Race honors woman, informs about organ donation

Runners and walkers will remember Katie McBurnett in an annual 5-kilometer race designed to raise awareness about organ donation.

The Katie McBurnett 5K will be at 9 a.m. May 7 at Mill Race Park, with registration opening at 8 a.m. Cost to register is $20 per person.

The race is in memory of McBurnett, who received a lifesaving heart transplant March 29, 2007, after being on the transplant list for only a little over two months, said Lindsey Christy, who was one of McBurnett’s best friends and is helping organize the event.

Christy and McBurnett became friends after McBurnett’s family moved to Columbus in 2005 and met in seventh grade at Northside Middle School.

When McBurnett was a freshman at Columbus North, at age 15, she started feeling ill during Christmas break and was taken to the doctor, Christy said. The doctor took a chest X-ray and found that McBurnett’s heart was enlarged to four times its normal size, Christy said. She was then transferred to Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis.

Doctors there determined that a common cold virus had attacked her heart, causing viral cardiomyopathy, Christy said. In January, 2007, doctors there implanted a heart pump to help her heart work more efficiently, as it was at only about 10 percent of capacity when she was diagnosed, Christy said. Just a few months later, she learned a donor heart was available and had the transplant.

McBurnett graduated from high school and attended college in Hanover, but began experiencing rejection of the transplanted heart. She lived five and a half years with her new heart before she died on Sept. 18, 2012.

Since McBurnett’s death, her family and friends have set up the Katie’s Wish Foundation, which is working to provide a scholarship for a student who has received an organ transplant, Christy said. The foundation hopes to award one $500 scholarship to a student who has also worked to increase organ donation awareness and shares his or her personal future goals on the scholarship application.

Christy and another close friend of McBurnett’s, Kim McDaniel, approached the McBurnett family with the idea of creating an event in memory of their friend and to raise awareness about organ donation.

The Katie’s Wish Foundation is the new name for the organization this year, replacing the former Remember Katie Donate Life name that had been used previously, Christy said.

In addition to promoting organ donation and sharing McBurnett’s story, the 5K run and walk is also raising money to help purchase Cough Buddy bears for patients in area hospitals. The Cough Buddy bears are specially-designed post-operative pillows with a firm, yet flexible back that serves a splint for a patient’s incision.

The bears were created to help patients cough and deep breathe after open heart, chest, abdominal or bariatric surgery. The Cough Buddy bears help patients avoid respiratory problems such as pneumonia.

Just before the 5K race begins, the McBurnett family will bring Katie’s truck, which they still have, to Mill Race Park, and organizers will stand in the truck bed to talk about Katie and the organ donation process.

“We talk about her journey and about organ donation itself,” Christy said.

Last year’s event attracted 115 people, and Christy said she hopes this one can have at least 150 people walking in McBurnett’s memory and to help other patients.

How to register

The Katie McBurnett 5K registration form is online at katiemcburnett5k.racewire.com. Cost is $20 per person.

Where Cough Buddy bears are donated

The Cough Buddy bears provided through the Katie McBurnett 5K are donated to:

  • Columbus Regional Hospital
  • Riley Hospital for Children, Indianapolis
  • Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital, Indianapolis
  • Kings Daughters Hospital, Madison
  • Kosair Children’s Hospital, Louisville, Kentucky

Where to learn more

Visit katieswish.com/ for registration information and more information about Katie McBurnett and efforts to raise money for the scholarship in her memory.

Author photo
Julie McClure is assistant managing editor of The Republic. She can be reached at jmcclure@therepublic.com or (812) 379-5631.