BY NANCY GAGNET | MIRROR REPORTER — Katherine Williams loves to dance.
The Maumee High School freshman recently made the high school dance team and enjoys leaps, jumps, kicks and turns to choreographed music.
“It’s a lot of fun to just hang out with the team and dance in front of a crowd,” said Katherine.
She is also an avid spokesperson for the American Heart Association, presenting information and sharing her story with her peers as well as adults at school and community events.
Katherine was born with a congenital heart defect and underwent three heart surgeries before she was 16 months old. She underwent her fourth open-heart surgery in 2018, when she was in the seventh grade.
For her work in speaking on behalf of the American Heart Association, Katherine recently received the organization’s National Youth Leadership Award.
Tracy Ulrich-Shepard, the youth market director with the American Heart Association, said that Katherine is one of three students in the country to earn the award.
“The highlight of my whole career has been meeting Katherine,” Ulrich-Shepard said.
The money raised through the American Heart Association supports the research needed to help individuals with heart conditions live longer, Ulrich-Shepard explained.
“So, a lot of the research we have done has been used to help people like Katherine,” she said.
Dr. Edward Bove and Dr. Jennifer Christel Romano performed Katherine’s surgeries at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. After one of the surgeries in 2007, her parents, Dan and Ann Williams, were told that when Katherine’s next surgery would be needed, the technology would be more advanced and it could be done through a heart catheter. Nine years later, when her next surgery was needed, Katherine was physically bigger and she ended up undergoing an open-heart procedure, but Ann said that the technology had advanced to the level doctors had predicted.
“It was almost eerie,” said Ann. “There we were in 2018 and sure enough, the doctor was spot-on. They had the technology to do what they would have needed to do through a catheter.”
The Williams family, and Katherine will continue to support the American Heart Association, and eventually, Katherine will have to undergo another procedure. In the meantime, she will continue dancing and doing other activities that typical teenagers enjoy.
To her parents, Katherine continues to be a shining example of what can be, thanks to advances in modern medicine, dedicated medical practitioners and organizations like the American Heart Association.
“We didn’t know when she was first born how she would be, and now we see her as a pillar of hope for other families who have little ones,” said Ann. “She’s older and look how far she is coming. To me, I see her as a sign of hope and she has a nice platform to speak to people.”