Family Spotlight: Katie's Story
Eight years ago, former Brent’s Place resident Katie began to experience rapid and dramatic weight fluctuations. She was only in her early thirties, otherwise healthy, and didn’t feel ill - but the ongoing gains and losses were unnerving. As she worked to figure out what was wrong, she faced a barrage of challenges, most notably the limited healthcare options in her small hometown and the subsequent flurry of misdiagnoses.
In September 2020, just a few days after tubing on a river with some friends, she began to feel really sick. She assumed the giardia she had been misdiagnosed with had returned, but when her skin began to turn yellow, a nurse friend became increasingly alarmed: “Katie, you need to go to the doctor right now.”
She did. Over the next six months, Katie’s health worsened. Her stomach was bloated, and liters of fluid were drained from her abdomen repeatedly. Neither she nor her doctors realized that she was a “walking timebomb” and that her weight gains and losses were indications of a serious underlying disease. Katie was going into liver failure. To make matters worse, she was without health insurance.
By May 2021, Katie’s doctors had determined that a liver transplant at University of Colorado Health in the Denver metro area was her best option for survival. But solid organ transplant patients require close proximity to the hospital for months, and the six-hour drive from home meant that her husband and grandmother would need to find lodging at a nearby hotel. “They got a decent rate,” Katie remembers, “but it was breaking us.” On top of managing her teetering health, the intertwined costs of healthcare and accommodations were destabilizing.
Then, a stroke of good luck: during a casual conversation at the hospital with another transplant family, Katie’s grandmother heard about Brent’s Place. “They were living at the Forum apartments, right across the street [from the hospital],” Katie says. The information gained during this chance meeting was reiterated by their social worker, who felt the Safe-Clean accommodations and proximity of Brent’s Place was a perfect fit for Katie’s situation.
A referral was made and, just days later, Katie’s family checked into their Brent’s Place apartment. “We actually wound up moving into the apartment the other transplant family vacated!” she recalls. Upon her discharge from the hospital several days later, Katie was greeted at her new home with the warmest possible welcome. A bulletin board inside the family’s apartment was decorated with her favorite things and the display of personalized care caused her to tear up. It was an incredible relief to settle into the Safe-Clean space knowing that their stay, no matter how long, would not impact the family’s finances.
The respite of Brent’s Place soon became more impactful. Shortly after moving in, Katie received devastating news: one of her kidneys was struggling to cope with the stress of treatment and was in danger of failing. Katie needed two new organs to live - quickly. She was readmitted to the hospital and, as her health deteriorated during this period of waiting, Katie experienced multiple brushes with death.
On August 6th, 2021, her 16th wedding anniversary and nearly one month after being listed for transplant, Katie and her family received the call they had been waiting for. It was transplant time.
The double-organ transplant surgery was a quick success. Just two days later, Katie was well enough to take a walk through the ICU halls. Within a week, the doctors felt suitably confident to discharge her to recuperate in her Forum apartment, where they knew her health would be prioritized and her recovery would be safely supported.
As Katie healed, the family enjoyed the full spectrum of programming offered to them, such as baking cinnamon raisin bread together. The regular meal support also relieved a huge burden. “We’d be tired after being at the hospital for hours, and dinner was delivered,” she remembers. This was particularly impactful for her grandmother, who was tasked with making meals for the family. “She didn’t have to worry,” Katie says. But it was the care and compassion of the Brent’s Place staff team, especially Family Support Manager Lisa Dowd, that really stuck with Katie. “They’re amazing. They’re miracle workers. They think of everything people need to make them feel good while being away from home.”
After weathering a few minor storms on her road toward renewed wellness, nine weeks after surgery, Katie was given the okay to head back home. Today, she’s feeling wonderful, clear-headed and optimistic about her future. “It’s nice to be back to me,” she says. In October 2021, Katie celebrated her 40th birthday encircled by dear friends at a nearby Mexican restaurant. Recalling the feeling of being surrounded again by those she loves, she notes, “I honestly didn’t think I’d make it to forty. They said I’m a walking miracle. I feel like it.”
As Katie continues to visit her medical team in Colorado to monitor her health, she is deeply reassured to know that Brent’s Place will be there, waiting for her. “Knowing when we go back there’s a place for us, a place that’s so clean, so welcoming, so loving… it's a blessing.”
Ready to open the door of healing for a family like Katie's?