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Born with Down syndrome, cystic fibrosis — and a fighting spirit

Expected to live just six months, Mason Sharkazy’s 3 years old and counting.

Mason Sharkazy of Beach Lake has both cystic fibrosis — which damages the lungs, digestive system and other organs — and Down syndrome.

At just 3 years old, Mason has been intubated twice for life-threatening respiratory illnesses in Geisinger’s pediatric intensive care unit.

A double ear infection and pneumonia send her to Geisinger for care

When a double ear infection — bad enough for a child without medical challenges — turned into pneumonia for Mason, she went into cardiac arrest before arriving at Geisinger and spent two weeks on a ventilator in the spring of 2021.

“The first few days were terrifying,” says Mason’s mom, Shannon Sharkazy. “Nobody expected her to make it.”

But she defied the odds and recovered. “She does everything they said she would never do,” says Ms. Sharkazy.

Now she’s thriving — and they’re thankful

“Mason continues to surprise me,” says Geisinger pediatric pulmonologist Jonathan Spahr, MD. “The fact that she has two genetic diseases is quite unusual. The fact that she’s thriving today is amazing.”

“When I saw Dr. Spahr at the hospital, I burst into tears and hugged him,” says Ms. Sharkazy. “He’s one of the main reasons Mason is still alive.”

She and her husband Joe can’t say enough about Dr. Spahr and Mason’s entire care team. “We love Geisinger. They’ve now saved our daughter’s life twice,” she says. “They’re the most incredible people I’ve ever known in the medical field.”

Mason is the greatest gift she could ever receive, says Ms. Sharkazy. “She smiles and blows kisses. You can’t fathom what this child has been through judging by her personality.”

Next steps:

Read and watch more stories
Meet Jonathan Spahr, MD
Learn about pediatric pulmonary at Geisinger 

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