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July 12, 2013

Terre Haute heart recipient meets Justin Bieber

Katelyn Newell visits with idol at Indianapolis concert

TERRE HAUTE — Katelyn Newell, the 8-year-old who underwent a heart transplant at Riley Hospital for Children in April, had a dream come true Wednesday.

She met her idol, Justin Bieber, who performed at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, and she also attended the concert.

Granted, the meeting with Bieber lasted just a few seconds.

She and Fishers resident Alexandra Traycoff — also a Riley Hospital heart patient and Bieber fan — had their photo taken with the famous singer during a meet-and-greet, which required separate tickets.

“They went in, picture and out the door,” said Katelyn’s mother, Robin Newell.

But it was a thrill, nonetheless. “I got his tattoo arm,” Katelyn said with a big smile, reliving the moment Thursday afternoon. “I love tattoos.”

Bieber put his left arm around her, which has several tattoos on it, Robin explained.

Robin, who didn’t have a ticket for the meet-and-greet, didn’t get to go back with them. Katelyn went back to the meet-and-greet at 4:30 p.m., and Robin didn’t see her again until 7:50 p.m.

Bieber started his concert around 9 p.m., and the Newells didn’t leave until around midnight. “Katelyn loved it. She couldn’t sit still. She was dancing, screaming, singing,” her mom said. “It was well worth it.”

Katelyn, who had her transplant April 24, was at Riley for 31⁄2 months awaiting a donor heart. During that time, Traycoff — who saw a television report about Katelyn  — decided to surprise the Deming Elementary student with two tickets to the concert.

Traycoff, who was born with a congenital heart defect, felt a strong connection to Katelyn. Her mother, Lori Traycoff, said at the time the tickets are “hope for the future — something for Katelyn to look forward to” as she awaits a heart transplant.

Soon after, a woman from Fayetteville, N.C., Brittany Fisk, purchased tickets for Katelyn and Traycoff to attend the more personal meet-and-greet event with Bieber. Fisk said she paid $4,000 for the tickets, using money she’s raised through Operation Giveback, a fundraising project.

Fisk collaborated with Shelbie Schneider, a Terre Haute resident; both are big Bieber fans.

Katelyn found out just a week ago that her doctors were allowing her to go to the concert. Her recovery from the transplant has gone well, Robin said.

“She lives outside. She’s getting a nice tan,” Robin said. Katelyn must still try to avoid public places, although the Bieber concert was an exception.

Katelyn goes every four weeks to Indianapolis for checkups, and she gets bloodwork done every two weeks. She is taking 12 medications. She’ll have another biopsy done in August before school starts.

But Katelyn is feeling good, her mom said.

As for Katelyn, she wore a Bieber shirt Thursday and the VIP pass needed for the meet-and-greet.

She received an album with Bieber’s autographed initials.

Others who attended the concert, but not the meet-and-greet, asked her all kinds of questions about Bieber.

The 8-year-old has only one regret. “I wanted to kiss him,” she said.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or sue.loughlin@tribstar.com.

 

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