Eight-year-old Katelyn Newell sat in a small wheelchair, holding her babydoll, Abby, while at the Riley Hospital for Children Heart Center on Thursday.
She smiled as she “pet” her cat, Tigger, during a video call using iPhone and FaceTime. “Baby — come here baby,” Katelyn said to the cat, which was back at her home in Terre Haute.
“Did that make your day?” asked her dad, Scott Moody, also in Terre Haute and at the other end of the video call. He tried to hold the cat so that Katelyn could see him.
Katelyn’s mom, Robin Newell, was right there, pushing the wheelchair and pulling the IV pole that carries Katelyn’s heart medicine. The 8-year-old also wears a heart monitor and can’t leave the floor.
Katelyn, who was born with complex congenital heart disease, is back at Riley, this time for an extended stay.
In late August, as the little girl’s health continued to deteriorate, Riley cardiologists decided it was time to get the process started for a transplant.
And now, Katelyn — and her family — are waiting for a donor heart.
An extended stay at Riley
Katelyn began her most recent stay Jan. 4, her mom said.
“It’s going well. When she’s got this medication running through her body, she eats more, and you can tell she’s more active,” Robin said.
The IV treatments at Riley used to keep Katelyn feeling good and healthy for about five or six weeks, but now she starts weakening after about three weeks, her mom said.
Despite being away from home, family, school and her cats, Katelyn’s spirits remain high.
“I think she is doing really great. It doesn’t seem to be phasing her,” Robin said. “She is excited. She’s ready for a new heart.”
Since her most recent stay began, Katelyn has been feeling better, eating more and has gained 3 pounds; she was up to 42 pounds Friday.
The nurses and doctors at Riley “are great,” Robin said. Also, volunteers have come in to read to Katelyn, tell stories and play with her; the floor has its own playroom.
No one knows when the transplant will happen. It could be a matter of hours, days, weeks or longer. Katelyn has five brothers at home, and it will be difficult for the family while the 8-year-old and her mother are away.
Robin plans to stay with Katelyn through the week, and return home weekends to be with her sons. “It’s hard on me because I go home and then I have to leave them,” she said. But likewise, it’s hard to leave her daughter at the hospital.
Other family, including grandparents, are helping make it manageable. Also, on Tuesday and Wednesday last week, Newell’s cousin, Kari Gardner, stayed with Katelyn while Robin had to be in Terre Haute.
The reality of the situation probably hasn’t kicked in for the boys “because we haven’t been gone that long,” Robin said.
As for the mother, “I’m staying strong for Katelyn.”