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Meet Katherine, the Little Engine That Could (Video) Katherine doesn't let 15 heart procedures slow her down

Katherine Schroeder (left) with her dance group.

Katherine Schroeder (left) with her dance group.

Our TV campaign this year focuses on the lives of five kids who allow us to walk with them on the other side of “better.” Here’s the story of 12-year-old Katherine Schroeder.

When you meet Katherine, you’ll be immediately drawn in by her vivacious personality, seemingly endless energy, and love for dance and performing. What you won’t notice are the 15 procedures she’s had on her heart, all before turning 12.

Katherine was born with a hole in her heart and an abnormal valve, known as congenital heart disease. She then developed other heart defects.

She had her first surgery at 1 month old, which repaired the hole in her heart. At 2 months, she had a metal valve put into her chest. And then a pacemaker.

At 4 months old, her aorta was repaired. And at 3 years old, her narrowed left ventricle, which cut the flow of blood to her heart, was mended. All in all, it’s been 15 procedures and counting.

Under the care of more than a dozen Akron Children’s Hospital physicians like Dr. C.R. Patel in maternal-fetal cardiology and Dr. John Clark in the arrhythmia center, since the day she was born, Katherine has grown into a “normal” kid.

katherine-at-dance-2Although she’s on medication, tires easily and will eventually need more surgeries to keep her heart functioning properly, she’s not letting congenital heart defects stop her from doing the things she loves – dancing, performing on stage, singing and having fun.

Congenital heart defects are the most common type of birth defect, affecting 8 out of every 1,000 newborns, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. Each year, more than 35,000 babies in the U.S. are born with congenital heart defects.

Although congenital heart defects cannot be prevented, most of them can be treated medically or surgically.

A well-spoken, generous and kind-hearted young adult, Katherine always keeps a positive attitude and likes to help others. Her advice to other kids like her who are “different?”

“Turn it into a positive,” she says.

She may be shorter than most kids her age, but she doesn’t mind. “It’s kinda nice, I can go in cupboards!”

And if others tease her about being in the hospital so much, she says, “Hey, I go to the doctor and I get teddy bears – that’s awesome!”

Listen to Katherine’s Radio Spot

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