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Friends and family of Katie McBurnett raised $3,200 during an inaugural walking event in her memory.
McBurnett, a 2010 Columbus North High School graduate, died Sept. 18, 2012, at age 21 from complications of a heart transplant. She had lived more than five years with the heart she received in 2007.
Money from the Sept. 14 Katie McBurnett 5K Walk in Madison will be used to help children and teens recovering from heart surgeries at Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health in Indianapolis, where McBurnett had been a patient.
McBurnett’s parents, Mike and Judy McBurnett of Columbus, will purchase Cough Buddy stuffed animals, designed to help ease the pain associated with coughing or deep breathing.
The over-stuffed plush animals have firm yet flexible backs and can be held tightly while children cough, which is necessary to help keep the lungs clear after surgery, said Amanda Baker, a nurse in Riley’s heart center.
“After heart surgery, they have a higher risk of getting fluid in their lungs, so it’s good for them to cough,” Baker said, adding that children sometimes try to suppress the painful coughs.
Having the Cough Buddy animals gives them something to hold on to and make the process a little easier, Baker said.
Lindsey Thompson, a friend of Katie McBurnett and one of the walk organizers, said the event raised enough money to buy 215 Cough Buddy animals for Riley.
The plush animals used to be given to children who were heart patients at Riley, but the practice was stopped because funds were redirected to another area, Baker said.
Baker remembers Katie McBurnett from when she was a patient at Riley and how she always cared about others around her no matter what she was going through herself.
“She was a very sweet girl,” Baker said. “She always had a bright smile on her face.”
The nurse said typically she sees four to five children a week who have heart surgeries and their average stay is seven days.
Since 1989, when the first pediatric heart transplant was performed at Riley, 130 more have taken place. The youngest patient was 4 days old.
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