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Q&A with journalist, commentator Frank Deford on his book 'Alex: The Life of a Child'

Frank Deford discusses his daughter Alex, who died at 8 after living with cystic fibrosis.
by Juliana Keeping Published: June 10, 2014

Frank Deford’s reassuring voice is familiar to many for his sports commentary each Wednesday on NPR’s “Morning Edition.” He is a senior contributing writer at Sports Illustrated, a commentator on HBO’s “Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel” and the author of 17 books. Deford went multimedia before it was journalism’s buzzword. The guy’s a machine and a stunning and versatile writer.

The book “Alex: The Life of a Child” chronicles the life of Frank and Carol Deford’s daughter, Alex, and the family’s experience raising a child with cystic fibrosis. Alex died in January 1980 at 8 years old. She was loved by many in her short time in the world. With the help of her father’s words, she’s continued to have a big impact.

Deford never stopped fighting for Alex in the 34 years since she’s died. He became deeply involved with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, serving for years as chair of the organization’s board of directors. He still serves in an honorary capacity.

His daughter always wished for a cure. That’s my wish, too. My son Eli, 1, has cystic fibrosis. I read the book as I traveled to Washington, D.C., in April for a conference to learn more about helping the cause to cure cystic fibrosis.

I caught up with Deford via email. Here is our Q&A:

Q: Something you mentioned that stuck with me is your emphasis on asking “Why” in situations at any hospital or clinic. You also emphasized how important it is to remain vigilant and watchful as a parent. You gave a terrible scenario in which your daughter’s lung collapsed, and a young doctor refused to listen to her, putting her in great danger for hours. Can you emphasize again — Why ask the doctor why? Do you feel it is still relevant today, so many years after your daughter’s passing?

A: I think all of us are intimidated by doctors, for our care is in their hands, and so few of us really understand medicine. That makes it very important to ask questions, to probe, to let the doctor know that we are paying attention. The good ones will appreciate your curiosity and are delighted to answer you. The not-so-good ones deserve to be held to account.

Q: Alex always prayed to help the less fortunate. With the adoption of your daughter Scarlet after Alex’s death, Alex got her prayer, to help a child living under hard circumstances find a loving home. Alex hasn’t yet gotten her wish, which was to find a cure for cystic fibrosis. How can we help Alex get her wish to cure cystic fibrosis?

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by Juliana Keeping
Enterprise Reporter
Juliana Keeping is on the enterprise reporting team for The Oklahoman and Keeping joined the staff of The Oklahoman in 2012. Prior to that time, she worked in the Chicago media at the SouthtownStar, winning a Peter Lisagor Award...
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