Andrew Hendrickson needs daily treatments just to stay alive.

He takes several dozen pills, including medicine for his liver and enzymes before he eats because his pancreas doesn’t function properly. He spends two 40-minute sessions in a vest that vibrates to loosen the mucus that has accumulated in his chest. He had part of his left lung taken out two years ago.

It makes sense, then, that the 8-year-old’s favorite remedy for coping with cystic fibrosis is a trip to the beach to catch a few waves.

Hendrickson was one of several CF patients taking part in a special charity event Saturday at Surfrider Beach in Malibu, where Allen Sarlo and other professional surfers representing the Mauli Ola Foundation took youths out on the water for an afternoon of fun.

“It went fantastic,” said Eric Hendrickson, Andrew’s father, a retired Los Angeles County lifeguard who spent time on rescue boats in and around Santa Monica. “It was a nice, sunny day, and the water was like in the 70s. It was great. … We try to take him to as many of the surf events as we can.”

And the surf events aren’t just diversions, according to some medical research. Andrew’s father cited a report in the New England Journal of Medicine that detailed the benefits of hypertonic saline solution for CF patients, an idea that the Laguna Beach-based nonprofit foundation has incorporated into its surfing events for people with genetic diseases.

“He does better because of the salt air,” Hendrickson said of his son. “He takes a saline solution twice a day, and that’s like what he gets when he goes to the beach. It’s almost like a natural treatment.”

About 30,000 people in the U.S. have CF, a life-threatening condition that impacts the lungs and other vital organs. A defective gene causes music buildup that can lead to infections, nutrient absorption failure and respiratory problems. There is no cure, although medical advancements enable patients today to live longer than they might have lived several decades ago.

Andrew, who was diagnosed with CF when he was about a year and a half old, has taken the disease in stride.

“He knows it’s a lifetime thing,” his father said.

Andrew attended a Mauli Ola event last year in Dana Point and has taken surfing lessons from Shane Miller, whose genetics laboratory company sponsors the foundation. He’s also hung out with professional surfer Sunny Garcia.

When Andrew decides to cut his hair, which flows down to his waist, he’ll likely donate the locks to a cancer patient.

Also participating in Saturday’s event was Tristen Partello, an 18-year-old from West Hills who surfs regularly in and around Santa Monica.

Diagnosed with CF when he was 6 months old, Partello has medical check-ups about four times a year. He had his gallbladder removed when he was 8 years old.

Partello, who grew up skateboarding, picked up surfing with encouragement from a neighbor and thought it would be fun to surf with the pros.

He tries not to make his condition a centerpiece of conversation.

“A lot of people don’t know,” he said. “Half the people I hang out with don’t even know. If someone wants to know, I tell them it’s not contagious.

“In the mornings I’m congested, so I do treatment, but otherwise I’m pretty stable. … You’ve just got to live life.”

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.