At 9 months old, Jenny Adams was diagnosed in 1967 with cystic fibrosis, a genetic disease that causes persistent lung infections along with other health problems.
Her mother, Kay Tanno, was told by doctors to not expect her to live very long, specifically “to not get attached,” since the life expectancy at that time for CF patients was very low.
“I thought, ‘Well you don’t know my family,’” Tanno said. “And none of us knew Jenny yet. She had things to do, and I never said no.”
Adams, now 48, received a double-lung transplant from University of Washington Medicine in Seattle on April 22 after spending years on the transplant list.
I thought, ‘Well you don’t know my family.’ And none of us knew Jenny yet. She had things to do and I never said no.
Her niece, Ashleigh Hardeman, said that the moment felt surreal after so many years of waiting.
“It’s been amazing,” she said. “It’s been the most incredible journey. It’s the toughest damn thing to watch. She’s the toughest person in the world.”
Growing up, Adams remained active in school, activities and life, despite frequent hospital visits.
“Her life was on fast forward,” Tanno said. “Boy does she live her life to the fullest.”
A Gig Harbor resident and Peninsula High School graduate, Adams played sports throughout high school, including a stint as quarterback on her powder puff football team.
Adams is the founder of the Gig Harbor Great Strides Walk to raise money for cystic fibrosis research, which is sponsored by her longtime employer, Rush Companies.
It’s been amazing. It’s been the most incredible journey. It’s the toughest damn thing to watch. She’s the toughest person in the world.
“Rush has taken very good care of her,” Tanno said. “And she has a real allegiance to them. It’s a two-way street.”
Adams has been with the company for more than two decades, and company founder Gordon Rush has been supporting the walk since the beginning. It’s now in its 19th year.
“The event strikes at the heart of how we support this issue and see this company as a family,” said Kelsey Hilmes, a marketing coordinator for the company.
While Adams won’t be participating in this year’s Great Strides Walk, which is set for 10 a.m. Saturday (May 7), “Team Jenny” remains the frontrunner of the teams, with just over $19,000 raised. Hardeman continues to support both Adams and her husband of 30 years, Jeff, with frequent hospital trips and updates for Adams friends through social media.
She’s easy to like. There’s really not a mean bone in her body. All that waiting — 48 years for me. I’m so proud of her.
She also surprised the couple with a GoFundMe account to help pay for expenses at a nearby rehab facility, which has exceeded the $6,000 goal in less than a week.
“There’s no handbook on how to do this,” Hardeman said. “It’s literally like her being reborn and starting over with all the things she might be able to do ... she’s a fighter.”
For Tanno, watching her daughter post-surgery fills her with hope.
“She’s easy to like. There’s really not a mean bone in her body,” Tanno said. “All that waiting — 48 years for me. I’m so proud of her.”
More information and registration for the Great Strides Walk in Gig Harbor can be found online at fightcf.cff.org and searching for Gig Harbor.
Donations for Jenny Adams
Anyone interested in donating can do so through: gofundme.com/2gd7gxuk