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Kenna Taylor, 15, fights deadly disease
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Purple is her favorite color and she loves Luke Bryan, Taylor Swift, and country music. At first glance, Kenna Brooke Taylor is like most girls her age except she is much smaller than your average 15-year-old at 4-foot-9 and 90 pounds.
Be around her for any length of time, and you will also notice her taking deep breaths very often. She fights a deadly disease every day called cystic fibrosis. 
Cystic fibrosis is a disease passed down through families that causes thick, sticky mucus to clog the lungs and leads to life-threatening lung infections. It also obstructs the pancreas and stops natural enzymes from helping the body break down and absorb food. This disease affects 30,000 children and adults in the United States and 70,000 worldwide.
Kenna’s mother, Anna had a normal pregnancy and had no reason to think Kenna, who came 14 months after brother Josh, would be anything but healthy. Kenna weighed a normal 7 pounds, 4 ounces at birth.
Anna said she and her husband, Sean, knew there might be a problem after Kenna threw up water and formula within a few hours of birth.
She was sent to Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital where she was admitted into the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Sean and Anna found out Kenna had CF from the doctors at Vanderbilt.
People with CF can have a variety of symptoms, including very salty-tasting skin; persistent coughing, at times with phlegm; frequent lung infections; wheezing or shortness of breath; and poor growth and weight gain in spite of a good appetite.
Sean and Anna found out they are both carriers of the cystic fibrosis gene. They both went back as far as they could in their genealogy and could not find any family member who had CF. The closest they could find was the fact Anna’s father had Celiac Disease, which also causes breathing problems. Celiac Disease does not have long-term problems like CF and can usually be controlled with diet.
Every day Kenna must have several breathing treatments, called nebulizer treatments. These allow her to breathe medication which helps clear her lungs.
Chest physical therapy (CPT) as a treatment for CF is also called chest clapping or percussion. CPT involves pounding the chest and back over and over again to dislodge the mucus from the lungs so mucus can be coughed up. Kenna receives this treatment four or five times each day for 45 minutes per treatment.
Parents and kids affectionately call the CPTs beatings. Anna says if Kenna starts coughing, she will ask, “Do you want me to beat you?” Kenna will answer, “Yes, please do,” meaning she needs CPT.
Kenna also uses an inflatable therapy vest that uses high-frequency air waves to force the mucus out of the lungs. Infants cannot use the therapy vest because the vest can shake an infant too much, possibly causing shaken baby syndrome.
Kenna found out during a Christmas hospital stay in 2009 she has cystic fibrosis related diabetes. This means she must give herself insulin shots six or seven times per day. This also means she gets sick easier than she used to.
In addition to the nebulizer treatments, CPTs, and insulin injections, Kenna says she takes at least 30 pills every day. She must also take an enzyme to digest her food. He pancreas doesn’t produce enough enzymes or juice for the stomach to digest her food.
 Anna says Kenna is allergic to almost everything. Kenna’s body becomes allergic to antibiotics easily. She might take an antibiotic once or twice just fine, but then her body will develop an antibody to it and the next time she takes it, she will have an allergic reaction with no warning. They must carry an anaphylactic kit everywhere they go in case Kenna gets stung by a bee or in case her body develops an allergic reaction to anything.
 Kenna was only able to receive two immunizations as a baby because of the severe allergic reaction she had to the immunizations. This is only one of the reasons she is not able to attend public school. She has a homebound teacher come to her house.
 Kenna has an oxygen monitor she wears on the tip of her finger, just like the ones in the hospital. If her oxygen level goes below 95 percent, her heart starts racing to try and keep the oxygen level up. She will then start burning too many calories and will start losing weight. It is at this time when she must be admitted to the hospital.
 Kenna was admitted 10 times and spent a total of 27 weeks in the hospital in 2011. So far, she has spent every major holiday except Halloween in the hospital. While in the hospital, nurses aggressively start CPTs and IV antibiotics and can monitor her heart and her breathing. The numerous hospitalizations have caused Kenna’s veins to start giving out making it difficult to start an IV or insert a PICC line. She used to have to be put to sleep to have a PICC (peripherally inserted central catheter) line inserted to distribute the antibiotics.
Because of the difficulty in inserting an IV, doctors at Vanderbilt inserted a port-a cath into Kenna’s chest. A port-a-cath is a small medical device inserted beneath the skin consisting of a portal and a silicone bubble or septum which is used for inserting the needle. This means medical personnel have constant access to Kenna’s veins in order to draw blood or administer antibiotics. The port-a-cath causes a bump under the skin, but Kenna’s feelings about the port-a-cath were summed up in a paper she wrote for English class, “I went ahead with the surgery because after they had talked to me about it, it sounded so much better than going under anesthesia each time I was admitted just to get a PICC line. I love my port and I would not want anyone to take it away from me!”
One day in 2009, Kenna awoke with a horrible headache. She had a migraine for several days. She said the whites of her eyes turned a reddish-brown color. The area around her eyes had turned black. After a day or two in the hospital, doctors found out why Kenna was having headaches and why her eyes had turned color. She had developed cystic fibrosis related liver disease. She now has an enlarged liver and spleen. Kenna cannot play sports because she gets out of breath too easily but doctors have warned her to not do anything that might cause her liver or spleen to be bumped or hit.  If that were to happen, her liver or spleen could rupture and there would be nothing that could be done about it.
Last year, Kenna had a 10mm kidney stone removed from her right kidney. She still has kidney stones floating around the other kidney.
Kenna said that with all that has happened to her sometimes she wonders, “Why do all the bad things happen to me? What did I ever do to anyone?” She goes on to say, “After a while you just have to believe that everything happens for a reason. You may not know what that reason is yet, but there is a reason.”
Kenna says, “It only makes me stronger when something bad happens to me. I just know that everything will work out for the best. If everything is not okay in the end, then it’s not the end.”
Kenna ended her paper by writing, “Every day I struggle to beat the odds, every day I am faced with the fears of the future and what beholds of my CF. My life constantly revolves around the sounds of machines, the smells of medications, hospitals, and antiseptics to kill germs that can and will potentially cause me harm. but most importantly, Cystic Fibrosis is a blessing. Cystic Fibrosis has taught me to live life and to truly see the beauty and gift that I am receiving every morning when I wake up ... to breathe. Yes, I may struggle to breathe, but I’m breathing. I’m alive and I’m fighting every second of my life, but I’m more than grateful for every day, every minute, and every second on this earth.”
Kenna’s hope is one day CF will stand for Cure Found.
Kenna, her family including mom Anna, dad Sean, brother Josh, 16, sisters Hailey, 12, and Julia, 10 and grandparents Kenny and Shirley Taylor, as well as friends will be walking in the Great Strides Walk in Nashville Sunday, May 20, at Centennial Mall. Kenna and her family would love for anyone who would like to walk the mile with them to let them know. Registration begins at 1 p.m. and the Walk/Fun Run begins at 3 p.m.
Kenna’s family is selling T-shirts for $15 each for Kenna’s Dream Team. The shirts come in pink or green and both have “Live, Love, Breathe, Fight Cystic Fibrosis” written in purple. The back of the shirt has Kenna’s motto, “Just Breathe” written inside a purple ribbon.
Kenna also designed bracelets to raise money for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. The bracelets are $3 each. Both the T-shirts and the bracelets can be purchased at Taylor’s Corner store in Rock Island, phone number 686-8970 or message Anna Taylor on Facebook. All money raised will go to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.