The most inspiring person we know is our daughter Maia Bumgardner. Maia is a Sophomore swimmer on the Waukee High School Swimming and Diving team. She first made varsity as a Freshman which is an amazing feat. She takes amazing to a whole new level when you learn that she has cystic fibrosis.

Very simply put, cystic fibrosis (CF) is a genetic disease that causes all kinds of complications within the body. The biggest complication has to do with an individual’s lungs. CF causes thick mucus to build up within the lungs restricting airflow and reducing the amount of oxygen a person can take in. Maia does two 60 minute treatments a day plus inhaled medication and pills to counteract the damage CF does as much as possible.

One might wonder how someone who cannot breathe normally gets into a sport where coaches pound into you that breathing is a bad thing? Back when Maia was 9, her lung function began to deteriorate as CF started to do damage. Her lung function had fallen to 87% of what is considered normal and we needed to figure out how to strengthen her lungs. She had flown through all the levels of swim lessons at the Waukee Y, so we decided to give the Waukee Y’s version of pre-swim team (called Wavemakers) a try. Maia had never swum that much before and after one season her lung function had gained 6 percentage points back.

Maia had enjoyed Wavemakers and was pretty good at it so she decided to give the regular Y swim team a go. The practices were much tougher and exhausting, but the result to her lung function was undeniable. After her first full year of swim team her lung function was 110% of normal. After 2 years it had jumped to 122%. She currently maintains around 118% of normal and the CF doctors at Blank Children’s Hospital (where she goes for clinic every 3 months) are beyond impressed.

Now to high school-Maia’s alarm goes off at 3:50AM for morning practice. She starts her day with an hour of treatments for CF before heading to the pool. Practice is followed by school, which is followed by more practice, then dinner, homework, and another hour of treatments. She works incredibly hard during practice not only trying to get better but also as a form of therapy. She works as hard as she does, because she knows that swimming is literally saving her life.

-submitted by Maia’s parents, Ana & Eric Bumgardner

The IGHSAU is committed to sharing the stories of high school female athletes. We believe a strong narrative can empower and inspire other females to try more, go the distance, and persevere in the face of hardship. That's why we want you -- parent, friend, athlete, coach -- to share the story of an Iowa Girl that inspires you. What makes their story special? What have they overcome or accomplished? Is there something beyond the sport that makes their story especially unique? We want to know.

To submit, you can either:
1. Email your story to [email protected].
2. Post your story on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram with #ShareHerStory and tag @IGHSAU

Be sure to include the athlete's name, school, and a picture!