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Tufts MC Social Worker Runs Marathon for Dad's Second Chance

February 22, 2024

In the fall of 2021, Katie had just begun a new position as a Clinical Social Worker in Tufts Medical Center’s Emergency Department. Less than two months later, Katie’s father Jim drove himself to his local emergency room and was diagnosed with myocarditis, an infection of the heart. While some patients with myocarditis fight off the infection, Jim took a turn for the worse and was transported by ambulance to Tufts MC.

Katie and Jim
Jim was placed in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit, reserved for the sickest cardiac patients at Tufts MC.

That unit became home for Katie and her family for the next three months as her father continued to deteriorate, eventually requiring ECMO or extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, to help his heart pump blood. Commonly referred to as life support, ECMO is used in the most critical cardiac situations and is often seen as a last resort to keep the sickest patients alive.

But Jim's obstacles were not over yet. During his hospital stay he suffered a bout of pneumonia so severe he had to be intubated to give his lungs a chance to heal. Despite having no cardiac history, Jim suddenly found himself on the transplant list, awaiting a new heart to save his life.

After suffering numerous setbacks on his journey back to health, luck was finally on Jim's side as he matched with a new heart less than two weeks after being placed on the transplant list.

Just three days before Christmas, Jim received his lifesaving transplant. However, during his surgery he suffered a stroke, leaving him temporarily without the ability to write or speak. Eventually, under the care team at Tufts MC, Katie's father made an incredible recovery, regaining his speech and ability to write. Jim has now returned to normal life, recently taking his dream job as a professor at Notre Dame, the alma mater he and Katie share.

Katie, her mother and her four siblings are grateful for not only the care her father received in our CardioVascular Center but the comprehensive care from each department that touched Jim's recovery: Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, Speech-Language Pathology, among others. Katie and her family received vital support, including assistance from her own department, Social Work, as well as Spiritual Care and Child Life.

Katie is still a proud member of the Tufts MC Clinical Social Work team, providing compassionate care to Boston's underserved communities.

Katie has gone a step further to assist our patients by joining Team Tufts MC and will run the 128th Boston Marathon to raise funds in appreciation for the wonderful care her father received. We are so grateful to have Katie as a member of our staff and our Boston Marathon team, bringing our values of Heart and Excellence to Tufts MC each day.

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