Channing Taylor unraveled a ball of chunky yarn, tendrils of black spilling onto the bed like a snake.
She stretched out the long strand and folded it into fluffy loops, pulling the single string of yarn through the loops to create a knot. She repeated the process — loop, pull, knot — weaving neat rows with her hands, no knitting needles needed.
As she stitched the beginnings of a blanket one recent Saturday morning, Taylor coaxed her 11-year-old to finish a slice of breakfast bagel and swallow her medications, kept in a pillbox.
Peytan had to take more than 20 of them.
She lounged on her mom's bed, keeping her company as she knitted.
"Take your pills, please," Taylor said.
With each knot, the 34-year-old mom inches closer to her mission: a new kidney for her daughter.
Taylor sells her blankets to raise awareness about living kidney donation and Peytan's rare illness, cystinosis. The disease can affect all parts of the body, including the eyes and kidneys. The funds will help with her care, medical bills and the family's living expenses during and after the transplant. Taylor doesn't have a specific financial goal in mind, but so far, she's raised about $10,000.
With two kids and Peytan's treatment, finances can be tight, despite Taylor's job as a resource coordinator for ADP and the two her husband works.
Taylor is determined that the family will figure out the money part one way or another. Her focus is on getting Peytan a kidney.
So Mom knits.
Inside her bedroom at their Chesapeake home, she pulled furry threads through thick loops, weaving sections of what would become a black, white and caramel-colored blanket. Someone ordered this one for a baby nursery.
"Peytan, how fast do you think I can do this one, this last color? How many minutes?"
She looked at her daughter, who giggled.
"It has to be realistic, ’cause I’m one person."
"Twenty," Peytan guessed.
"Think I can get it done? All right. Let's see."
Taylor remembers sitting in the doctor's office, hearing the name of her baby's illness for the first time.
Nephropathic cystinosis. Lifelong disease. No cure.
She remembers blacking out, crumpling to the ground in tears.
The doctor told her to breathe, that they’d be OK.
She was in her early 20s, a new mom. Peytan was just 16 months old.
Taylor's pregnancy and Peytan's first year had been normal. But a few months later, Peytan began losing weight. She was often thirsty, craving water, and vomiting a lot.
There were lab tests and trips to the pediatrician and endocrinologist. It was after meeting a nephrologist and more testing that they got a diagnosis.
Peytan's disease is caused by the buildup of an amino acid called cystine, which can make crystals form and damage the body, according to the National Kidney Foundation. People diagnosed with it eventually will need a kidney transplant.
Peytan can't go to school and does online learning. When she's working, Taylor must be ready to drop everything and leave if Peytan falls ill or needs to go to the hospital.
For more than a decade, Taylor has been there to dole out the daily pills and administer the sometimes-hourly eyedrops.
Through rickets and bouts of severe dehydration. Through surgery to place a gastrostomy tube and other surgeries to help her legs grow straight.
If the family travels out of town, Taylor maps out hospital locations and calls ahead to see if they’ve treated cystinosis before. If not, she brings information with her — ever prepared.
Taylor estimates her daughter has spent almost half her life in hospitals.
"It's destroyed me," she said, "but also, it's been a blessing."
Destroyed her because she can't control the illness or take it away.
A blessing because all that time together in the hospital has strengthened their bond.
Today, Peytan's kidney function is at about 18 or 19%, Taylor said. She was added to the organ transplant list in late June.
At 11, Peytan likes going to the beach, playing video games and just joined Girl Scouts. She's caring and strong, Taylor said. She looks just like her mom — same brown eyes and hair.
People tell Taylor: "She gets her strength from you."
But Taylor laughs.
"I get my strength from her."
Last year, Taylor's aunt invited her to make a chunky blanket as a way to relax. She hadn't knitted before.
The first one took four days.
"It was a mess," Taylor said.
She made two more and posted pictures to Facebook. Someone wanted to buy one, and soon, others followed. She charges $170 to make and ship each blanket.
Heaps of orders rolled in around Christmas, then again before Mother's Day. The support the family's seen from strangers has been overwhelming, Taylor said.
By Taylor's estimate, she's made at least 200 blankets. Once, she bought out all the yarn at three Michaels stores in a day.
Eight months since she started, Taylor can whip up a completed blanket in about an hour. On weekends and after work, she can be found in her bedroom, weaving together yarn in gray and teal, mauve and pink, green and blue.
She's found a rhythm, and comfort, here.
Taylor said making the blankets eases her anxiety, channeling her focus. She and Peytan can unwind together, talk and watch TV — reality shows and dramas — while she knits. Taylor can't change her daughter's diagnosis, but she can knit blankets for those who have donated.
"I started these and I’m not going to stop until … I’m just not going to stop probably ever," Taylor said.
"It's become something so close to my heart."
Taylor rolled the blanket, nearly complete, into a thick log.
"Probably about two more rows, and I’ll be done."
She looped the end of the yarn into a border, then singed the tips together with a lighter so it wouldn't unravel.
"This is it," she said. "Peytan, I finished."
Her daughter's guess was right: Taylor completed the final section of blanket in less than 20 minutes.
She folded her creation, tied it with a bow and slipped it into a plastic sleeve.
One blanket down, five more on the waiting list.
On the dresser behind her sat a handful of finished ones, already wrapped for pick up and shipping.
Written on the outside in marker, above a hand-drawn heart: "Thank you!"
Margaret Matray, 757-222-5216, [email protected]
How to help
To see if you’re a living kidney match for Peytan Taylor or someone else in need of a transplant, go to https://sentara.donorscreen.org/register/now.
To learn more about Channing Taylor's blankets and Peytan's kidney fund, go to www.facebook.com/cozysforacure.
Sign up for email newslettersFollow Us