Cheers! Amazing Kaychanel celebrates 18th birthday
- Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021
A teenager from Norwich born with a host of health complications is marking her next big milestone.
Kaychanel Willson, who lives in West Earlham, Norwich, has been beating the odds ever since she was a baby and has now turned 18 - an age her mum Louise was not sure she would reach.
Kaychanel, whose birthday is on March 24, was born with VACTERYL syndrome which affects her heart, kidney, oesophagus and bladder.
Louise Willson said: "Originally the prognosis when she was born, was quite poor. Dialysis has been a massive part of her life and she has had quite significant problems with her health. We did not think she would survive.
"It's a massive achievement to get to 18. We did not think she would make her teenage years, especially not 18. I'm so proud of her, she is a special girl and I tell her all the time 'do you realise how amazing you are?' 'how you have kept going?' and 'how you help other people?' She is quite an inspiring person.
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"She has come out the other side every time, I do not know how she does it. She's so resilient and happy."
As a result, Kaychanel has lived with chronic lung disease all her life and beat MRSA and Swine Flu.
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The teenager will have a lockdown birthday but her family are hoping to make it as special as possible with decorations and her favourite meal, a McDonalds crispy wrap of the day and small portion of chips and a caramel frothy latte from Starbucks.
When lockdown restrictions eased, she hopes to be able to enjoy her first clubbing experience with her friends, though she has firmly told mum she will not be joining in.
Mum-of-two Louise joked she will be sitting in the club in the corner or outside in the car during her night out.
Kaychanel said: "You're going home and falling asleep and I will ring you when I'm done and you can come and get me!"
When she was first born, Kaychanel underwent surgery, the first of many that would save her life.
Aged two, doctors removed her left kidney and due to scar tissue from an earlier procedure causing breathing problems, Kaychanel had a tracheostomy.
For all of her childhood, Kaychanel spent time being admitted between the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital and Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital in London.
Miss Willson said: "I did not think I would take her home. I did not think she was going to survive. When we moved out of intensive care onto a normal ward that was a shock and then I was told I could bring her home to Norwich and that was a shock. That was a '20 Christmases at once' day.
"I'm eternally grateful to all the health professionals that have been involved in Kaychanel's care since birth till now and who we are to meet in the future."
From age four, Kaychanel began dialysis treatment, but in 2009 she underwent a kidney transplant.
Unfortunately, a year later Kaychanel developed septicemia from a chest infection and was rushed to Great Ormond Street. To save her life, doctors had to stop the immune suppression protecting the transplanted kidney, causing it to begin rejecting her body and needing emergency surgery to be removed.
Kaychanel returned to dialysis which she continues to this day three times a week.
She said: "I liked going to London because of the trip. The driver taught me Polish and I now know English, Polish and Spanish."
Despite regular hospital appointments, the family were able to celebrate Kaychanel's first day of school at West Earlham Primary School.
She then attended City Academy Norwich and is currently studying maths, English, and photography.
Kaychanel, who is a keen reader and photographer, says she has a "big heart" for animals and enjoys walking her neighbour's dogs, which allows her to strengthen her lungs and not use her wheelchair.
She is the proud owner of her "giant cat" Whiskers, affectionately known as Woo Woo, and CJ the hamster.
The teenager has also had to shield due to the pandemic but has received both of her Covid-19 vaccines.
Miss Willson said despite the amount of time out of the classroom due to illness, Kaychanel had always shown an eagerness to learn learning three languages and getting her GCSEs.