The Vital Spirit of Kenna Emmons

This is an article I wrote for the MSU Exponent in March of 2011. I have added relevant links for informational purposes and made some edits for clarity and format.

“Close your eyes, little girl. You’re a princess now, you own this world. Twirling in your twirly dress, you’re the loveliest, far above the rest.” —Flyleaf, “Set Apart This Dream.”

On February 18th, 2011, the town of Broadus, Montana, suffered the loss of the strongest person I have ever had the honor of knowing. My cousin Kenna Emmons, who had battled Severe Combined Immunodeficiency since birth, died with the sunshine blanketing her through the windows of her hospital room.

This peaceful end came after a long struggle. For the last two years, she soldiered through receiving a bone marrow transplant, then fought through a condition called “graft versus host,” in which the cells of her transplant fought against cells of her own body. But she never gave up.

She went through every bit of the journey with a smile on her face. When she was admitted to the Cinncinnati Children’s Hospital, she was given six months to live. She made it two years. It’s astounding to think an 8-year-old girl could have such will to keep hanging on through all of that pain and despair. She inspired many.

Kenna and her mother Kimber in Cincinnati.
Kenna and her mother Kimber in Cincinnati.

Because of her, I registered with the National Marrow Donor Program and donated marrow in the Spring of 2010. A woman diagnosed with leukemia was given a second chance at life, thanks to Kenna. My hometown of Broadus, Montana, became the town with the highest number of registered marrow donors, per capita, in the country. All of this because one little girl found the strength to keep fighting.

Yet I don’t think I’d call it exceptional will or spirit. Kenna called on strength that all people have; she was simply in a place that required every last bit she had, and in the process found hidden depths no one could have imagined.

You may not be addicted to drugs or caught in abusive relationships, but ask yourself: Has there has ever been a time where you have let life slip away because of doubt, or simply not caring if you are doing something with your life? Kenna has proven to me that we all have great potential within ourselves. She proved that limits are only truly known when questioned and pushed against. If we have such great, possibly unlimited, potential, why should it be wasted?

Kenna may be gone, but she has a gift to give to anyone: her spirit. Remember within all of us is the potential to do anything, and forget the word “impossible.” Any time things may seem dark or desolate, think of the little girl who fought so hard with worlds of pain bearing down upon her.

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You will always be remembered, Kenna.

Learn more about the National Marrow Donor Association at Be the Match.

Learn more about Severe Combined Immunodeficiency.

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