In/Exhale: Meet Kai

Name: Kai Joseph Fox née Joseph Kai Taylor

Age: 22

First Appearance: August 21, 2000

Physical Description: Approximately 6’4″, 170-210 pounds, swimmer’s build, lean and fit, broad shoulders, narrow waist. His fingers are clubbed (rounded on the tips) because of his lung disease. Caucasian (fair, medium-to-long golden blond hair, bright blue eyes). Because he has a congenital neuromuscular disease, he uses a blue manual wheelchair or forearm crutches and leg braces to get around.

Languages: ASL, English

Trivia: Kai was born premature and wasn’t expected to live. His entire life has been a struggle, with doctors constantly telling him that he would die young. He dealt with major breathing problems throughout his childhood that often resulted in frequent hospitalizations. His breathing disorder also inhibited his ability to speak until he was 14, so he grew up using ASL as his primary form of communication. Kai also has a neuromuscular disease called MLS which causes problems with muscle tone, painful spasms, and progressively affects his ability to voluntarily control his muscles. Because of his speech and mobility issues, Kai was originally diagnosed as having spastic cerebral palsy and was often dismissed by doctors and nurses as being mentally deficient.

When Kai was six, his parents were killed in an auto accident and he was soon separated from his siblings and sent to live in a group home for children with disabilities called County House. Kai spent twelve years there, his only friend his roommate, a Deaf boy named David who attended the Jonesville School for the Deaf with Kai until Kai was forced into speech therapy and mainstreamed for high school.

When Kai was eighteen, he was reunited with his brother Jon, but soon after his lungs began to fail. He managed to get a last-minute double-lung transplant when he was 21. Post transplant, Kai loves to swim, and generally wears a special suit that covers his chest and thighs to hide his scars.

He’s a vegetarian because his brother read that a meat-free diet was correlated with less flare-ups of his MLS, and he also avoids caffeine because of his anxiety. He has a huge sweet-tooth, and although he often finds eating more of a chore than something he enjoys, he’ll devour anything sugary if given the chance, and loves pie in particular.

Important Plot-related Facts: Kai has a tendency toward stubbornness (a Taylor family trait) and often insists on doing things on his own and keeping his feelings and thoughts locked down tight. This causes conflict in his relationships, particularly with his girlfriend Renee.

Kai often will give people what he thinks they want from him, hiding behind a charming smile and a dark sense of humor rather than showing them his true self. Despite being innately likable, smart, and talented, Kai suffers from enormous self-doubt that he usually hides behind a mask of confidence and a care-free attitude.

Despite Kai’s insistence (even to himself) that he longs for independence, the reality is he has a crippling fear of abandonment and isolation. Throughout his life, Kai has struggled with depression, anxiety, and nightmares, but in recent months things have gotten much worse.

“I wanted to tell you so many times. I tried. The other night. But there’s never exactly a good moment to say, ‘Oh, hey, I almost died last year, but then I got some dead guy’s lungs, so I’m good.”


Renee watched as Kai picked up a spoon, and, elbow propped on his open book, began to stir his soup. First clockwise, then he’d reverse direction, back and forth, one way, then the other, staring at the broth, but not looking terribly intent on eating it.

Renee feared she’d messed up. Again. She swallowed, tried to keep her voice lighthearted. “You struck me more as the roast beef and chili type.”

He looked up at her, a single eyebrow raised, still holding his spoon lazily in one hand. Liquid dropped off the tip into the bowl. “I don’t eat meat anymore.”

She studied him. “Herbal tea, vegetarian. Is your deep, dark secret that you’re actually a closeted hippie?”

A smile peeled across his face. He chuckled, his eyes sparkling, brightening for the first time that afternoon. “Not exactly.”

Renee attempted to cut her sandwich into quarters. “My maw maw would be appalled. She doesn’t think a dish, let alone a meal, is complete without meat.” She stopped what she was doing and jerked her head up, looking apologetic. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to offend.”

He scowled deeply, set down his spoon. “I do have PETA on speed dial. . . . But I guess I can give you a pass this once.” His face transformed. She’d never seen anyone with so many variations on a simple smile. From what she’d seen in the short time she’d known him, it was likely he had dozens of grins. She wanted to see them, know them all. This one was simple, sweet, and seemed to lift the weariness in his eyes, like sun burning off fog.

He spooned some soup into his mouth, did some of that sexy lip licking, tongue searching out any final drops that may have caught on his lips. “I don’t drink coffee, either, but I’m not going to chew you out if you do. It’s OK.”

Renee relaxed, took a bite of her sandwich and couldn’t stifle a moan. She wasn’t sure if it was the best chicken salad in the Midwest, but it was definitely the best she’d ever had.

He laughed a little harder, and his smile sweetened. Genuine. This was Kai relaxed, enjoying himself. Whatever had happened, whatever demons loomed behind the mask he normally kept firmly in place, they were gone. Maybe only for this fleeting moment, but it was one she would enjoy as long as it lasted.

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