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Local woman gets the gift of fitness

Posted: January 3, 2009 8:33 p.m.
Updated: January 4, 2009 4:59 a.m.

Kristina de Bree, who has cystic fibrosis, prepares for her regular workout routine.

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As a 22-year-old who daily battles a hereditary disease known as cystic fibrosis, Kristina de Bree of Valencia said it is important for her to exercise regularly, but doing so on her own is not easy.

So when an engaged couple from Saugus, Robert Bachich and Kevie Wright, gave de Bree $2,300 worth of free personal training lessons, she said it was the best Christmas present God could have given her.

"I was really happy," de Bree said. "It's like when you go to Nordstrom and you find a really great pair of shoes on sale."

A couple of weeks before Christmas, her mother read in The Signal that Bachich was trying to give away personal training lessons to a young adult who is physically challenged or had an accident.

Bachich purchased the training program to stay in shape but after a recent neck surgery, he couldn't use the sessions anymore and wanted to donate them in the name of Wright's son, Kiel Kudroff, who died six years ago in a car crash on Newhall Ranch Road.

"My mom called me a few weeks ago and she had read the article in the newspaper," de Bree said. "(My mom) gave me (Bachich's) name and number and she read (the article) to me and told me I should call him and I did.

"He asked me about myself and I told him my situation and he basically on the spot said ‘Yeah, you sound like the perfect candidate,' and he gave it to me."

De Bree said Bachich and Wright were interested in hearing about her life, beyond the disease.

She told them about her studies at the California State University, Northridge and her various extra-curricular accomplishments, including a position as vice president of events for the college's Business Honors Association and her involvement in the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

Wright, who is involved with the Foundation herself, said she and Bachich gave the lessons to de Bree over a few other candidates because of her stamina.

"She was totally motivated and a go-getter," Wright said. "She fit the criteria and I have a personal interest (in) cystic fibrosis."

De Bree was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at six weeks old. The life-threatening genetic disease affects about 30,000 people in the United States, according to information provided by the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

Cystic fibrosis causes sufferers to develop thick, sticky mucus buildup in the lungs, resulting in deadly infections. Those with the disease undergo daily therapy and exercise in an attempt to slow its effects.

Although many treatments exist, there is no cure for the disease. The average life expectancy is currently 37 1/2, de Bree said.

"It's a really in-depth thing to talk about," she said. "I grew up the first five years of my life in a hospital.
When I turned six, I started doing home (intravenous) antibiotics."

De Bree spends three hours a day doing breathing treatments and preventative tasks to help clear out the excess mucus in her lungs. But she still finds herself in the hospital at least three times a year.

Her last health serious scare was in March when she came down with a life-threatening form of pneumonia after catching a drug-resistant bacteria.

Since that hospitalizing sickness which left her with continued lung pain, de Bree said she's wanted to get serious about exercising for the sake of improved airway clearance, lung strength and pulmonary function.

She's tried sports and gym memberships before, but finding the physical capability and strength to exercise is always an obstacle.

"I need accountability and the problem, too, is it's very physically challenging," she said. "Beyond finding the motivation, everything that a normal person would have to deal with, actually working out is much harder for me. Plus, I get pneumonia frequently, so you know, then I'm out for a while and then by the time I go back in, it's tough."

Getting the lessons
In recovering from her last serious infection and dealing with the recent death of her boyfriend's father, de Bree felt overwhelmed and struggled with a desire and need to get back into exercising.

"I told myself, ‘OK, over winter break, I'm really going to put my effort into getting in shape,'" she said.

On the heels of that resolution, she learned Bachich was giving away the personal-training lessons.

To de Bree, Bachlich and Wright's timing was divine.

"This was honestly God," she said.

On Christmas Eve, de Bree went with Bachich and Wright to the local gym to transfer the lessons over. She thanked the couple with a gift and card. She is also grateful the gym provided an experienced trainer with
a doctorate in sports medicine and exercise science to work with her.

"Because of my health problems, I really need someone who knows what they're doing and somebody who knows what exercises are going to be best for me," she said.

Living a normal life

De Bree lives a life that is beyond hospital visits and daily therapy. She puts a lot of focus on school, she said. In the spring she will graduate college with a double major in Business Honors and Marketing and a minor in Psychology.

"I try my best to lead a normal life," she said.

But part of leading a normal life will always mean staying healthy because of her cystic fibrosis.

"Bottom line, while I'll probably never fully be able to be out of the hospital, it's important to increase the amount of time in between each hospital visit and decrease the severity of each pneumonia," she said. "If I have strong lungs, that's how it's going to happen."

"We're so happy," Wright said. "(The training program) was just sitting there, and if it can help this girl then that makes us happy."

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