Laura Williams, RN, of the Ellison 18 pediatric inpatient unit, will take on the Boston Marathon April 17 to benefit the Joey O'Donnell Cystic Fibrosis Center at Mass General for Children.

In April 2011, Williams’ brother, Chris, passed away from cystic fibrosis at the age of 23. “Chris lived an incredible life and had the kindest, most patient heart of anyone I have ever known,” says Williams. Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a genetic condition in which a person’s body creates thick mucus that progressively damages the lungs and digestive system. While CF treatments and therapies have improved over time, there is currently no cure for the disease.

It was William’s experience with her brother that inspired her to become a nurse. “Over the years, his many hospital admissions led to meet many incredible nurses,” she says. “Seeing the care and comfort they provided him inspired me to become a pediatric nurse so I could care for cystic fibrosis patients, and hopefully play a similar role in their lives that I saw Chris’ nurses play in his.”

Not long after starting at the MGH in 2013, Williams had the opportunity to care for a remarkable young man with cystic fibrosis who had a magnetic personality. “He had a kind and caring sense about him, and would also often catch you by surprise with his witty sense of humor and leave you in stitches with laughter.” The teen received a double lung transplant in 2014, and despite a continued battle with CF, he passed away from complications related to the disease in 2016.

“I feel that Chris’ battle with cystic fibrosis ultimately led me to have the privilege of meeting and caring for this particular patient,” Williams says. “Chris’ complex health needs and thereby my exposure to the nursing field ultimately led me to the privilege of caring for my patient. 

This will be William’s fourth time running the Boston Marathon, and her first time running as part of MGfC Cystic Fibrosis Marathon Team. For 17 years, the MGH’s CF Marathon program has raised over $1 million in funding to support the CF Center’s efforts to provide highly individualized, multidisciplinary care for each patient, including preventive care, lung health management, nutrition support and psychological support.

“Both Chris and my patient had so much to give to the world,” says Williams. “I run in their memories, but also to one day improve the lives of all children with CF.”