My Thoughts About One of My Favorite Places--Northeastern Indiana's Amish Country

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Katie, Part Two


So, I wrote about my young friend Katie last summer (here), and I thought I should give an update.  If you didn’t read the first blog post, read it first, and then come back to this one.

When we last talked about Katie in July 2020, she was terminally ill with cancer due to an inoperable tumor in her spine, had been ill for several months, and was not expected to live long.  She had initially been paralyzed from the neck down, but was regaining the feeling in her upper body due to the removal of a blood clot.  I sang to her every week if I could, and sometimes she was strong enough to join in on the choruses from her rented hospital bed in one corner of their large living room.

Now it’s March 2021—nine months later—and about one year since her diagnosis.  Contrary to the doctor’s predictions, Katie is still alive!  As last summer wore on, Katie got stronger and stronger in her upper body.  She also got a wonderful new power wheelchair, which allowed her a lot more mobility and freedom.  She could even power around the farm and up and down the lane.  She no longer needed her oxygen tank, and soon she could sit up better and better and even move herself from her bed to her wheelchair.  She has been making the most of the mobility she has!

So last fall, she got the chance to fulfill a dream and volunteer at the Amish schoolhouse down the road, as a teacher’s aide.  The teacher for grades 1-4 had her hands full with eight first graders, one of them with special needs.  Katie took over the first graders—at first every morning, then all day.  Soon she was even staying after school to help the teacher grade the papers.  Five days a week...  Katie was now busier than I am!  

Later in the school term, a special education classroom was set up for the special needs child and Katie became his full-time teacher. 

Her power wheelchair gets here there every morning—about a quarter mile over a hill.  She comes home at noon so her mother can take care of her physical needs, while the students have their lunch break; then she goes back for the afternoon.  I've stopped by several times, since visitors are welcome at Amish schools, and I attended their Christmas program last winter.

Things have improved at home, also.  Thanks in part to a grant from the Make A Wish Foundation, the corner of the large living room that serves as Katie’s bedroom has been expanded and remodeled by Katie’s father and oldest brother.  It now contains bookshelves for Katie’s many books, a wardrobe closet with a low mirror, a desk under a window (there are five windows)—and best of all, a handicap-accessible bathroom with a shower!  After nearly a year of having to rely on her mom, Katie can now take a long, luxurious shower.

Katie is no longer in a hospital bed—she now sleeps in the double bed from her former upstairs bedroom.  One of her younger brothers or sisters often sleeps there with her.  When I come over, I bring Velcro, my new goldendoodle puppy, and the two of them get along very well!  Velcro snuggles down in Katie’s bed and goes to sleep.  Goldendoodles are known for being very good with sick or disabled people, so it’s a perfect fit.

I no longer need to go over there to cheer Katie up from her sickbed—but I still visit regularly, because Katie and her entire family have become very dear to me.  Katie and I have matching hymnbooks.  We take turns picking out a song, then she sings the melody and I sing the alto part.  We sometimes talk for a long time about her life, my life, and life in general.

One day last fall, my husband and I had the whole family over to our house for Rulli’s pizza—Katie, her parents, and her nine siblings ages two to twenty!  It was a wonderful time, and ended with their family gathering around our fireplace and singing Gary and I a song about heaven, in four part harmony.  I felt like I was in heaven!

Another time this past year, Katie’s parents invited us over for supper.  It was amazing to see the long kitchen table with the twelve of them and the two of us, and how well organized everything was—before, during, and after the meal.  They had a set of everything at each end of the table, to allow for less passing around of things.  After the meal and some good talk, they broke out the songbooks and we sang lots of hymns, in four-part harmony. 

Make no mistake, Katie is still a sick girl.  She went to Indianapolis a few months ago (fall 2021) for scans, and the cancer is still in her spine, and it’s still growing (although quite a bit more slowly than the doctors expected), and it’s still incurable.  

Nevertheless, Katie has been given the gift of life for far longer than anyone had imagined, and it’s been a pretty good life in recent days…  Only God knows what her future will be, but if there’s one thing I have been reminded of by my friendship with Katie, it’s to savor life, every single day.

More on Katie's story here.

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