Mom forms army for Ollie

Published 11:59 pm Friday, August 7, 2009

Ollie Pearl Dubose is just a tiny little girl, but already, she has an army fighting for her.

Ollie, the 3-month-old daughter of Lynsey (Williams) and John Dubose of Andalusia, was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis when she was about four weeks old. The early diagnosis is key in Ollie’s long-term health, her mom said, and was possible because of routine screening that only recently became routine in Alabama.

Before Ollie left Andalusia Regional Hospital as a newborn, with a quick prick of her heel, medical personnel drew blood as part of the screening process, Ollie’s mom said. When Ollie was two weeks old, her parents received a phone call. The caller told them the blood screen showed a possibility of cystic fibrosis and asked them to bring baby Ollie to Birmingham for more definitive testing, specifically a sweat test.

The two weeks between the phone call and the sweat test were tough.

“Your first instinct is to go to Google and search CF,” Dubose said. “After that we cried and prayed and hoped she didn’t have it.”

One of the characteristics of people with CF is that their sweat is more salty than others.

“I nearly licked my child to death trying to decide,” Dubose said of the waiting period.

In Birmingham, Ollie was tested and her parents waited about four hours for results.

“Immediately, they gave us a do-list,” Dubose recalled. “She was four weeks old.”

Fortunately, Children’s Hospital scheduled a family day two weeks later. Ollie, her parents and grandparents, including Lee and Debbie Williams of Andalusia, all attended.

Cystic fibrosis is an inherited chronic disease that affects the lungs and digestive system of about 30,000 children and adults in the United States. A defective gene and its protein product cause the body to produce unusually thick, sticky mucus that clogs the lungs and leads to life-threatening lung infections; and obstructs the pancreas and stops natural enzymes from helping the body break down and absorb food.

“We learned about treatments, doctors visits, studies, how far the treatment of CF has come and what we had to look forward to in the next 10 years.”

Among the things that are different for Ollie is that every day, a parent or grandparent has to beat her chest and back to help her lungs function normally.

“When they first demonstrated this, every one of us cried,” Dubose recalled. “Ollie was screaming, I was crying, my parents were crying. All of us cried.”

Now, it’s just part of the daily routine. Ollie smiles or falls asleep while her mom does her physical therapy each day. To help her gain weight, Ollie also has to swallow the contents of an enzyme capsule on a spoonful of applesauce.

Back home in Andalusia, Dubose began to cope with the news that first devastated her. Then she stumbled upon the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Web site, The information helped her in numerous ways, she said. First, she read positive stories about CF children who have normal lives.

“It inspired me to know other people had exactly the same thing,” she said. “It wasn’t holding them back from sports or anything else.

Then, she found something positive she could do.

“The site has a link called Great Strides,” she said. “At Great Strides events, people walk and raise money for the foundation. I came to the conclusion this was a way I could make my daughter’s life better.”

There is a Great Strides walk scheduled for Crestview on Oct. 3, so Ollie’s mom formed a team, Ollie’s Army, and has challenged each member to raise $150 for CF.

Then she decided to do her own fundraiser for CF. Ollie’s Army will have a Poker Run on Sat., Aug. 22.

“My sister and I came up with this idea,” Dubose said. “We used to participate in these at the beach a lot, but we’d never seen one done on the water. Our parents live at the lake, so we decided to try it with boats.”

The event will begin at 1 p.m. next to Dunns Bridge. Players can purchase up to five hands for $20 per hand.

“We’ll give you a map of stops and a copy of the rules and send you on your way,” she said. “There are five different piers and there will be a sign at each pier.

“An Ollie’s Army member will let you draw a card for each hand. They’ll write down what you drew on their card and on your participation card,” she explained.

The participation cards are returned to the registration desk, and prizes will be awarded for the best poker hands. There will be $150, $100 and $50 prizes for the top three hands.

“If you’re not pleased with any of your hands, you can buy two additional cards for $10 each and play the best five hands,” she explained.

Registration will continue until 4 p.m, and poker hands must be turned in by 5 p.m.

The army also plans to have, a water slide, and to sell hotdogs and other concessions that afternoon. In addition, they will raffle door prizes from local merchants. Live music will begin at 6 p.m.

“For those not playing in the poker run, we just ask for those who come out to make a small donation,” Dubose said.

The group also is selling $15 Ollie’s Army T-shirts.