Sports

Soccer player defies cystic fibrosis

photo by Deborah Powell

At 13 – after being told she had pneumonia twice and enduring multiple tests – Morgann Schnell was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis.

“It was overwhelming,” Schnell says.

Cystic Fibrosis (CF) is an inherited disease of the glands; which produce extra mucus and sweat, which can lead to lung infections, cause malnutrition and inhibit growth.

Despite living with this disease, Schnell, now 18, hasn’t let it control her life. In fact, she is a first-year defender for the SAIT Trojans women’s soccer team.

Looking at Schnell, a first-year administrative information management student, one might never even know she’s lived an ongoing battle with a chronic illness.

But other than her twice day breathing exercises and the handful of pills she takes at meals, Schnell isn’t much different than her teammates.

“I don’t feel any different, because I’ve never known any different,” says Schnell.

“A lot of people wouldn’t know about it if I didn’t tell them.”

Luckily, Schnell says the disease has yet to affect her severely. Support from her family and understanding from her friends, teammates and coaches makes everything a lot easier to deal with,
she says.

However, Schnell says there still are times where she’s reminded of it. “When it gets really cold, it gets harder to breathe,” says Schnell. “Or when it gets really hot.”

Schnell’s love for sports has allowed her to keep a healthy lifestyle, which is a cornerstone of managing the disease.

Having played multiple sports in high school, Schnell easily fits into college soccer, says Trojans assistant coach Erica Balmer.

“As a player she is very well composed, smart, hard-working and full of courage,” she says. “Off the pitch Morgann is very outgoing, friendly, and always smiling.”

Balmer, having played soccer her entire life with a heart condition, can relate to Schnell. “I can understand how she must feel,” she says. “She wants people to see through her condition and
recognize her as a player.”

Balmer says Schnell’s maturity is what differentiates her from other players. “She steps up and fills the roles that we need her to fill. I admire her for her passion and determination in soccer.”

On the field, Schnell finds a sense of peace and tranquility.

“Soccer means everything. It’s a whole other world,” Schnell says. “I can escape everything.”

With Schnell’s passion and love for soccer, she’s confident she’ll continue living to the fullest. “I hope to live a healthy life where I don’t have to go through a lung transplant or any major
surgery.”

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