Straight from the HEART
Patti Sells | News-Telegram Feature Editor

While Katlin Collins, 17, awaits a cardiac transplant, members of her church are taking time to help her family

May 28, 2006 -- The Tuesday Morning Group of Our Savior Lutheran Church, 1000 Texas St., has put their hearts into creating an “It’s My Heart” auction quilt that will help raise money for a young church member currently awaiting a heart transplant in Houston.

Katlin Collins is the 17-year-old daughter of Paul and Cheryl Norton, and a sophomore at Sulphur Springs High School. She and her family have been members of Our Savior Lutheran Church for the past three years.

Tuesday Morning members have been meeting each week for the past month to make the special red and white queen-sized quilt decorated with heart-shaped designs. The group usually make relief quilts that are shipped all over the world through the Lutheran World Relief Organization, but, decided to make a quilt that would benefit someone a little closer to home.

“She’s a real sweet girl,” said Cecelia Anderson, one of the Tuesday Morning members. “This is a very emotional time for them. They’re under so much stress, and we just wanted to do something to help.” 

"It makes me feel great that they would do something like this for me," said Katlin. “They have been very understanding and praying for us and sending cards each week. But they really stepped outside their daily lives to take time out to do something like this for me.”

Katlin was diagnosed in January of 2004 with restrictive hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a complex cardiac disease marked by thickening of the heart muscle, which often causes shortness of breath, exercise intolerance, chest pressure or pain and fainting. The condition is progressive, and could, at any time, lead to heart failure.

"We met with a surgeon last week who gave her about a 50 percent chance of one more year with this heart," Cheryl explained, which is why Katlin has to be within an hour's distance of Texas Children's Hospital in Houston, ranked as one of the best in the nation for cardiac care, especially when it involves cardiomyopathy.

Mother and daughter have been living in the Houston home of Katlin’s grandparents since January waiting for the phone call that could save her life. 

"The waiting has been horrible, a real test of patience,” Katlin said. “And it's hard being separated from family and friends and uprooted like this."

The Nortons feel blessed and thankful that Medicaid is providing for Katlin’s medical needs, but are struggling in other financial areas. Cheryl does not work in order to provide her daughter with around-the-clock care, while her husband, Paul, a full-time student in his last year studying computer management at Texas A&M University-Commerce, remains in Sulphur Springs with her 15-year-old son, Patrick, who himself was diagnosed with the congenital heart disease shortly after his sister’s diagnosis. His, at this point, is not progressing quickly.

“The hard part right now is just day-to-day expenses,” she said. “Food, gas, no extras."

And it’s hard to continually say “No” to things with someone in this condition, according to Cheryl.

Car problems have been a major obstacle for the family, as well.  According to Cheryl, Paul’s car is “forever breaking down” and can’t be depended on locally, much less in making trips to Houston.

“It’s difficult. But she’s a real trooper,” said Cheryl, who added the ordeal has been an affirmation of faith in both a higher power and other people.

“I’ve come to understand, no matter how much I want to yell at God, He is in control," she said. “I told him early on that the only way I could do this was if he walked hand in hand with me through it. And he has. My faith is stronger. My patience has grown. And, I’ve seen how incredibly loving, good and caring people can be — just like doing something like this quilt.”

The  “It’s My Heart” quilt will be auctioned at a Houston fashion show this fall, hosted by Katlin’s cousin, who is a designer of women’s lingerie. More information on how to make bids for the quilt will follow.

In the meantime, cards and letters are of great inspiration, according to Cheryl, and may be sent to 12314 Springcrest Drive, Houston, TX 77072. Or, by logging on to www.carepages.com, guests can send emails or get updates on her daughter's condition by clicking VISIT A CARE PAGE and entering katlinmarie as her email address. 

For more information or to make a donation, call Our Savior Lutheran Church at 903-885-5787.

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