ST. ALBANS — Aleah looks like a normal 10-month-old baby. She may even be more playful and happy then your average toddler. With an infectious grin, it’s rare to catch her without a joyous twinkle in her eyes.

Even when she’s sick, she’s still smiling,” her mother, Sabrina Wimble, says.

Aleah is sick a lot. It’s because she’s been diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis (CF), a terminal illness that can cause persistent lung infections because of thick, sticky mucus that constantly builds up in the body. This mucus allows germs to thrive and multiply constantly.

About 80-90 percent of patients with CF deal with pancreatic insufficiency. This is where the thick mucus blocks ducts that usually transport critical enzymes to the intestines to digest food. Because the enzymes don’t get to the food, the body is not able to absorb and metabolize nutrients properly.

It basically means she doesn’t have a pancreas,” Wimble explained through tears.

Aleah loves to eat, but she can’t gain weight.

The smaller she is, the more vulnerable she is to sickness,” Wimble said.

So in order to get the nutrients she needs from the food she eats, Aleah must take a pill with every snack or meal she eats. At 10-months-old she’s up to 17 pills a day, and it’s only expected to increase.

By speaking with them, you would think Aleah’s mother and father, Nick Trivento, have been dealing with the symptoms and consequences of CF for years. From the hospital visits, the pills, the monthly doctor visits, to the equipment and machines used every day to keep Aleah healthy, it’s as if the young couple has experienced medical training themselves. But they hadn’t even heard of CF until Aleah was born.

We were just blindsided a week after she was born, and then it became our life,” Wimble said.

But it didn’t take long for the young couple to become experts on the illness. In the first couple months after Aleah was born, she was in and out of the hospital. Within six months she was diagnosed with a lung infection, keeping both Wimble and Trivento at the University of Vermont’s Children’s Hospital in Burlington for weeks at a time and away from their fulltime jobs.

We had to keep missing work, and it got to the point where we couldn’t even pay our rent,” Wimble said.

That’s when Shari Bashaw stepped in. Bashaw, who is the couple’s landlord, also helps manage the Jim Bashaw Cancer and Catstrophic Illness Fund. She encouraged the young couple to apply.

Once I sent in the application, I forgot about it. But then a few weeks later I got the check in the mail, and it was just- wow…” Wimble said.

The funds helped the couple pay their rent and get back on their feet, as they hammered out how to make sure Aleah got the proper care she needed, while Trivento and Wimble managed their fulltime jobs.

For more on the Jim Bashaw Fund and the assistance it provides local families, see today’s Messenger or subscribe to our digital edition.