Kayla, 7, could die from just a cold

Lit­tle girl’s plight high­lights toll of res­pi­ra­tory dis­ease

The New Zealand Herald - - NEWS - Sarah Har­ris

She may look like a healthy lit­tle girl but a com­mon cold could kill her. Kayla, who has a se­vere res­pi­ra­tory ill­ness, weighs only 18kg as her lungs burn en­ergy just strug­gling to breathe. Her mum, An­gela White, has to feed the 7-year-old a spe­cial high-calo­rie diet that in­cludes three tubs of mar­garine a week to keep her weight up. Her 5-year-old brother is 4kg heav­ier than her.

“I hate see­ing her naked or even in her togs,” White said. “All you can see are col­lar­bones and shoul­der bones and that’s be­cause her lungs are work­ing so hard.

“It sucks. I’m a sin­gle mum. You just deal with it day to day. It’s be­come our life now.”

Kayla was born in a crit­i­cal con­di­tion with hy­drops fe­talis, a con­di­tion that means fluid in her chest cav­ity re­stricted the growth of her lungs. Be­cause of this she has chronic lung dis­ease, asthma, em­phy­sema, cys­tic fi­bro­sis and her lungs have only 70 per cent func­tion.

Over 700,000 Ki­wis have a respir- atory con­di­tion — it’s the third lead­ing cause of death and costs the coun­try $6 bil­lion each year, the Asthma and Res­pi­ra­tory Foun­da­tion says. In New Zealand over 521,000 peo­ple take med­i­ca­tion for asthma, mak­ing it the most com­mon respir- atory con­di­tion in the coun­try. White is speak­ing out about the dif­fi­cul­ties they face for Breathe Bet­ter Septem­ber, which en­cour­ages Ki­wis to show sup­port for bet­ter breath­ing and healthy lungs. She also hopes to raise aware­ness of the foun­da­tion, which is not Gov­ern­ment funded.

White said that while chil­dren with cancer got a lot of fi­nan­cial sup­port, she wished those with other se­vere ill­nesses got the same treat­ment. Kayla’s ill­ness meant she couldn’t work and the fam­ily live on about $200 a week af­ter rent and bills.

“I get paid on Thurs­day and there’s noth­ing left by Sun­day.

“My son is say­ing, ‘Mum, have you got money this week­end, can we go for a swim?’ I’m like, ‘Mate, I can’t af­ford it.’ The look on his face is just sad. He’s do­ing jobs around the house to earn money but I can’t af­ford to pay him. He’s so aware of our sit­u­a­tion at just 5.

“I think it’s about time that the Asthma and Res­pi­ra­tory Foun­da­tion got some recog­ni­tion. They need that fund­ing to help kids like Kayla who don’t get that help.” Fol­low Kayla’s jour­ney on her Face­book page, Kayla’s bro­ken lungs.

Kayla White was born with a se­vere res­pi­ra­tory dis­ease that left her lungs with only 70 per cent func­tion.

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