Family participates in clinical trials to help find a cure for cystic fibrosis
Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Sean Peck is a rambunctious 5-year-old who spends most of his time training in his backyard to be the next American Ninja Warrior while his older sister, Maddy, cheers him on.

Sean doesn’t let anything slow him down. Not even his chronic disease.

When Sean was 9 days old, a test revealed he has cystic fibrosis (CF)—a genetic disorder that causes his body to produce thick, sticky mucus that clogs various organs. The disease impacts Sean’s lungs, pancreas, and liver, which affects his breathing, digestion, and growth.

The following day, his parents, Bradly and Kristi, were still processing the news when Sean suddenly stopped breathing. Kristi called 911 while Bradly gave baby Sean rescue breaths until the ambulance arrived to take their newborn to University of Iowa Children’s Hospital.

“I’ve been a police officer for 18 years, and I’ve been a firefighter for nearly 20,” says Bradly. “I’ve never been more terrified in all my life than following the ambulance driving to the university the day after finding out my son has cystic fibrosis.”

Sean’s episode was the result of a virus and turned out to be unrelated to his CF. He was in the hospital for 10 days, spending most of them in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

“While it was a horrific panic, it was an amazing thing, as well, because we started off his CF treatments the same day,” says Bradly.

During his hospital stay, Sean’s nurses taught the Pecks everything they needed to know to care for their son. His doctors supported the family as well.

“The head of the CF clinic came down and spoke to us,” remembers Bradly. “He said, ‘Of all the times that you could have cystic fibrosis, this is the time to get it. We’re tantalizingly close to a cure.’”

In order to help find that cure, Sean has been participating in clinical trials since his diagnosis. Bradly emphasizes, “We want to do anything we can to help. The only way that they can beat this, and find a true cure, is going to be through clinical trials.”

“It’s like we get a chance to give back to help the people who work so hard to help him,” says Kristi. “What he’s doing is going to help other kids like him, and it’s going to help him, conceivably.”

To keep himself healthy, Sean takes a number of medications each day and completes multiple breathing and percussion treatments—a process in which a wearable vest vibrates and loosens the mucus in his lungs.

Bradly values the team approach at UI Children’s Hospital. “It’s been a great thing for us as parents to be at the university where it’s a teaching hospital. We get so much more information because there are questions that we wouldn’t know to ask, but the doctor is asking the fellow exactly why he did something and so we’re understanding better what’s going on.”

“It’s really wonderful because you know that you’ve got six or more minds trying to make your kid healthy instead of just one or two,” says Kristi.

The Pecks have nothing but gratitude for the care team that has been with Sean throughout his life.

“This is the best hospital in this part of the country that we could possibly take our son to,” says Bradly.

Kristi agrees, “When Sean was 10 days old, they saved his life. They’ve been saving it a little bit more every day since then.”

For more information and a video about Nick, visit