASSEE — A former Florida Supreme Court justice, who wrote a decision that prevented lawyers from excluding jurors because of their race, has died.

    Former Florida Supreme Court Justice Parker Lee McDonald died Saturday, the court said in a statement. He was 93.