On December 26, 2006, Katie was admitted to Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis after visiting her family doctor in Hanover, and being referred to Kings Daughters Health in Madison. X-rays showed that her heart had enlarged to four times its original size, and the physicians at Kings Daughters Health were not sure why. She was transported to Riley, where she underwent testing that concluded that she had viral cardiomyopathy. A common cold virus had attacked her heart, and her heart was only working at 20% capacity.
The days passed, and Katie did not go back to school after Christmas break. Her condition started to worsen, and on January 10, 2007, Katie was listed at the top of the transplant list for a new heart. That night, she started to have fluid build up around her lungs and heart — she was struggling to breathe. The next morning she had her first open-heart surgery, and first surgery in general, to implant a ventricular assist device (VAD) that would pump her heart for her using compressed air.
She was moved out of the ICU at Riley a few days later, and was able to get up and move around a few days after that. But Katie was determined to do more — she wanted to go home, and she wanted to go back to school.
And she did. Katie was the first person her age to go home with a portable VAD. Her friends and family were all trained on how to switch out the batteries in the VAD, and how to hand pump her heart in case of a power outage. She was unable to go back to school because of the infection risk, but she had a tutor, and she was determined to not fall behind. She continued to wait for a new heart.
On March 29, 2007, just about a month and a half after Katie came home with the portable VAD, a heart came in. It was 2 a.m., and Katie and her family rushed from their Columbus home to Riley in Indianapolis. It was a match. Katie underwent a 10-hour surgery to remove the heart she was born with and replace it with a healthy one. That evening, Katie was in the ICU, breathing on her own. She was awake. She said she was in pain, but felt much better already.
Katie still holds the record for the shortest stay at Riley after a major organ transplant at nine days. She was released to the Ronald McDonald House of Indiana, where Katie and her family stayed for a few weeks, before eventually returning home to Columbus.
Katie missed the entire second semester of freshman year. She returned for sophomore year, and with a lot of dedication and a tutor, she stayed on course with the rest of her class and graduated with us in the spring of 2010.
After graduation, Katie attended Hanover College. The summer before she started college, she started to develop some rejection of her heart. The doctors at Riley worked to change her medications to help reverse the rejection, but she developed a condition called Arterial Narrowing Disease. This disease causes the arteries to start closing up, causing a bloodflow restriction. Because of this, she began to collapse. She collapsed so suddenly that sometimes she would wake up with injuries like black eyes and bruises.
Katie was diagnosed with chronic rejection in March of 2012, and was not listed on the transplant list. Katie was now and adult, and the adult list was much longer than the pediatric one. It would be nearly impossible to get Katie another heart.
After Katie’s chronic rejection diagnosis in March, 2012, she agreed to undergo an experimental Velcade chemotherapy treatment. She had to be put under general anesthesia for this procedure, and within minutes of being put under, lost her heartbeat and coded. Doctors and nurses performed chest compressions and CPR for three minutes to bring her back. Doctors continued on with the treatment. Katie received three Velcade chemotherapy treatments before she passed away on September 18, 2012, just 10 weeks after she started the treatment.
She passed away at home, after collapsing and having a seizure. EMTs were not able to resuscitate her when they arrived.
Katie’s new heart gave her another five and a half years of life.