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Utah County woman with cystic fibrosis raising funds to adopt a child

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Most people do not grow up being told they shouldn’t start a family, but Mindy Catmull isn’t like most people.

Catmull, 22, was born with cystic fibrosis, a genetic disease where the body produces thick mucus, particularly in the lungs and pancreas, that leads to respiratory and digestive problems.

Despite the life expectancy of 40-something, and nearly impossible odds when it comes to fertility, Catmull wanted something others with her disease are told not to have: children.

“My stance on it, from a very religious view, I felt like I wanted to be a mom no matter what,” Catmull said. “And it wasn't just about me. I completely trust in God.”

But after a year of trying, pregnancy seemed out of reach for Mindy and Luke Catmull.

“We decided to fast about starting a family,” she said. “And I don’t think we’ve ever prayed, ‘Please bless us to get pregnant.’ It’s always been, ‘Please bless us to start a family.’ And so for some reason, a couple of weeks later, Luke was like, ‘You know, Mindy, I think adoption is a good idea.’”

It was an option the Catmulls had discussed during their marriage, but had not really considered. They knew it could cost thousands of dollars and that it could take years.

But the Catmulls said they believed adoption was the answer to their prayers, and so was GoFundMe.

There was one aspect that nagged at the back of Mindy Catmull’s mind: how to pay for an adoption.

“Adoption is super expensive,” she said. “At first I was like, 'It will be OK. We’ll take out a loan. It’ll be fine.' But one night as I was falling asleep, I had the impression to start a GoFundMe page.”

At first, Mindy Catmull hesitated, she said. She had already asked friends and family to donate to cystic fibrosis research, and asking again would be asking too much.

“It was weird setting up the GoFundMe page,” said Luke Catmull, 26. “You don’t want people to think that you have a cup out and you're begging.”

Not long after Mindy Catmull published her GoFundMe page and shared it on Facebook, her husband said some comments suggested just that.

“We had comments like, ‘Where’s my $10,000 for medical bills?’” he said.

Despite the comments, the couple raised more than $1,000 their first day. Within a week, they had raised more than $1,600.

But money is not the only concern.

The couple must pass a home study, a compilation of background checks, income evaluations, medical history reviews and more.

Completing a home study with good marks is a crucial step in the adoption process, said Wesley Hutchins, an adoption lawyer.

“Because within that home study, the licensed professional says, in their opinion with their training and experience, that it is in the best interest and welfare of the child to be adopted by this parent, despite the existence of this terminal illness,” Hutchins said.

Mindy Catmull’s former neighbor Kathy Alldredge said there's no question in her mind that she should be allowed to adopt.

“Any of us could die any day,” Alldredge said. “She is going to be an amazing mother.”

It will all depend on the adoption court’s final decision as to whether the Catmulls can adopt, Hutchins said.

“It’s difficult and traumatizing to lose a parent under any circumstances, but some of the social science (suggests) that the child learns greater charity, greater tolerance and understanding of the preciousness of life,” he said. “I don’t mean to paint this as all rosy … because it’s not. There are downsides to it. There can be negatives. But I’ve seen many, many cases where they have turned a negative into a positive.”

Parenting style, strength of religious affiliation, spirituality, predisposition to depression, and exposure to the illness all combine to determine the emotional toll a death of an adopted parent would take on a child, Hutchins said.

“Everybody has challenges,” he said. “Some people are sicker than others, and Mindy’s challenge was her body was just sick. And there’s nothing we can really do about that.”

Mindy Catmull said she has a support network of family and friends close by for days when she won’t be well. Instead of spending a “boring day with mom,” the child could have a “fun day with grandma,” she said.

So far there have been no “speed bumps” in the adoption process, said Luke Catmull. The couple is almost finished with the home study portion, and should the court permit adoption, they could have a profile on Adoption.com within months, he said.

"I think that their chances are very good," Hutchins said. "Especially if the home study comes out as being very supportive of the best interests of the child and if this is a fit, proper home for the child, and then I would say that this would go through."

klarsen@deseretnews.com