Katherine's Road to Recovery and Determination to Give Back
In September of 2019, Katherine was enjoying a late summer afternoon with friends. She had just attended practice after school and then was going to dinner. That normalcy was shattered when Katherine and three of her peers were involved in a devastating car accident. Katherine found herself unconscious on the passenger side, hidden by the deployed airbag. As she regained consciousness, Katherine realized that the car was on fire. “I had to basically will myself out of the car, undo my seatbelt and kick the door open,” Katherine recalled. At that point, someone who came upon the scene grabbed Katherine off the ground and moved her away from the burning vehicle.
Now a senior in high school, Katherine committed to Northeastern University the summer before her sophomore year, where she will play Division I soccer. Katherine loves sports but describes soccer as her passion. Last year, her club soccer team won the national championship for their league. She also plays basketball and lacrosse, and enjoys singing and visual arts.
A year ago, however, Katherine was not sure when, or if, she would be back on the soccer pitch. After the accident, she was taken to Lawrence General Hospital, eventually being transferred to the Boston Shriners Hospital where she was an inpatient for a month. “It definitely could have been a lot longer. I was very lucky to have the resources I did. Without Shriners [Hospital], I wouldn’t be where I am today, just a year later,” Katherine said. “Just hours after the accident Dr. Sheridan did an emergency fasciotomy to relieve the pressure in my leg. We were told without the surgery I was at risk of amputation from the knee down. Now I am back playing sports, doing everything I love. It’s pretty amazing.”
Katherine returns to the Boston Shriners Hospital every few months for surgeries and follow-up care. She describes Robert L. Sheridan, M.D., as “basically my hero” and Debbie, a nurse on the inpatient unit, as “my rock.” Katherine said, “Even when Debbie wasn’t my nurse she was always coming into my room and making me smile. She is everything I would want to be in life and more.”
She also named nurses Rich, Kara and Jackie as a “stand-up comedy show live from my hospital bed.” Katherine said, “Another person who was really important to me was child life specialist Brooke. She was always so real with me. Telling me the bad days were terrible, and the good days were great. It was exactly what I needed when I was tired of being positive all the time.”
Courtney, Katherine’s occupational therapist, even went to her first soccer game after the accident. “Courtney kicked my butt,” Katherine said. “I came out even stronger from all her motivation. She pushed me to get out of the hospital when I did so I could participate in the Spartan Race at Fenway.” During her first days in the hospital, Courtney mentioned having Katherine participate in the Spartan Race with the Shriners Team and supporting other patients who were competing. “It was so amazing to know that not only was I able to go and support my friends, but I also got to run beside them. These were all the people who got me through my tough days.” Katherine was touched by all the support she received at Shriners Hospital and said, “I knew I wanted to give back for everything that I received.”
Katherine was released from the Boston Shriners Hospital just one month after her accident. “I know there are lots of fundraising drives for hospitals around the holiday season, but I wanted to do something a little bit different,” Katherine said. She decided to collect necessities like toothbrushes and socks for patients at the Boston Shriners Hospital during the Thanksgiving season. She created a fundraiser called “Thankful for Shriners.”
She started by writing letters to her school, telling her story to her peers and teachers, asking that they contribute a small item. She expected to gather a couple of boxes that she could donate to the hospital, but it quickly became so much more. “I honestly never expected the collection to get as big as it did. I thought we would have a few boxes but instead it turned into people I did not even know joining in, and others posting about it on social media. I ended up with boxes upon boxes upon boxes,” Katherine said. “One of the local gift shops, Rose and Dove, even matched all donations that were brought into their store.” Katherine recalls even seeing an article on her drive in the newspaper. “The whole thing just blew up! I couldn’t believe it!”
“I could not have asked for more from my community to support me the way that they did – for people to spread the word and come together to support me and my Shriners family. It was pretty heart touching,” she said.
Katherine wants other patients working through a burn injury to know that “it may seem like the world is falling in on you, but just know the support system is there for you. All the Shriners Patient Ambassadors and everyone who has been there before you are here to show you that you can get through this. Life may look different after but you will persevere.”
Now a year later, Katherine is attending school virtually, like so many other students this fall. She is back playing soccer for her club team NEFC. The COVID-19 pandemic has required some adjustments to the sport, but the games are on. Katherine has only played a few games so far, but said it “feels nice to get some touches in.”
In addition to playing soccer at Northeastern, Katherine hopes to study nursing. “I’ve always wanted to do something in health care but wasn’t sure what I wanted that to look like until now. My experience at Shriners has filled me with gratitude and inspired me to become a burn nurse in pediatrics. My goal would be to help children and show them the love, support and world-class care that I received from Shriners during the darkest days of my life. That would be a dream come true.”
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