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Back in the Game: Katherine's Story

Back in the Game: Katherine

Katherine’s life was turned upside down when she was involved in a car accident. At 16 years old she found herself fighting for her life. Suffering from severe burns on her left leg Katherine and her family found it difficult locating a medical facility capable of treating her injuries. Katherine’s family was then told about Shriners Children’s, Boston. With the help of her doctors and nurses, Katherine began the long and difficult road to recovery. Katherine loves playing college soccer for Northeastern University and is studying to become a pediatric nurse.
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Margaret:

I could feel my phone in my bag, so I answered the phone and it was the North Andover Police and they said, "Katherine's been in an accident." And it was one of those moments in your life that from the moment you become a parent you dread. I felt everything just like drain out of me. I didn't
even know how I was standing and talking. And he said, "She's here with me. She gave me your number." And then the phone cut out.

Andrew:

Margaret and I met in college. We got married soon after college. Both had our careers going, decided to have children. 

Margaret:

So, the story of Katherine is beautiful. I always say the stars and moon aligned. She was placed into our arms when she was five days old. She was right from the get-go strong and engaging, smiling and happy.

Diane:

We were so excited when Katherine came into the family and in fact, I was the first one down to the car. I just could not wait to meet her when she first came to the house.

Margaret:

From the time she was little, she was always on the move. We went from Tiny Tunes singing classes to dance classes and ballet and baseball and gymnastics and soccer and lacrosse.

Diane:

Katherine is like a light. She is just an absolutely beautiful person. She's witty. She's fun. She's compassionate. She's smart. She's family oriented. She's just really an incredible person.

Andrew:

She was the type of kid she never really played with dolls. She wasn't that type of kid. She was just if you were in the yard and you wanted to shoot hoops, or we've got the soccer wall in the back, if you wanted to do yard work, you're building a patio or work in the yard, not a kid that could sit down at all. Just on the go and just happy to be around, happy to be with people.

Katherine:

I'm Katherine. I'm a freshman at Northeastern University. The relationship I have with my parents, I guess there's only really one way to describe it, and it's they're my best friends. Growing up as an only child, I didn't have a sibling to lean on, or to just spend all my time with, and it was always one of my parents. My dad was my first soccer coach, and my mom, I spent every waking moment with her when I'm at home. And the bond that we have is super strong. I think in my decision to pick soccer over other sports, I think it definitely started in middle school, when I had to decide between soccer and gymnastics. I had done both of them since I was like three years old, and it was a really, really hard decision, because I did love both of them. I was so passionate about soccer, and I was getting really good at it, so for me to be able to stay healthy and do something I love and be good at it, was kind of a no-brainer decision.

Margaret:

And I think her goal really through the whole thing was to play college soccer.

Katherine:

I've always been the type of kid that it's, go big or go home. And I want to be the best of the best, so if that meant I had to push myself and spend 18 hours a day on the soccer field to go play division one, I was going to do it. From my sophomore year on, I couldn't have been more excited, like all I wanted to do was go to college because I just couldn't wait to be a part of like ... be a Huskie, be a part of that community.

Margaret:

So, it was September 11, 2019, and it was a spectacular day.

Andrew:

Well, I was in Atlanta. My company was just receiving an award. I don't think I had my phone on me, or my phone was on silent. And we were all just enjoying everyone's company and the moment, and all of a sudden one of the associates, a good friend of mine came, and said "Hey, you've got to go."

Katherine:

So, I had just had dinner with my friends. There was four of us, and we decided we were going to head back for study hall. And it was such an awesome day. We were listening to music. The windows were down. We were just having a great time, and I was just enjoying spending time with my friends. We were heading up this really old farm road in our town, and it's pretty long and pretty windy. You could feel the speed definitely picking up rapidly. When the second turn came, there was a lot of potholes on that road, and so she hit one and just started losing control and was trying to brake, and just couldn't catch herself.

We ended up coming into contact with a tree, and the windshield broke, and everything just shattered. Airbags go off, and at that point, I lost consciousness for a little bit. And when I woke up, I was completely alone in the car. I'm like, "Okay, I've got to get out of here." I can smell smoke, and I can see some flames coming from underneath my seat. And I turned to open the door and it won't open. And somewhere in impact, it had kind of been smashed in. That's when I was like, "Okay, I'm not making it out of here," and I kind of came to terms with that for a minute, and then I realized that's not who I am. Of course, I was going to fight until the bitter end to get out.

And so, I just, again, I had no feeling in my body. I was in such shock, I just started kicking the door. And I just got it wide enough that I could just slip through to the ground. I started to see a car come down from the hill, in the direction that we had come from, and I just started waving my arms frantically, hoping that I could be seen. And thank God he stopped, and he came running over, and he helped me limp over to his car. We were probably 10 feet away from the car, almost to his car, and the car just went up in complete flames. And I think in that moment was when I realized how close I was to not making it to 17.

Margaret:

I realized it was really bad when the ambulance doors opened and I looked. Her hair was filled with glass and kind of all over the place. Her eyes were like saucers. And I knew at that point this is bad.

Katherine:

I will never forget the look on my mom's face. And I think that's when I knew how bad it was. I had never seen her that scared, and I just all I could say was "It's going to be okay." And I was so sorry. And that look will never leave my mind.

Andrew:

Yeah, she said, “I’m sorry.” And then we’re like... and we hugged her. She didn’t do anything wrong.

Margaret:

Everyone has quite a story to tell from that September 11th night. Thank God all the kids are still with us today, but it's been a painful road for them. It's been a lot. It's something that is forever etched in their memory.

