MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Time in the hospital can take us away from our family, friends and schoolwork. But for one teenager, a mystery illness and time spent at the Masonic Children’s Hospital made a big impact on not just her future, but the lives of other kids getting admitted every day.

Karenna has spent her summer planning gifts for kids in the hospital. Her mission is appropriately called “Give A Gift, Give a Smile.”

The goal is that every kid in hospital will get their own care package, from someone who knows what it’s like to be a kid in a hospital.

“It’s really nice because I know how hard it is, personally,” Karenna said.

Last November, she went from being a typical teenager to fighting an enigmatic illness.

“I had a knee injury and I took a pain medication for it,” she said. “Then I developed this really big headache that never went away.”

That headache lasted for months, getting so bad that Karenna could barely leave her bed, and more or less had to stop going to school.

Finally in February came a diagnosis: she had complex chiari malformation.

“The back of my brain was pushing down into the top of my spine. It was cutting off the cerebral spinal fluid,” she said.

They tried several different treatments, until finally a brain surgery gave Karenna the relief she needed. She’s now heading into her sophomore year helping others, and with a better idea of what her future looks like.

“I’m going to become a child life specialist,” Karenna said. “While children are in the hospital they’re trying to make it a better place and help families through a hard time.”

That is exactly what Karenna is doing with Give a Gift, Give a Smile. To donate to the project, visit: https://www.gofundme.com/givegiftgivesmile