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Lea Marie Faraone, a registered nurse who played a vital role in the cystic fibrosis community, dies

Lea Marie Faraone, a registered nurse who played a vital role in the cystic fibrosis community, died Dec.13 from complications of the disease at Johns Hopkins Hospital. The Towson resident was 28.

“Lea was probably the best human being on the planet,” said Josie Schaeffer of Towson, executive director of the Maryland Chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

“She was funny and smart, and I’ve never met anyone like her. She was devoted to other people and came personally connected to those she met,” Ms. Schaeffer said. “She dedicated her life to service and working for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and cystic fibrosis families. She was dedicated to doing the greater good.”

“I have CF just like Lea did and she reached out to me out of the blue about two years ago on Facebook,” said Gunnar Esiason, director of the Boomer Esiason Foundation, which was established by his father, former National Football League quarterback Norman “Boomer” Esiason.

“She asked if I’d be willing to help her with a video she was making for Tiffany Rich’s transplant recovery. Lea’s best friend was in a dire situation and all she wanted to do was help,” Mr. Esiason, a Garden City Park, N.Y., resident, said in a telephone interview.

“I said, ‘Sure, but who are you, and who is Tiffany Rich?’ They were the Salty Cysters,” she said. Little did I know that would be the start of an amazing friendship,” he said.

Lea Marie Faraone, who was born in Baltimore and raised in Hunt Valley, was the daughter of Henry Faraone, a Sheppard Pratt special education teacher, and Laura Ellen O’Donnell-Faraone, an area human resources vice president for Genesis HealthCare.

She was a 2009 graduate of Notre Dame Preparatory School and earned a bachelor’s degree in 2013 in biology from Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg. She earned a second bachelor’s degree in 2014 when she received her nursing degree from the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing.

Ms. Faraone worked as an infusion nurse at Good Samaritan Hospital. Her job entailed giving fluids and medications to patients through injections and monitoring their levels.

Diagnosed with cystic fibrosis when she was 3½, Ms. Faraone worked and volunteered with the Maryland Chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, where she served as a national ambassador for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Great Strides Campaign.

At her death, Ms. Faraone was employed by Media Star, a promotions firm, and was an on-loan executive to the Maryland Chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation in Cockeysville.

“She was dedicated to raising money for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and advocated and educated thousands through the social media platform Salty Cysters and podcasts called ‘Breathe In,’ ” said her sister, Leeza Nicole Faraone of Towson.

“She spoke at numerous functions, conferences and medical school classes to educate others on life with cystic fibrosis,” she said.

“Lea was everything good in the world. She was an amazing person with a great drive and nothing was going to stop her. She was amazingly transparent in everything she did and always made herself available,” Mr. Esiason said.

“She was good at reducing fear in someone who had been diagnosed with CF and their unsuspecting family, and she did it very well,” he said.

Mr. Esiason, who was 2 when diagnosed with CF, joined Ms. Faraone and Ms. Rich in “Breathe In,” a weekly podcast. “We were always there for each other,” he said.

He recalled Ms. Faraone’s easy laugh in his eulogy.

“Her laugh was the most amazing part of her. The sound of it was 10 percent snort, 20 percent cough and 70 percent laugh, but it always carried the feeling of absolute joy,” he said. “It highlighted her bubbly personality and could bring a smile to anyone’s face. She never failed to put a smile on my face. I will always remember her laugh.”

Mr. Esiason also praised her determination.

“Her sometimes too brutal honesty kept me level-headed, and made sure my ego stayed in check. The stubbornness that is inherent in all of us with CF was one of Lea’s finest qualities,” he said.

“She wanted nothing more than the best for Tiffany, me, and every single person in her life, and was prepared to do everything in her power to make it happen,” he said. “She was never afraid to assert herself and make herself heard. I admired those traits the most. Her desire to succeed was motivating.”

Ms. Faraone’s life was guided by three principles, her sister said: “Every day counted, turn weaknesses into strengths, and it’s the quality you do when helping people.”

She was also a world traveler, her sister said, and a fan of sloths. “She loved them and got to hold one during one of her trips,” Ms. Faraone said.

“We are all heartbroken and no one can imagine waking up and not having her in our daily lives,” Ms. Schaeffer said.

Ms. Faraone was a deeply religious person and was a communicant of the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Mary Our Queen, where a Mass of Christian burial was offered Wednesday.

“Lea dedicated her life to service so that others may live. Her passion for helping people was unrivaled,” Mr. Esiason said in his eulogy. “She envisioned a world without cystic fibrosis and was dedicated to doing whatever she could to see that goal through. ... Her unconditional positivity will stay with me forever.”

In addition to her parents of Towson, and sister, Ms Faraone is survived by several aunts, uncles and a plethora of friends.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

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