Dr. Robert L. Sheridan:

Katherine had suffered a very deep burn to her leg, and the muscles were damaged. And so, as a damaged muscle within those compartments swells, the pressure goes up in that compartment, and the only treatment for that to salvage the limb is to release the compartments so that the muscles can swell without constraint and still have their blood supply. So, that was the procedure that we did that night.

Courtney Updegrove:

So, when Katherine first arrived to Shriner's, she just had a smile that would light up a room, and always had a positive attitude. Whatever the outcome was, no matter what the doctors were saying might happen, or the different changes in plan of cares, she always had a really positive attitude about she was going to return back to soccer and that was her main goal.

Dr. Robert L. Sheridan:

Well, people like Katherine are fun to take care of because they really want to get better, and she really I think exceeded all expectations in that regard, in that as it turns out, she was a very good, talented athlete already, and in wonderful condition, and extremely well motivated and not afraid of hard work, and that made a huge difference, and her recovery was remarkable.

Rich Sederman:

With her particular accident, I had heard that there were possibilities of leg amputation, major surgeries. And in my head I said, "This poor girl is going to be devastated." And then what I remember most about her is when she got here she had none of that. I was completely wrong. She had an amazing, aggressive attitude about trying to get better. Her motivation and her strength was very impressive.

Cheryl Kelly:

So, the first time I met Katherine, of course she was coming to surgery. So that is probably one of the most anxiety provoking things, I'm sure. But, I have to say that her family was amazing, and she did have repeated surgeries and did very well, and I think from the way that we practice here, the families get to know you and trust you and it just makes things so much easier for them.

Margaret:

I think what makes Shriners’ unique is that they treat the whole family. They don’t just treat the patient. They treat the entire family, and they just always had the right thing to say, or could really read who she was, and knew what she needed.

Andrew:

It starts with Dr. Sheridan. He went on to do seven surgeries on her legs. But, it's the nurses that are there. It's the physical therapists that go in and talk to her and I think the amazing thing is they just knew how to relate to all their different patients, and just keep them in an optimistic way that they're going to be okay.

Deborah Carlson:

Katherine was pretty special. Everyone has special patients, but Katherine really stood out. She was one brave young lady. She had to endure a lot, pain, fear of the unknown. This young lady had ... her whole career was in front of her. She had committed to Northeastern to play soccer. And in an instant, that almost went away.

Andrew: Shriner's just had a magical way of putting their arms around Katherine and just making her feel safe and then kind of pulling her forward.

Courtney Updegrove:

One of her goals was to be able to return to soccer, like we all know that was her passion. One of my goals as a therapist was to get her there. Not only to get her back to the soccer field, but was to actually get her back to playing her senior year of soccer.

Beverly:

When Katherine left the hospital, it's the end of October, I think there were two games left of her high school. The very last game, she got to play. One of her nurses came and Katherine scored a goal. It was amazing. Everybody was on their feet, cheering for her. I mean, tears, imagine what this girl has gone through, in short order, and here she is, scoring a goal. And then she goes on to play division one, and is not just a division one player, she starts at Northeastern, and is an integral part of that team.

Dushawne “Doc” Simpson:

Yeah, I mean Katherine is super talented, really athletic, smart, very skillful, and I think the nature of the team that she was on, with a lot of girls who also had a lot of college aspirations, I think she just kind of continued to follow that path. I think anytime you have a top kid like that, you're reaching out to your friends to let them know "Hey, we might have something special for you."

Ashley Phillips:

I think when you bring a young lady into a program like Katherine, who's overcome such a significant obstacle and challenge, it elevates everyone's perspective. She probably exceeded everyone's expectations as a freshman. It's not surprising because of who she is, but it is surprising because when they're that young, they're competing against players four and five years older than them, right? So, there's that component of it. But, I think I knew if she put her mind to it, she had the ability to. It's just having the confidence and kind of courage to throw yourself out there as an 18-year-old, to achieve that goal.

Andrew:

We're excited for her. She attained her goal and just very proud of her.

Dushawne “Doc” Simpson:

Perseverance. Things will happen to you in life, and your response to that will dictate how far you go. So, she taught me that. That's a lesson I'll never forget.

Diane:

Oh, I couldn’t be more proud of her. I can’t imagine at 16, having gone through the night that she did, and to face the adversity that she did, and to come out so strong and so compassionate and just such a light.

Katherine:

I think that Shriner's definitely was the final decision in me wanting to do nursing. I spent so much time in the unit, and I got to see so many different nurses, and that definitely solidified that I wanted to be a nurse. I definitely want to work in pediatrics, and burn care is definitely number one on my list of things I want to do. And knowing that I've had this experience, and it's something that I can use to help my patients in the future just makes it seem like an even better idea and something that I definitely want to endure in my life.

Courtney Updegrove:

I think Katherine has so much drive, determination, and willingness to help others. I think if it's a nurse, if it's in the healthcare, she's going to give back to the community in ways that we can't even imagine.

Margaret: So, I think if I could say one thing, it would be thank you and we love you. You gave Katherine the life that she loved back.

Katherine:

You know, something my dad and I always talk about is how different this outcome could have been if I wasn't at Shriner's and I think that goes directly to the Shriner's themselves. And if they don't do what they do, and if they haven't done and donated and done everything that they've done for these kids, not only my life, but a lot of lives would be different. I hope that they see this and know, "Okay, this is what I do, what I do for." And just without them, none of this would have been possible.