Loss of Two Children Motivates Family to Spread Cystic Fibrosis Awareness
A beautiful red maple tree was planted near the gazebo in Yoctangee Park in Chillicothe, Ohio in recognition of Cystic Fibrosis Awareness Month and in honor of Jamie and Leah Hollis, two sisters who lost their battle with the disease.
The death of the sisters was just months apart – Jamie Hollis Mumaw (24) in April and Leah Hollis (23) in September. “Ever since I knew the concept of life and death, I knew what my sisters were going through, and I would outlive them,” said Shelby Hollis, the sister who was the only one not diagnosed with CF when the triplets were 5 months old.
In the United States alone, there are currently over 30,000 individuals living with CF and more than 75% of this group are diagnosed by the age of two. There is a 25% chance that both parents who are carriers of the CF gene will have a child affected by the disease.
So, in the Hollis girls’ case, for two of the triplets to have it was considered rare. “You always think you’re going to beat it then you can’t,” said Rhonda McBrayer, the girls’ mother. But Jamie and Leah never let the disease hold them back. “They lived as normal as they could with this disease ... These kids with CF can live a good life,” said Loretta McBrayer, their grandmother.
Jamie the politician and Leah the poet
The Hollis family traveled often, going to various places and learning the history of wherever they were. “They saw a lot and did a lot in their short lives,” said Rhonda. The girls graduated from Zane Trace High School in the top of their class and they went on to graduate from college.
Coming from a politically active Democratic family, Jamie was interested in the field of politics even at a young age. Back in 2008, former Ross County Democratic Party Chair Steve Madru recalled her determination to help with Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. At just 14 years old, she went from door to door talking with people, while pulling an oxygen tank behind her. After Obama was elected president, she attended his inaugural ball. “She always wanted to be involved. She had the right attitude about everything (despite CF) ... She was so intent she wanted Obama to win so bad, to carry oxygen (and do it) is mind boggling to me,” said Madru.
Leah was a poet with a passion for books. They lined the wall of her bedroom and even flowed into piles on the floor. “Don’t fold a page over in one of her books,” said Rhonda, jokingly.
Shelby, who recently finished training for heavy equipment engineering, cannot say for sure that there was any one thing that all three sisters enjoyed. They would sometimes go to concerts together – but usually conceding to one another’s musical interest.
Read on to learn more about these inspirational sisters and their legacy.
Photo: Chillicothe Gazette