‘An awesome miracle’
Church spearheads fund-raising project for family of teen who had heart transplant
Patti Sells | News-Telegram Feature Editor

Katlin and her mother are still living in the Houston home of Katlin's grandparents after her heart transplant, but her homecoming date has been moved up from Christmas to October.

Sept. 1, 2006 -- A sign project is under way to help the family of Katlin Collins Nortin, the 17-year-old daughter of Paul and Cheryl Nortin, who received a heart transplant in June at Texas Children's Hospital in Houston.

"I am feeling good now," said Katlin, who was diagnosed with restrictive hypertrophic cardiomyopathy in January of 2004. "I would like to thank everyone for their cards and messages of hope and prayers."

Katlin and her mother remain living in the Houston home of Katlin's grandparents during an isolation period that can be anywhere from three to five months, depending on the success of her recovery, which thus far has been excellent, according to her step-father.

Paul said Katlin was taken off the heart machines and monitors two days earlier than expected, and weekly monitoring and heart catherizations have gone well, also. Katlin's latest remarkable feat is that she is now able to climb the stairs in her grandparents home.

According to Cheryl, the prognosis a couple of months ago was that Katlin would possibly be back at her Sulphur Springs home by the end of the year -- hopefully by Christmas. Due to her remarkable recovery, however, the Nortins are now being told that Christmas may come early, as Katlin's homecoming date has been moved up to October.

"It's been a long haul, but God has gotten us through it this far," said Cheryl. "It's been difficult with the family divided between Sulphur Springs and Houston."

"If the wonderful people from the community and our church hadn't helped us, we would not have been able to meet expenses," said Paul, who has his own business inspecting vacant houses for banks and mortgage companies, and is a full-time student at Texas A&M University-Commerce. "As it is, we have had to borrow a considerable amount of money."

The Nortin family has incurred a great deal of expense during this arduous time, according to the family's pastor, the Rev. Mac Bearss of Our Savior Lutheran Church.

"This wonderful community in which we live is a loving , caring bunch of folks," he said. "I remember, when I first came to town about five years ago, seeing signs in front of homes and businesses with people's names on them. I wondered what that was all about and soon found out  they were community fund raising projects for needy people with various critical health problems."

Our Savior Lutheran Church has spearheaded the project for one of their own, he said. Heart-shaped signs in Katlin's favorite shade of blue are available for a $20 donation, according to committee chairman Gordon Lee.

"I know what it's like going through this kind of thing," he said. "We lost our son a few years ago with the same heart disease that Katlin had."

 Restrictive hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is 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 can lead to heart failure.

Katlin and her mother left for Houston just after the first of the year to live in the home of her grandparents in order to be closer to the hospital and await the phone call that would save her life. Doctors were giving her a 50 percent chance of one more year with the heart she had, which is why it was necessary for her to be within an hour's distance of Texas Children's Hospital, ranked one of the best in the nation for cardiac care, especially when it involves cardiomyopathy.

According to Katlin, she and her family still need the community's continued support.

"A heart transplant is only the first of a long set of trials and tribulations that I must overcome," she said. "And I can't do it alone."

Anyone who would like to get a sign and help the Nortin family can call the church so arrangements can be made for pick up or delivery.

"Katlin has been saturated with prayer from the beginning, and God has really taken care of things beyond all expectations," said Rev. Bearss. "It's been a God thing -- an awesome miracle."

For more information, call 903-885-5787.

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