In the Spotlight

Soccer Star Murielle Tiernan

Murielle Tiernan

Murielle Tiernan (left), was named player of the year by the Washington Post and recently signed to play soccer for Virginia Tech.

Murielle Tiernan’s athletic build has always turned heads. At 5’11”, she commands respect on the soccer field. Her competitors, though, might be surprised to find that her fierce training schedule begins each morning with rigorous therapy to treat cystic fibrosis.

As a baby, Murielle was the picture of health. That is, except, for one nagging quirk: “She was salty to the taste,” said Kathy Tiernan, Murielle’s mother.

When a family friend mentioned that saltiness might mean something, Kathy decided to take Murielle to the doctor. That was the first time anyone had mentioned cystic fibrosis to the Tiernans. Still, both the doctor and Kathy doubted that five-month-old Murielle — so robust she could pass as a toddler — could be seriously ill. Nevertheless, her sweat test, the most definitive CF screening option to date, came back positive.

Making Goals and Staying Healthy

Murielle is now an 18-year-old star soccer player at Northern Virginia’s Stone Bridge High School. CF hardly slows down the accomplished athlete, who has played soccer since age four.

Murielle’s daily regimen starts with 20 minutes of chest physical therapy, hand-administered by her mom or dad, and includes twice-daily nebulizer treatments and nightly vest therapy to clear the mucus from her lungs.

During Murielle’s freshman soccer season, her own teammates were stunned to learn of her CF.

“Everyone was really concerned when they found out,” said Murielle. “I had to explain it to them and let them know that it doesn’t hold me back.”

In 2012 the Washington Post named Murielle Player of the Year, and several college athletic programs around the country courted her until she ultimately committed to Virginia Tech.

Murielle Tiernan

Murielle Tiernan, 18, doesn’t let CF slow her down. She’s following her dreams of playing soccer at the collegiate level.

Paying it Forward

When Murielle was diagnosed with CF, the Tiernans decided they would do whatever they could to make a difference in their daughter’s life, and the lives of all those with CF. Kathy and her husband Ed jumped headfirst into CF Foundation fundraising, raising $30,000 during their first ever Great Strides walk in 1995. They earned that year’s title of top contributors in the Washington, D.C., area.

Since then, the Tiernans have brought in more than $300,000 for the CF Foundation thanks to creative fundraising, including charity basketball games, spaghetti dinners and raffles.

The Tiernans feel very lucky that Murielle has never been hospitalized because of her disease, and only hope that other families can experience the same good fortune.

“We recognized early on that we had the ability to help make a difference in the fight against CF,” Kathy said.

Looking Ahead

Next year, as a freshman soccer recruit at Virginia Tech, Murielle won’t have her parents to rely on for morning wake-up calls and to administer her morning chest-and-back thumping. Despite considering other colleges in milder climates, Murielle won’t escape the region’s humidity either. But the university offers excellent health support, and the coaches and trainers have taken a proactive interest in Murielle's condition and needs.

“Murielle has always been extremely disciplined about taking her treatments and nutrition very seriously,” said her father, Ed.
 
As she looks toward the future, Murielle is excited. “I have been looking forward to playing soccer at the college level for a long time, and now it’s actually happening,” she said. “But what I really hope is that CF will be cured in my lifetime, so I can spend more time focusing on my game than on my treatments. That would be awesome.”

Posted 1/30/2013