Healthy Living

Boomer Esiason’s Son Still Coaching Despite Cystic Fibrosis

Boomer Esiason’s Son Still Coaching Despite Cystic Fibrosis

Photo credit: Sports Illustrated

Despite the challenges that someone with cystic fibrosis faces, it’s still possible for them to live a full, happy life. Gunnar Esiason is a perfect example of this.

Gunnar is the son of Boomer Esiason, famed former NFL quarterback. Gunnar’s story was famously profiled in Sports Illustrated in 1993, when he was only 2 and a half years old. Gunnar was actually misdiagnosed as not having CF during newborn screening. He was finally diagnosed at age two after experiencing respiratory distress. The Esiason family knew of the challenges that were ahead, but Gunnar has grown up to achieve many milestones and doesn’t let his CF hold him back from living his life. As Gunnar says, “I could literally be sitting on my couch all day just waiting to do treatments, or I could be going out and living my life. Which would you pick?”

A 2013 graduate of Boston College, Gunnar certainly is not sitting around all day, sulking over his CF status. Gunnar formerly served as the offensive coordinator of Friends Academy, a high school on Long Island. Some of his doctors worried about Gunnar spending so much time in a school environment, where cold and flu viruses can run rampant. One of the symptoms of CF is a higher susceptibility to infections because the thick mucus that builds up in the body provides the perfect environment to thrive and multiply. But, Gunnar took precautions such as wearing a surgical mask in the school’s locker room.

Gunnar has a great attitude about his disease and the management strategies to match. As he explained in an interview with, he thinks the best advice for someone living with the disease is to “live fearless of CF, but also understand CF, its complexities and intricacies. Fully comprehend how to troubleshoot problems, stabilize yourself and act with the utmost calm during times of crisis, for CF can, and will, strike when you least expect it.”

Gunnar is managing to achieve the difficult goal of living a busy life despite the time-consuming treatments he must undergo. One of the students he coached at Friends Academy described at times forgetting his coach even has the condition because “he seems so normal,” only to be reminded when Gunnar had a coughing fit.

Gunnar’s perseverance and work ethic are incredible. Still, cystic fibrosis has inhibited him from doing some of the things he would like. After graduating from college, Gunnar had planned on going to law school. However, that summer he suffered from an array of CF related health problems, and spent those months visiting doctor after doctor trying to figure out why he was struggling to stay hydrated and maintain his weight. It was during this time that Gunnar received his feeding tube that delivers up to 5,000 calories a day to keep his weight healthy. After the ordeal of that summer, he was not in the right place to study for and take the LSATs. Thankfully, there was an opening for a coach at the Friends Academy, and Gunnar found his place there.

The Boomer Esiason Foundation

Gunnar is no longer coaching football at Friends Academy, though he does still coach high school hockey. Rather, he spends his days working as the director of the patient advocate program for the Boomer Esiason Foundation. The family’s foundation aims to assist people with CF in a variety of ways. Their goals include raising funds for researchers and scientists working towards a cure for CF, improving access to CF treatments, promoting education for the public to increase awareness of support for CF, financially supporting students and hospital staff to improve quality of care for CF patients, and empowering people living with CF. As of 2014, the foundation had raised over 100 million dollars towards CF research.

The foundation also helps people with CF by providing scholarships for people living with the condition. As the lifespan for people with CF continues to increase, more CF patients will have the opportunity to attend college, and the BEF is there to help them achieve this goal. Currently, there are 9 scholarship opportunities on the BEF website, all specifically for students who are living with CF. The foundation also provides information on resources on things such as becoming an organ donor to assist people with CF, and links to forums and support pages for people with the disease.

Apart from his role at the Boomer Esiason Foundation, Gunnar has his own blog where he writes about his experiences living with CF. In addition to his own life experiences, Gunnar frequently writes about CF news and his opinions on medical topics in general. He also produces a wonderful podcast where you can hear about his opinions and experiences. Resources such as these are definitely worth checking out, whether you’re someone living with CF looking for a community or support, or you’re someone looking to educate themselves more about the lives of people with CF. Regardless of your status with CF, Gunnar’s work is interesting, informative, and inspiring. As Gunnar says, “If life were easy, it wouldn’t be worth living. Feel proud of your accomplishments, no matter how big or small.”

More about cystic fibrosis

Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a chronic condition that presents a lifelong battle for those who live with the disease. CF causes abnormal function of the secretory glands, which control bodily fluids like mucus and sweat. Because these fluids cannot be controlled properly, mucus runs rampant in the body of someone with CF. The lungs, pancreas, and other organs fill with mucus, making it difficult to breathe and increasing susceptibility to infections. Over time, the mucus causes extensive lung damage, and ultimately leads to respiratory failure. The mucus often inhibits the release of digestive enzymes, limiting the amount of nutrients from food the body can absorb. People with CF often need to undergo nutritional therapy or receive calories through feeding tubes in addition to their lung treatments.

Living with and treating CF is undoubtedly a very tough road for people with the condition and their families. Despite the time and energy that goes into adhering to intense treatments, there is no cure for CF. Life expectancy for someone with CF currently sits at about 37 years old. What’s even more frustrating is that there is no way to prevent the condition. Cystic fibrosis is a degenerative genetic disease, which means that it’s something you are born with. Each year, 1,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with CF, the majority of people being diagnosed before the age of two.

Detection and treatment

Screening for cystic fibrosis is part of general newborn screening. The CF test is two pronged. A genetic test is conducted to check the status of the newborn’s CFTR gene (the gene responsible for mucus generation, and thus CF). Newborns also have a blood test to ensure the pancreas is functioning properly. If either of these tests show a sign of potential CF, the newborn will also have a sweat test, which measures the amount of salt in sweat. People with CF tend to have abnormally salty skin because salt travels to the skin’s surface and is not reabsorbed as it would be for someone who does not have CF. This presents another difficulty for people with CF, as low sodium levels in the body increase the risk of dehydration, heat stroke, fatigue, and other problems.

Treatment plans for CF are arduous. Treatments include using inflatable vests to break up mucus in the lungs and make breathing easier. Someone with CF will need to sit and wear this vest for hours each day. Nutritional therapy such as feeding tubes or IVs are also commonly used to ensure the person is receiving adequate nutrition and to avoid dehydration. CF also needs to be regularly monitored by a physician. It’s necessary to visit a physician every few months just to make sure treatments are on track and no new issues have arisen.