TERRE HAUTE —
Katelyn Newell’s heart transplant surgery went just as her doctor’s had hoped, with no problems or complications, her mother, Robin Newell, said Thursday afternoon.
Around 1 p.m., 8-year-old Katelyn was taken off her ventilator, or breathing machine, and she was able to talk a little, although her throat was sore. “I told her she got her new heart,” Robin Newell said. Katelyn responded, “I did?”
Katelyn is now in the intensive care unit of Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health.
The family had learned at 2:30 a.m. Wednesday that a suitable donor heart had been found. At 3 p.m., Katelyn was taken to the operating room to prepare for surgery. By around 7 p.m., the donor heart had arrived, and within 90 minutes, Katelyn’s mother reported the new heart “is in and beating.”
The surgery continued for a few more hours, Newell said. Katelyn had “a little bit of a bleeding problems because she had been on blood thinners, and they had to stop the bleeding.”
Newell didn’t see her daughter until after midnight, when she was in intensive care. Newell anticipates Katelyn will be in ICU for about a week then back to the Riley Heart Center for anther week. The 8-year-old Deming Elementary student will then spend three to four weeks at the Ronald McDonald House.
Then, after she returns to Terre Haute, she’ll be quarantined at home for several months, leaving the house only for medical appointments and other necessary reasons, Newell said.
“By the next school year, she should be up and running and ready to go back” to Deming Elementary, Newell said.
She hopes that Katelyn might be able to go to Deming to attend her brother, Alex Moody’s, fifth-grade graduation ceremony.
As for Newell, “I’m so relieved. It’s finally done.” Katelyn has been at Riley since Jan. 4 waiting for a heart transplant. Newell has driven back and forth from Indianapolis, spending weekdays with her daughter and weekends with her sons and fiance, Scott Moody. It has been difficult for her to leave the boys, but it also has been difficult for her to leave her daughter on weekends.
For the first time in months, Newell got a good night’s sleep after the heart transplant. “I haven’t slept that good in a long time,” she said. She had been up for 24 hours — from the time she learned about the availability of the donor heart to successful completion of the surgery.
Now, Katelyn is recovering, and Newell will be learning about the new medications she’ll have to administer to her daughter.
According to Riley medical officials, transplant patients such as Katelyn will require a lifetime of immune-suppressing medications, although these can be gradually tapered as patients continue to do well. The risk of rejection will always be present.
Katelyn’s family is thankful to another family whose tragedy meant a new heart, and restored health, to Katelyn.
Monica Trotter, Katelyn’s grandmother, stated Wednesday, “I would like to thank the giving family who helped save my granddaughter’s life today. Someone lost a child and gave several families a second chance with their child. We are thankful and we also grieve for their loss.”
Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or firstname.lastname@example.org.