News From Terre Haute, Indiana

March 20, 2013

Big surprise for Terre Haute girl awaiting heart transplant

Sue Loughlin
The Tribune-Star

INDIANAPOLIS — Fishers resident Alexandra Traycoff has been a heart patient at Riley Hospital for Children and its outpatient center since she was just a few months old.

She’s also a big Justin Bieber fan.

So when Traycoff saw an Indianapolis television news story about Katelyn Newell, the 8-year-old Terre Haute girl waiting for a heart transplant, she had to do something.

She noticed in the WRTV 6 report that Newell also was a Bieber fan.

So Traycoff, who had an extra set of tickets to Bieber’s July 10 concert at Banker’s Life Fieldhouse, decided to give them to Newell, who has been in Riley’s Heart Center for more than 10 weeks.

Late Tuesday morning, Traycoff, her mom, Lori, and dad, Sergei, made a surprise visit to Katelyn to present her with the two tickets.

Just about everyone else knew about the “surprise,” including the WRTV 6 news crew doing a followup story. Traycoff had contacted TV reporter Tanya Spencer soon after she saw the story about Katelyn. That paved the way for Tuesday.

As the big moment approached, several Riley staff waited in the hall, eagerly awaiting Katelyn’s reaction, and Katelyn’s mom, Robin, had her iPhone ready to take video and pictures.

Once news crews and the Traycoffs arrived in Katelyn’s room, Alexandra presented Katelyn with the gift bag. Katelyn, who sat in a Riley wagon — her back to the crowd —  found a Bieber book and Bieber tattoos — but for a short period, the big gift was missing in action.

Finally, she dug it out of the Bieber giftbag, which had been full of tissue paper.

“Do you know what those are?” Robin Newell said.

“Tickets,” said Katelyn.

“To?” her mom asked.

“A concert,” Katelyn said.

“Who are you going to go see?” Robin Newell asked.

At that point, Katelyn became just a little overwhelmed by all the excitement.

“This is your surprise Katelyn. You get to go see Justin, in concert,” Robin Newell said. The crowd burst into applause.

Katelyn had know for awhile about a surprise — but she never imagined tickets to his concert.

Alexandra said that initially, her family had planned to sell the extra tickets, but when she saw the story about Katelyn, she knew, “That’s where I wanted to give them.”

Alexandra, who was born with a congenital heart defect, feels a strong connection to Katelyn.

“That’s the link to this story that makes it very, very sweet,” said Lori Traycoff, Alexandra’s mom. Her daughter has had three surgeries at Riley and now goes to the Riley outpatient center

Lori Traycoff said the tickets are “hope for the future — something for Katelyn to look forward to” as she awaits a heart transplant.

Alexandra has other plans up her sleeve. She’s working through social media and other means to try and arrange a meeting between Bieber and Katelyn.

She’s emailed Ellen DeGeneres, who is friends with Bieber, and she’s also tweeting Bieber (but hasn’t heard back).

Before the Traycoffs left, Alexandra spent time talking to Katelyn and she hopes to come back and visit.

Lori Traycoff shared with Katelyn and Robin what had happened earlier in the day. The family had planned to bring a balloon bouquet, but then learned they could not take latex balloons into the hospital because of concerns about possible problems with allergies.

So, they released the balloons into the sky.

“I made a wish,” Lori Traycoff  said, “that you get your phone call” — and a new heart.

The Traycoffs will return, and Lori promised to stay in touch with Robin. “Moms need support, too,” Lori Traycoff said.

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