Alyssa Sutton

May is Cystic Fibrosis Awareness month, and a local business has a personal reason to raise funds for the cause.

David Salim began working in the kitchen at Side A Brewing when it first opened in April 2017. It wasn’t long before he was excitedly telling coworkers about the soon-to-be addition to his family. On Sept. 8, 2017, Salim and his fiancee, Candace Osterloh, welcomed their baby boy, Gideon. Ten days later, Osterloh received a call from their doctor who said that Gideon’s blood work showed signs he had cystic fibrosis.

“The doctor reassured me that it’s almost always a false positive and (that) cystic fibrosis was incredibly rare,” Osterloh said. “We waited for the second blood test (results), and when we got a call a week later to meet with his pediatrician, I knew in my heart something (had been) found.”

The doctor informed them that he believed Gideon tested positive for the disease.

“My chest was so heavy I couldn’t breathe,” Osterloh said. “(David and I) went home feeling scared and unsure how to move forward.”

After a trip to St. Luke’s Cystic Fibrosis Center of Idaho in Boise, Gideon was officially diagnosed at just barely a month old, on Oct. 6.

According to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, the genetic disease is progressive, causing persistent lung infections that can cause extensive lung damage and respiratory failure. It can also affect other organs including the pancreas, preventing the release of digestive enzymes that allow the body to break down food and absorb vital nutrients.

There are suggested treatments and specialized care to lengthen the quality of life and expectancy, but currently there is no cure.

Osterloh said that the diagnosis has changed their lives significantly.

“I couldn’t go back to work as planned due to Gideon needing (me) to fill a nurse role,” she said. “Gideon can’t process nourishment from food without pancreatic enzymes at every feeding. He also does eight breathing treatments a day –– that takes about eight to 10 minutes each time –– and intermittently throughout the day needs 90 minutes of clapping on his back for lung clearance.”

About once a month Osterloh and Salim take Gideon to Boise where he is seen by seven different health specialists at the cystic fibrosis center.

“(In) February, Gideon got sick and his little body tried so hard to fight a normal virus that about four days into being sick, his vitals crashed and he was life-flighted to Boise. We stayed there for a week,” Osterloh said, adding that she realized then she could lose him. “I knew it was my mission to stay home and raise him in the healthiest environment possible.”

She said she and Salim struggled with accepting the diagnosis at first, but then they “started focusing on hope and reaching out to other parents with (children who have been diagnosed with cystic fibrosis),” Osterloh said. “Science has come a long way, so every day (we’re) nurturing Gideon. Keeping him healthy brings me solace that as he gets older, science will go even further and (someday) cystic fibrosis warriors can relish in the fact that a cure (has been) found.”

Once Side A employees were aware of Gideon’s condition, they wanted to help. As a result, they will be fundraising for Gideon’s travel and medical expenses and for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

“We’re selling T-shirts for $20,” said Brittany Lind, a server/bartender and part of the social media and marketing team at Side A. “Fifty percent of the proceeds will go directly to Gideon and the other 50 percent will go to the foundation.”

She said there had been discussion of putting some of the proceeds back into the costs of the T-shirts but Side A owner Scott McConnell had decided to donate them instead.

“We made and ordered 100 shirts,” said Jasmine Brookshire, a server and also part of the social media and marketing team. As of May 22, they have sold 32 shirts.

Lind and Brookshire designed the shirt, an illustration of Gideon’s newborn handprints set inside of lungs. The design is purple –– the color of cystic fibrosis awareness –– and includes a recognizable Side A logo.

“Jasmine and Brittany talked to David about the idea,” Osterloh said. “We were so humbled that anyone would want to help bring awareness to our community. Side A isn’t just employment for David — it has become a part of our family.”

Brookshire echoed the sentiment.

“We’re a little family of weirdos,” she said. “Gideon is our first Side A baby, (and) we just want to help Candace and David.”

Shirts are available at Side A, 1219 Washington Ave., La Grande, and at www.sideabeer.com. Additional donations will be accepted and split 50/50 between Gideon’s travel and medical costs and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

Osterloh said she is also working on a cystic fibrosis awareness walk for next year.

“I think Gideon’s purpose in life is to inspire,” she said. “Gideon’s name means ‘mighty warrior,’ and when we first went to the St. Luke’s Cystic Fibrosis Center I realized how fitting that name was for our tiny cystic fibrosis warrior.”

Osterloh and Salim would like to thank the staff at Side A for the love and support, as well as the community for buying the shirts and asking questions. Osterloh said they are also very grateful for the continual support and love they’ve received from Carolyn and Roger Hinckley, Gideon’s grandparents.

For more information or to assist in next year’s awareness walk, contact Osterloh at scotty6685@gmail.com or call 541-910-3991.

Editor’s note: The reporter is a part-time employee of Side A Brewing.

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