"Miracles Happen at Riley": Katelyn's NICU Story

Katelyn Petts
Our daughter, Katelyn Petts


Katelyn arrived at Riley after spending a week in the NICU at another hospital. Katelyn was a full-term baby but had been unexpectedly battling lung disease for a week following birth and it was getting harder to keep her stabilized. She was being transferred to Riley to possibly be put on ECMO (infant life support) and no one was sure whether she would make it through the transport to Riley.

The first couple of days at Riley were hectic as doctors tried to get a handle on her illness. She had lots of tests, but doctors could not figure out what was making her so sick. Dr. Diane Lorant gave Katelyn a cystic fibrosis drug to see if it would help. Dr. Lorant encouraged us from the beginning to believe in miracles. After two days at Riley, the miracle began; Katelyn started to stabilize longer than she ever had before. Many of the staff thought that she was improving clinically and encouraged us to believe the impossible: that our daughter would get better.


Throughout the next couple of weeks, Katelyn was able to wean off the ventilator and oxygen support. Mary Lynn Foster, RN, and respiratory therapist Donna Walker pushed to get her off of supports more quickly, allowing us to hold our daughter for the first time when she was 16 days old. After three weeks at Riley, Katelyn had only one major hurdle to overcome: drug dependency. She was given high doses of morphine and sedatives to survive and had to overcome withdrawal symptoms.


One day was especially bad; she cried all day and numerous people  tried to get her calm. In the late afternoon, Child Life Specialist Angela Brennecke came to our room and told us we needed to leave for the night – things were too stressful and we needed a break. She presented us with Indiana Pacers NBA playoff tickets and we were able to escape for a few hours and watch a Pacers win over the Miami Heat. It was a memorable night, especially because the NPs and nurses got our daughter to sleep without drugs and she has been drug-free ever since.


While Katelyn was in the hospital, we stayed at the Ronald McDonald House and had to live apart from our 18-month-old son, Colin, most of the time. Music therapist Ann Hannan provided us with books and songs to share with him, including one of Colin’s now all-time favorite songs: Rocket Ship Run. This support really helped us to stay connected as a family even though we had to live apart.


After 30 days in the hospital, Katelyn was released, completely off oxygen and feeding from a bottle. No one expected or can explain that. Katelyn’s smile and laugh warms our heart every day. Every happy moment we get to spend with our daughter, we attribute to the quality care we all received at Riley. Not only did they work a miracle healing our daughter, they healed our hearts through an extremely difficult time in our life and taught us to hope and look toward the future.

We are true believers in the idea that miracles happen at Riley. Our beautiful daughter is living proof of that.

Riley Blogger

The Riley Blog is written and/or edited by members of the Riley Children's Foundation Communications Staff.

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