Kayla’s Berry Story

Hey guys! My name is Emily Dotson, and I am a marketing intern for Chartwells. I would like to show you a small clip of a very important part of my life to help explain why we are donating 10% of Where the Wild Greens AR smoothie sales to the American Heart Association this month. Plus, you will learn where “Kayla” came from in the hit smoothie “Kayla’s Berry.”

Lets begin by throwing it back to the 2nd most scariest summer of my life, the summer of 2010. I was 12. My little sister, Kayla, was 9. After being misdiagnosed hundreds of times, she was finally correctly diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy. Considering most of you aren’t aspiring cardiologists, this just means her heart was enlarged, in her case it was three times the regular size, causing it to not be as strong as it should, therefore, it was unable to effectively pump blood throughout her body. This disease has no cure, though medicine can help if it is caught early enough. We knew the only way out was a transplant.

I watched my little sister slowly get worse and worse. She flat lined one morning, but was brought back to life. After that incident, the cardiologists decided her heart was too weak to continue on it’s own, so she was put on Berlin hearts. These little guys were small, artificial hearts that required two holes per “heart,” so after that surgery was complete she had two artificial hearts sitting on her stomach that connected tubes to her real heart through the holes the surgeons cut. I remember walking back to see her for the first time since the surgery and looking through the glass windows saying to myself, “That’s not my sister. That’s not my sister,” then we walked by her room and I thought the same thing. She had orange tears coming out of her eyes from the medicine, had a breathing tube shoved down her throat and had bandages all over her. On her stomach sat her two Berlin hearts. As I watched her blood circulate through those artificial hearts, I literally passed out.

Unfortunately, the artificial hearts did not work, so she was put on ecmo. I will not make you queasy by explaining to you what it is, but I encourage you to look it up for yourself. Thankfully, not too long after that our prayers were answered and we got word of a donor heart. At the time, I thought that was the toughest thing I would ever have to go through, but boy was I wrong.

The transplant went well and she is to this day the best transplant patient the doctors have ever seen because she never showed any sign of rejection- until the scariest night of my life occurred. Fast forward almost 7 years, June 13, 2017 11:30pm, Kayla starts vomiting, so I go and wake up my mom. Before we can get back to the bathroom, Kayla passes out and starts seizing. She can’t breathe so she starts turning blue. She is in and out of consciousness, so I tell my dad to call 911. She got air-evaced to Washington Regional where her fight ended forever. It was at that moment she found eternal rest.

The car ride back home was the worst. It was our first of many car rides without her. Unpacking our hospital bags that we knew we would need was difficult to say the least. People came and went, but her passing loomed through what felt like our empty, broken home. God granting me peace that surpasses all understanding and that is the one and only reason I am able to sit here and share her story. Our faith has played such a critical role in this process throughout her transplant and post transplant.

She reminded us daily that if it came down to it, she didn’t want another transplant because she already had her second chance and wanted to give someone else a second chance. She also loved to tell us that if that time comes to just let her go because she knew God prepared a mansion for her in heaven, where she rests today. In September we finally got the biopsy results back. She suffered a heart attack at the age of 16 due to an antibody rejection. A rejection so rare that doctors don’t test for. Even if the doctors had caught it, there would have been nothing for them to do other than put her on the transplant list while she suffered. Though it didn’t seem like it, God knew what He was doing.

Her passing was a blessing in disguise. She called the almost seven years she lived post-transplant her bonus years. In her bonus years, we traveled to a lot of beaches and made the most out of life. In the later half of her bonus years, she began to fall in love with making mocktails and smoothies. After her passing, my entrepreneurial spirit collided with her passion for smoothies and such beverages. Hopefully, in the coming years you will see a smoothie hang out spot with Kayla’s name on it.