On Monday Chloe R. Fernandez was celebrated for her effort in bringing awareness about primary ciliary dyskinesia (PCD) in America, a chronic illness that she was diagnosed with when she was six-years-old.
Each year, WebMD honors those who help others live healthier lives and this year our favorite 10-year-old Latina was awarded the Health Hero Advocate Award.
The NJ-based Dominicana is a published author of PCD Has Nothing On Me! a children's book she published after gathering sections from her own journal. PCD is an incurable genetic disorder that attacks the cilia, tiny hair-like structures that line the airways, ears, and sinuses, keeping them clean and clear of infections. When the cilia do not work properly, people have a higher risk of infections of the lungs, ears, throat, and sinuses, which could lead to serious damages down the line. A body with PCD can't clear it's own airway secretions and will have difficulty breathing.
We caught up with the inspiring young girl on her journey since publishing the book and what this award means to her today.
How has your experience been since you first started writing your book? What has the response been?
People send me pictures on Facebook showing me that they bought my book and some people even found out that they had PCD from reading my book. I love that I make people happy with my book. It really warms my heart because that's what I set out to do with the book and I wanted to let people know that they can achieve anything they set their minds to no matter what they're going through so I love the response that the book has been getting.
What message do you want children and maybe even adults who read this book to take?
I want them to know that I have PCD but PCD does not have me. I have a chronic illness but that doesn't mean that I can't go play out in the field. I want people to know that no matter what you are going through you have to find something that makes you keep going and keep the faith.
What has been your favorite part of writing this book?
There are lots of parts but my favorite is probably the pictures that people send me with the book. It makes me cry sometimes because there was a newborn baby that was just diagnosed with PCD and his mom bought my book and said it was an amazing book, and 'I can't believe you did this at such a young age'
What does winning this award today mean for you?
I can't put it into words. It means so much to me because I've tried so hard to bring awareness to PCD and put PCD out there and this is finally happening. I'm kind of star struck because I've worked so hard to get PCD known and it's finally happening!
What advice do you have for children who have PCD?
Even though you have a chronic illness it doesn't mean that you're different from anyone else and it doesn't mean that you're not normal.Normal is whatever you make it. It doesn't have to be 'normal normal'. Your normal is unique from everybody else's. I would say to them, don't worry about what anybody else thinks you are who you want to be and you can do anything that you want to do. Keep the faith and keep going.
In her award speech, she said, "I’m honored and proud to accept this award on behalf of everyone living with PCD. This award is for you. Don’t lose faith, stay strong. I see you, I’m with you, and I am you. I won’t stop until we find a cure!"
PCD is not stopping Chloe from doing great things and we can't wait to see what else she has in store. Watch her acceptance speech above.