The small box full of promises arrived at Jessica Anderson’s home on her 31st birthday. A little bigger than a postcard, it was white with green lettering and navy and fuchsia flourishes. She opened it and pulled out a card with pills arrayed in plastic bubbles, coral ones for the morning, baby-blue for the evening.

The culmination of decades of research, a reservoir of hope for thousands, these oblong tablets were supposed to transform her life, a life circumscribed by illness and the specter of early death.

You could say that Jessie had been sick since before she was born. A bowel obstruction detected on her mother’s ultrasound led the obstetrician to surmise the baby was likely to have cystic fibrosis, a genetic illness that impairs breathing and digestion.

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