Cathy Stalinski is the mother of an infant organ transplant recipient and a fervent advocate for Gift of Hope and organ and tissue donation. When her baby daughter Kateri was barely three months old, Cathy and her family started on that long journey familiar to so many families waiting for organ transplants.
This “road trip,” as Cathy calls it, started with tests and Kateri’s first surgery. “It gave us some time, but we soon realized her liver was still failing,” Cathy said. She and her husband did their research and learned that the liver can regenerate. “So a person can give a part of their liver, and it will regrow in both people.” Cathy was a blood match and ready to undergo the needed evaluation — “ready to do anything to save my baby,” she said.
But hopes were shattered when she learned Kateri was not a candidate for a living donor. “The waiting list now was the only chance of life for our daughter,” Cathy said. “My heart was filled with sorrow as I read that 18 people die every day waiting for the gift of life,” Cathy remembered. “Fearing that someone would be our baby chilled us to the bone.”
Cathy and her family knew that the only way to save Kateri’s life was through the selfless gift of an organ donor. The wait seemed endless, but one day they had an organ offer. “My feelings were everywhere,” Cathy explained. “Overjoyed for my baby, heartbroken for the other family’s loss, humbled knowing others were still waiting, anxious for the coming surgery, at peace that Kateri was in God’s hands.”
Cathy said that they were blessed that someone made the choice to give Kateri new life. “It changed the course of our journey — with life given instead of just tragedy for two families,” she said. “The compassion of an organ donor and the family is beyond any other love in human capacity.”
Since the transplant surgery, Kateri has been thriving. She is home with her family, dancing and playing with her brothers. Cathy said that now the family can plan for a different kind of road trip, a trip where there are no hospital waiting rooms and the stakes aren’t so high. “It’s a road trip where we have the open road in front of us and three healthy children singing silly songs. And no one is thinking about anything other than fun.”