Two people with ties to the Dayton area – one a Wright State University student and the other a Dayton VA patient – are among the guests sitting with first lady Michelle Obama tonight at the State of the Union.
Here’s a look at what the White House said about William Elder and Jason Gibson and how they will fit into tonight’s address:
WILLIAM ELDER, Wright State Student
When Bill Elder was only eight years old, most doctors wouldn’t have expected him to live long. At the time, most cystic fibrosis patients were only expected to live to early adulthood.
But thanks to a unique collaboration between the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, patients, researchers, and a pharmaceutical company, Bill — now 27 — is a graduate of Stanford University, a third-year medical student at Wright State University, and is expecting to live a long, very full life.
His treatment was innovative, a medication that targets the underlying cause of the disease for a small subset of patients. Inspired by this compassion and cutting-edge care, Bill is studying to become a family practitioner with a focus on preventive care.
His story is a testament to the promise of precision medicine, an emerging approach to treatment that takes into account patients’ individual characteristics, and a kind of research the President hopes to expand.
Staff Sergeant Jason Gibson, Dayton VA patient
When the President first met Staff Sergeant Jason Gibson in 2012, Jason wasn’t quite sure who was in the room. A native of Westerville, Ohio, Jason had sustained traumatic injuries while serving his country in Afghanistan and was at the beginning of his long road to recovery at Walter Reed Hospital in Bethesda. So when the President walked in, he never quite registered who his visitor was and “was more concerned with who was this stranger hugging my wife.”
In October, after 21 surgeries and years of recovery, Jason wrote a letter to thank the President for his visit and to deliver a small piece of wisdom: “There is life after a traumatic event and good can come of all things.” As a soldier whose injuries cost him both of his legs and any chance of using prosthetics, Jason refused to dwell on what he couldn’t do, but tackle what he always wanted to — wheelchair or no wheelchair. As of today, he has surfed, downhill skied, kayaked, fished, done a little bit of hunting, and even raced in 4 marathons on a hand cycle. Because that’s not enough to satisfy him, he also earned his pilot license last summer.
Now back home in Ohio, Jason and his wife Kara are living in a house built by a non-profit that is especially designed for his needs. In this new home, Jason and Kara are embarking on their greatest adventure yet — parenthood. On November 21, 2014, they welcomed a baby girl, Quinn Leona Gibson, into the world. “You have to push yourself and not dwell on the negatives,” he wrote the President. “Life is what you make of it.”