For those of you who don't know, Katie's story, from Mom Laura:
Super Katie, the First Dream House Kid
My family and I have since fostered six medically fragile children, provided respite care for another six, and adopted one of these – a very special one. Her name is Katie. Diagnosed at birth with Pseudo-Obstructive Disorder of the bowels (Short Gut), Katie was placed in foster care at the age of four. Due to the complexity of her care, along with very bad behavior and lack of training for the foster parents, she was moved four times to different families within six months.
On April 6, 2004 we were the fifth family to bring Katie home. We were told that the placement was for ‘end of life care’ because Katie was too ill and unstable to tolerate the transplant that was necessary for her to survive. We agreed with the staff, that if Katie was going to die, she should not die in the hospital, all alone.
For the first two months, Katie was very angry and violent. After all, she felt she had been discarded like garbage so many times that she felt like garbage. So why not act like garbage? She did everything possible to try to get us to give up and send her back to the hospital. Unwavering, I would hold her calmly through each tantrum and outburst (about six a day). I would chant to her over and over, “Trust me, Katie. We will get through this together. I am not going to give up on you.”
Finally, during one of her worst tantrums that lasted almost an hour, she fell exhausted into my arms, and for the first time ‘let’ me hold her. Slowly, she wrapped her arms around me and we just sat on the floor holding each other for another hour. The next day, she unexpectedly gave me another hug. She pulled away to look at me closely and said, “You know, when two people hug, their hearts are talking to each other.”
I then asked, “And what is my heart saying to yours?”
Katie smiled and answered, “I love you.”
What a breakthrough! It took almost six months of being by her side constantly, 24/7, to get Katie’s behavior under control enough to be able to spend extended times out in public, like going to a restaurant. During this time Katie began to trust me more and more. With each passing day she was happier and more cooperative with her care.
One day when Katie wasn’t feeling well, she asked what it would take to make her better. I explained that her ‘tummy’ had lots of problems and the only way to fix it was to get a new one. Puzzled, Katie asked, “Well, where do we go to buy a new one?” With a smile I told her that we would need to go see a doctor and find out, but first we would need to work very hard to get her stronger and healthier. After more description of what this would entail, Katie asked if I would help her. With one more hug and a pinky promise, we began our hard work.
After about nine months of that ‘hard work,’ Katie was doing so well, I decided to call her GI specialist and request an appointment. The doctor was very surprised at how healthy and stable Katie was and granted our request for a transplant evaluation.
I took Katie to Miami on January 3, 2005 to meet with the transplant surgeons at Jackson Memorial Hospital/ Holtz Children Center. We were told that Katie would be considered for a transplant as long as Georgia’s foster care administration agreed to leave Katie in my care during the transplant and for the two subsequent years of recovery. It was arranged and Katie was placed on the transplant list Jan 11th.
After only 18 days, we received ‘The Call.’ On Friday, Jan 29th at 3 a.m., Mercy Flight volunteer pilot Richard Smith and his wife flew Katie and me to Miami for the transplant. At 1:30 p.m., Katie received five new organs: stomach, small intestine, colon, spleen and pancreas. Fourteen days later, Katie was doing so well, she was ready for discharge to the on-site rehab facility known as the ‘Transplant House’ (a floor of an adjacent office building that had been converted into hotel rooms).
Unfortunately however, the day before we were to leave the hospital, something went terribly wrong. The morning of Feb 14th, Katie became very ill and was rushed back to surgery. Mysteriously, all five transplanted organs had lost blood supply and were lost. The transplant surgeon informed me that there was nothing more he could do. He promised to try and keep her alive for 24 hours so that my family could get there to say good-bye.
In disbelief, I asked if there was anything that could be done. He said it would take ‘a miracle’ to save her. I asked, "What kind of miracle?" The doctor replied, "Another transplant in the next 24 hours, and that is just not going to happen."
I explained that I believed in miracles and asked for his cooperation in placing Katie back on the transplant list. He agreed, and Katie was posted at 11 p.m. February 14th. The next morning at 5 a.m., just six hours later, we received word that not only had another donor been found, but that it was a perfect tissue match! We had a miracle. Katie had another chance.
Surviving to Thrive
With unwavering faith and determination, Katie worked hard during her recovery to heal and regain her strength. We grew very close during this time. The day came when we learned that Katie was being placed up for adoption. As a family, we decided that we just could not let her go. In December of 2006, she became a permanent blessing in our family.
February 15, 2010, we celebrated Katie’s fifth post-transplant anniversary – Praise God! Katie, now 12-years-old, is currently one of only two children to survive, two (back-to-back) five organ transplants.
Her future is bright. The doctors say they expect her to grow up, go to college, get married and have kids. She says she wants to be a veterinarian and take care of sick animals some day. But then, with a smile, she will also tell you that she wants to run the Dream House too, so she can help other kids find what she has. As her mother, I have no doubt that she will accomplish whatever she sets her mind to.