OTTAWA — Katrina Riepenhoff, an Ottawa-Glandorf junior, never expected to spend the 2012 Christmas holidays at Nationwide Hospital in Columbus. But then she never expected to be waiting on a new heart.
She received her new heart Jan 2. Just three months later on April 17, Katrina was standing in front of representatives of the American Heart Association telling her experience as part of a mission moment to kick off this year’s Central Ohio Heart Walk
It was in early October that Katrina passed out during a band practice routine. She was first taken to Toledo Children’s Hospital, and then transferred to intensive care at Nationwide Children’s Hospital ICU. Her heart tests were causing major concerns for the doctors.
Initially the doctors decided to try to put a pacemaker and defibrillator in to help Katrina’s heart pump better. This surgery was Nov. 5. The following week Katrina was able to return to school for half days, A checkup on Dec. 18 resulted in her return to the Nationwide ICU unit.
“This time I felt sick,” Katrina said. “I had high fevers, which wiped me out when they came on.”
Her heart doctor and the transplant team told her it was time to go on the transplant list because her heart couldn’t take much more.
“I was listed on Dec. 20 at 6:03 p.m.,” Katrina said.
On Dec. 30, Katrina was told a heart was available. That evening, her heart doctor came to tell her that the transplant was not a go. He said something had happened and none of the organs could be used.
“I was back to waiting,” Katrina said. “My friends visited but it was a horrible time to be in the hospital at Christmas and New Year's.”
On Jan. 2, when Katrina was told not to eat or drink anything she knew another heart was available. She had her transplant that day.
She returned home Jan. 14 and was back in school full time 2.5 weeks after the transplant.
Since then Katrina has been able to play in the pep band, and return to her normal activities. Six weeks after the transplant, she performed with the color guard and marching band in the electric light parade Disneyland.
She said her friends readily accepted the mask she has to wear.
“The most challenging thing is the changes in her immune system have meant taking different levels of medication,” she said.
‘I have a lot to look forward to thanks to all the research and education that went into heart disease and heart transplant,” Katrina said.
During her presentation at the American Heart Association meeting, Katrina was invited to join a team already enrolled in the annual Heart Walk on Aug. 24, in Columbus. Katrina decided to form her own team.
“My family, I and many other families you will never know thank you for caring and being a part of the heart walk,” Katrina said during her mission statement.
“Being away from home was the most challenging thing,” Katrina said, “but I always felt the real support of my community and school. That’s what got me through everything.”