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Sisters with cystic fibrosis share an unbreakable bond

Mati and Charlie have a long road ahead—they also have each other and a doctor they can count on.

Two young girls outside—one with brown hair, one with blond—smiling with their hands on their hips.
Mati and Charlie Kindelmann love playing in their backyard.

Teri Kindelmann learned early in her pregnancy that her daughter, Matison (Mati), would be born with cystic fibrosis, a genetic disorder that leads to persistent lung issues. Scared but determined, she and her husband, Brett, set out to learn everything they could about cystic fibrosis and what to expect. Preparation, thought the Kindelmanns, would be key. Their research and calls led them to Joan DeCelie-Germana, MD, a pediatric pulmonologist at the Cystic Fibrosis Center at Cohen Children’s Medical Center.

The couple’s first appointment with Dr. Germana immediately put them at ease.

“She answered all our questions and went over everything she does at the clinic. We even got to see the exam room where she examines patients,” Teri said. “She took a lot of time just to explain everything so we could be as prepared as we could be once Mati was born.”

That preparation made all the difference to Teri. One week after Mati was born, she began regular appointments with Dr. Germana.

A young girl with long brown hair smiling with her hand on her hip in her bedroom.
Mati says Dr. Germana is as “busy as a bee” and thinks of her as a friend.

Then Teri became pregnant again—and again found out via a prenatal test that the second daughter she was carrying would have cystic fibrosis. Even though their journey with Mati’s new sister, Charlotte, whom they call Charlie, has been different than Mati’s (she had the upper lobe of her right lung surgically removed), one thing is the same: Dr. Germana has remained both girls’ champion.

That’s important because for both sisters, treatments and clinic visits are a part of life. “As soon as they wake up, they do an inhaler, followed by two nebulizer treatments that take 20 minutes,” Teri explained. Then they do the “vest,” a treatment that involves wearing a special vest that helps shake mucus from their lungs (people with cystic fibrosis can’t easily clear such mucus on their own). After a day of school, they do those treatments again.

“Then it’s time for homework or a sport if it’s a sports day, then dinner and bed,” Teri said. “So in some ways, their life is like other kids’—while in other ways, it’s radically different. The girls both go to bed at 7pm because their treatments are exhausting. And Mati gets hooked up to her feeding tube to help her get extra calories.”

Days in the clinic are different—but there, with the support of a whole team, the girls feel at home and not scared. “Everyone on Dr. Germana’s team is like family,” Teri said. “Nurse Lynn is always in the room, getting the girls what they need or want, like cookies. She talks to them about everything and knows them inside and out.” When Dr. Germana comes in, she asks Mati and Charlie about school and sports before she asks about their cystic fibrosis treatments or symptoms, which means a lot to their mom. 

For her operation, Charlie had to be in the hospital over Halloween. But, Teri says, “Dr. Germana came in dressed as an Egyptian princess and brought Charlie tons of chocolate. She found a way to make it special.”

A young girl with long blond hair in an orange dress poses with her arms crossed and a smile.
Charlie says Dr. Germana is her rock star.

“Everyone from the nurses to the nutritionist are just so amazing,” Teri said. “They work closely with us—so every decision we make for our girls, we make together. If we are unsure about something, they make sure we have the resources to figure out what’s best. And I just can’t say enough about Dr. Germana—she’s always there, helping us to do everything we can to support our kids.”

That includes hosting regular dance parties in her office. Teri said her girls bring along their music devices so they can share their favorite songs with Dr. Germana and dance together around the office. 

“This is a doctor who really knows her stuff. She’s up to date on all the latest technologies and treatments. But you know, you would expect that,” Teri said. “She’s also just a really good person. The one constant through all of this for us has been Dr. Germana.”

As for Mati and Charlie, this is all they know. Having cystic fibrosis is a normal childhood for the sisters, Teri acknowledged. “As they are getting older, especially Mati, who’s now 9, they realize they are not like other kids. That’s why Brett and I make every day special, going places and planning trips so they have experiences to remember.” 

Sisters with cystic fibrosis share an unbreakable bond