Local woman brings awareness to heart disease and donor program

Updated: Thursday, February 13 2014, 06:45 PM CST
Local woman brings awareness to heart disease and donor program story image
February is National Heart Month bring awareness to heart disease.

About 3,000 people in the U S  are on the waiting list for a heart transplant.

And only around 2,000 donor hearts are available each year.
  
The wait can vary from days to months.
"According to the Centers for Disease Control every 10 minutes someone is added to the national donor list.
   
And each day, an average of 79 people receive organ transplants.
But 18 people die every day waiting for transplants that can't take place because of the shortage of donated organs."

Keith Free  "It's a realization that you don't have before because you always think it's someone else's child and you try to help other people and you realize one day it's our turn."
   
Keith Free's 22 year old daughter Katlyn is on the donor list waiting for a heart..
"You try not to worry and you try to do what you need to do for your kids."

"You feel like you are waiting for somebody else to die just so you can live and I've really had to put that into perspective whether I need this heart or not God's going to make that person live or die you know, so I've really had to put it in his hands and pray about it a lot."
   
When Katlyn was 13 a sports physical led to the detection of her enlarged heart..
Since then she's had heart issues..

Katlyn Free  "I've had open heart surgery, I've had stitches, I've had pain that I've never experienced, so it's been a rough ride."
   
In December things slowly got worse and she was sent to the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville for further testing.
   
She was admitted on January 5th and then placed on the donor list 5 days later.
But her body couldn't wait on a heart donor...

"I needed the LVAD to survive. I couldn't make it another day without it, so he said the plus side of is is all my other organs can heal, so once I do get the heart transplant it will be that much easier to recover."
   
The LVAD is not a permeant fix she's still in need of a new heart..
"It's basically a big waiting game it's not necessarily if I don't get it or if I do get it's when will I get it."
   
Katlyn's mother Terry has stayed by her side the entire time and they've decided to document Katlyns journey by posting updates and picture to her Facebook page.

"My mom always says you know you can cry about it now, but come back from it as long as you come back from it

Terry Free  "She's my hero."
Katlyn hopes she can inspire at least one person to become an organ donor..

"It's a gift and you're giving somebody the gift of life."
"Becoming a donor is easy, You can sign up at the DMV when you get your drivers license  to learn more log onto our website at weartv.com and click on Newlinks. Or you can click here to go there now.  
http://www.donors1.org/learn2/organs/heart/

Local woman brings awareness to heart disease and donor program
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