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Center Snapshot: Kristen May
Kristen May. Image above: Kristen May is a benefits administrator for ROME at NASA's Langley Research Center. Credit: NASA/Sean Smith

By: Jim Hodges

The picture of Kylie and Peyton is near her desk, along with more than a dozen others of her family. A day after her surgery in 2009, Kristin May learned that she had clutched the photo so tightly that attendants couldn't pry it from her fingers as they rolled her into the operating room.

May has Crohn's disease, and she was having a foot of her small intestine removed to fight it. A cousin had died at 28 of complications stemming from Crohn's, which is genetic and attacks the digestive tract.

Even now, May has to administer a shot of Humira in her thigh every couple of weeks to deal with it, and that regimen requires a 10-minute personal pep talk.

"The shot. Therapy. It's all frightening, but it's more frightening not to do it," she said. "Having that personal experience (of her cousin dying) and knowing that I have these two little guys at home that I want to see grow up, you do what you have to do to take care of yourself."

It's what she reminded herself as she clutched the picture on her way to surgery.

May, a Benefits Administrator for ROME at NASA Langley, structures her life around 8-year-old Kylie, 4-year-old Peyton and husband Pete.

In her case, it was a reason to come to Langley from the Riverside Health System, for which she worked with three others in dealing with 7,000 customers. Stress from the pace took its toll, and then she learned about the worsening of her Crohn's disease. Clearly a change was appealing.

The pace at Langley, May said, "is more family friendly."

"I spend a lot of time with my children," she said. "With Kylie's dance, it's back and forth. It's a huge commitment. And I'm looking forward to my son getting older. He'll be 5, and that will open up a whole world of possibilities for him. We'll start him on soccer, T-ball. If he doesn't like it, he's expressed an interest in karate. He's going to be an entertainer. He's very funny. He will find his niche in something."

Kylie's dance recitals are really competitions in which the dancers perform for judges.

"The great thing at this age is that she doesn't understand anything about that," Kristin said. "To her it's fun. Winning with her is confidence. It's about making her hold her head up, looking at those who are judging her and smiling.

"I told her before her last competition, 'I don't care if you fall down, I don't care if you forget your routine. You hold your head up and smile.' "

The idea is to remove the pressure from her daughter that she sees applied by other parents with their children.

Nights, after they are asleep and the house in Yorktown is quiet, there is time for baking, or for crafts or perhaps a good book.

Or perhaps just reflection...

… of spending her first 10 years in Texas: “I remember going to a lot of Cowboys games, Mavericks, Rangers, Nolan Ryan games. I have grown to appreciate sports.”

… of going to Christopher Newport University, where Pete played football: “We were at CNU together, but we never spoke. I would see him. My first impression was that guy thinks he's so cool. A jock. Girls around him. He had graduated before I really knew him.”

… of family outings, reminiscing about some, planning others.

… and of Crohn’s disease: "It's part of every decision of what you eat, of what you drink. Sometimes one thing that you eat will bother you, other times it won't. The funny thing is the healthiest of foods are what attack my body the worst; it’s definitely a challenge."

And sometimes she just reflects on her family.

"I think that my family is the most important thing," she said. "Your work is your work. It's what I do, but it's not who I am. My family is my priority. They're the ones you come to work for."

The Researcher News
NASA Langley Research Center
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