Songs of Freedom
Cystic fibrosis benefit CD betters lives with style.
Thursday, September 8, 2005
831[TALES FROM THE AREA CODE]
Monterey native Nick Pappageorgas is changing the sound of cystic fibrosis. He’s replacing the sound of labored breathing with the sound of life fully lived—and that sound rocks.
The 22-year-old has accumulated an uplifting compilation of music called So We Can All Breathe Easy…Independent Artists Benefit Cystic Fibrosis. It includes 14 energetic tracks from up-and-coming bands from all corners of the country. One hundred percent of proceeds from Breathe Easy (at $7 a CD) go directly to Cystic Fibrosis research.
Pappageorgas personally understands the powerful impact cystic fibrosis research can have on an individual’s life. He and his sister, 20-year-old Melissa, were diagnosed with CF while students at Monterey High. As recently as a decade ago, their diagnosis would have restricted the siblings from venturing too far from elaborate support groups and twice daily appointments with friends or family, who would pound their back to loosen the excess mucus from the lining of their lungs.
But thanks to recent developments in science, they can administer their own treatments at their apartments at University of Southern California by slipping into a special vest twice daily.
The Vest Airway Clearance System looks like a life vest hooked up to a compressor, and uses oscillation to loosen and thin mucus in the lungs.
The average life expectancy for CF sufferers has gone from 18 years old in 1980 to where it stands today, at 33.4 years.
It allows Nick, a senior at USC, to live, he says, “like a normal college student.”
Melissa is a little more direct. “Without [treatments],” she says, “you’re gonna feel like shit. You feel awful.”
Says their father, Chris, a local carpenter who lives in Fisherman’s Flats with his wife, Laurie, “They haven’t stopped—they never let it get in their way once. They’ve continued their study habits, continued to pursue their dreams. They could’ve said, ‘Gee, this is hard,’ but they pursued what they wanted to do and now they know they want to be productive adults. I can only say, ‘Wow.’”
For Nick that means a bustling college existence—completing his degree in graphic design, playing guitar, managing his own Web site, www.grey-skies.com—and chasing a dream with this CD.
Or three dreams, really. Breathe Easy offers an opportunity to further his passion for graphic art—the CD cover he designed carries a poignant image that succinctly incorporates hope and the live-giving significance of lungs. Secondly, it affords Nick, who has been in bands in the past, the chance to organize and promote music. To create the CD, he recruited bands from as far away as Poughkeepsie, New York, and as close as Salinas (Salinas High graduates Say No More).
“I went online to purevolume.com and listened to hundreds of young and unsigned bands,” Nick says. “The 20 I really wanted I contacted. Two have already been signed by big labels.” Apparently Nick’s talent for promoting music may be on par with his ability to design. From the infectious refrains of the opening anthem, “Memoirs” by Tyler Read of Shreveport, Louisiana, to the reflective closing track, Dream State’s (of Mesa, Arizona) “Something to Believe In,” the CD sweeps listeners into a frenzy of emo-pop punk that screams life.
Yet the final—and most significant—dream that Breathe Easy embodies is the opportunity for Nick to impact the quality of life of others who suffer from the effects of CF. It starts with awareness.
“People usually don’t know about it,” he says. “If they do know, most people know it’s a genetic disease, but that’s about it, not what it is, what it does.”
CF is the most common inherited disease that leads to shortened lifespan among whites in the US, affecting around 30,000 Americans. CF causes certain glands to produce abnormal secretions that disable the respiratory, digestive and reproductive systems, especially the lungs and pancreas. Chronic coughing, wheezing, and lung infections are common symptoms. And while current treatments now postpone changes that occur in the lungs, deterioration is inevitable, leading to the loss of lung function and eventual death.
Nick, despite struggles to sleep and the loss of hours of each day to his Vest therapy, feels lucky to enjoy the quality of life he has—and he wants more CF sufferers to know that freedom.
“The smallest bit of advances and research can make someone’s life 1,000 times better,” he says. “It’s the difference between not feeling good all the time and feeling normal.”
To that end, he’s already sold 3,000 copies of Breathe Easy, and thanks to a recent $5,000 corporate donation, he is well on his way to shattering his goal of $10,000 raised.
“It would be a dream to have others [affected by CF] be able to feel as good as I do,” he says, “And to help the search for a breakthrough so someday we might be able to get rid of it altogether.”