I’ve never met or spoken with Kai Quinonez, yet I identified with him long before I wrote about him in this week’s Sun. To read that story, click on bit.ly/UjhrgA

 

I seldom identify with the people and stories I write. You always try to bring professional detachment to the job, an approach that discourages identification. But in the case of Kai Quinonez, who turned 12 this past Father’s Day, it was easy. Kai is winning his fight with a rare blood disease called aplastic anemia. I was born with a heart defect. While our child afflictions were different, we’ve shared the experience of spending far too much time in waiting rooms and medical facilities. I spent one summer in a hospital bed in my living room, recovering from a cardiac catherization that nearly killed me. I must have been 6 or 7, though I can’t recall precisely how old I was.

 

Other news reports by other journalists often spoke of Kai fighting for his life–truthful if melodramatic reports that would have done nothing to help his morale if he read them. He appears to have turned the corner in the last couple of years. Good for Kai and the Quinonez clan. Like most kids, my family and I dealt with my childhood health problem (and the financial burdens that came with those problems) out of the glare of the media spotlight. My parents were divided on whether I would live to see puberty. My mother was certain I was doomed and my father was certain the doctors didn’t know what the hell they were doing. I turned the corner when I was 14 and my cardiologist said I didn’t need to see him any more. I’d gone from monthly visits to annual visits to … freedom. Good for all of us. I was by then quite sick and tired of white coats, medical facilities, stethoscopes and sterile rooms. I got to be just another kid and so, now, Kai gets that same chance. Enjoy it, Kai.

 

It would have been nice if Kai had never had his disease and thus skipped the attention of journalists like me. It didn’t work out that way. But from one former chronic medical patient to another soon-to-be former chronic medical patient, let me say: happy birthday, Kai, and congratulations.

Sun Editor Dennis Kaiser’s latest “Kaiser on a Roll” column talks about the upcoming Health Expo and his own efforts to regain his health after he was diagnosed with diabetes. For details, visit www.sunnews.org and click on “Kaiser on a Roll: A chance to be more healthy.”