CLEARFIELD COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ) – Being told at a young age you may not live to see adulthood could cause some people to shy away from doing what they love.
For three Clearfield County first responders, their battle with Cystic Fibrosis does not define them.
Gary Shugarts is a volunteer firefighter with the Clearfield Fire Deparment. James Tarbay volunteers at the Lawrence Township Fire Company, and Nathan Curry is the assistant police chief at the Clearfield Borough Police Department.
When Shugarts tells people he’s a volunteer fireman, they can sometimes be shocked.
“They ask, ‘what do you do for fun? What’s your hobby?’ Oh, I’m a volunteer fireman. ‘You’re what?'”
Shugarts was diagnosed with CF at 20 years old. His role in the department has changed as he has gotten older, and his body cannot take the stress it used to.
“As I got older, I operate the equipment, drive the trucks and the pumpers,” Shugarts said.
For Tarbay, being a firefighter with CF is no easy task.
“There’s been times where I’ve been short of breath,” he said.
And especially in the past year due to COVID, he has had to be even more weary of what calls he goes out on.
“We cover the interstate, and it’s a different world out there at times. You never know what you’re going to come across,” Tarbay said.
Nathan Curry also faces his own battle with Cystic Fibrosis. He was diagnosed at two years old. As a police officer, he faces a very volatile schedule, which he says is the most difficult part to deal with.
He undergoes 90 minutes of treatment every morning, and every night. And his stressful job sometimes leaves him washed out after a long day, wanting to go home and quit.
“You go home, you feel beat down. You say, ‘I’ll just skip [treatment] today and start again tomorrow. That’s where your support system comes in,” Curry said.
Curry’s support system is his wife, Julie, who he says helps him stay healthy and completing his treatments, to not lose sight of his goals.
All three men overcome obstacles each day they live, and no matter how big those obstacles get, they keep on going.
“Whether I live to be 80,9 or 100. Or whether I die next week. I think I was made to be where I am right now,” Curry said.
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