Bella Vista, ARK. (KNWA/KFTA) — When the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation was founded in the 1950s, most kids diagnosed did not live long enough to even start school. Now, the average life span is in the 50s and the CF Foundation is determined to keep improving that number.

Melissa Fallin spent a lot of time in and out of hospitals.

“She just had a spirit you wouldn’t believe. She refused to let it get her down. When she got old enough, she had slumber parties in her hospital room,” Melissa’s mom Donna Fallin said.

Diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis at 5 years old, Melissa was put on hospice on three separate occasions.

“She had lung problems very severely. In fact, she had one lobe of each lung removed during her lifetime,” her dad, Barry Fallin said.

Doctors told the Fallins, Melissa would not live to be 10 years old.

“She saw a lot of her friends pass away and it was very disturbing to her,” Barry Fallin said.

As others passed away, Melissa kept living. She went to school, got married and even had a child.

“She had a long, long beautiful life. She was very lucky,” Donna Fallin said.

Melissa lived until she was 36; an incredible feat at the time. But now, it is completely achievable thanks to work by the CF Foundation.

“Today, we are treating the underlying cause of cf in many of the patients, and the average age now for life expectancy is 53 years old,” The Arkansas chapter associate executive director Diane Byram said.

It has taken a lot of research.

“Research is very expensive and we are the leaders in research in medical science right now. It’s really exciting to see how far we have come,” Byran said.

But that does not mean the work is slowing down.

“It’s the most amazing thing and they’re not quitting,” Donna Fallin said.

The Foundation says it is not quitting until it reaches the ultimate goal of finding a cure.

As Byram said, research is expensive. So there is a big event coming up on Oct. 6th-7th to raise money for the CF Foundation. There will be golf, wine tasting and more. To learn more, click here.