Hudson student finds a way to give backKatelyn Baier is not your ordinary teenager. After undergoing three major surgeries and countless other medical procedures since her diagnosis with Crohn’s disease in 2008, she founded Blankets for a Brighter Day.
By: Margaret Ontl, Hudson Star-Observer
Katelyn Baier is not your ordinary teenager. After undergoing three major surgeries and countless other medical procedures since her diagnosis with Crohn’s disease in 2008, she founded Blankets for a Brighter Day. Katelyn was in eighth grade at St. Patrick School when her family noticed that something was off.
“She was very fragile,” said Teresa Baier, Katelyn’s mom. “You could tell there was a problem.” In August she began to run a fever and suffer severe stomach pain. Soon a diagnosis was made.
“They believe I may have had Crohn’s for a year or two before it was diagnosed,” said Katelyn. Diagnosis was just the start of her journey which continues today. In the early days she seemed to respond to treatment but while she was on a student trip to Ely, Minn., her extreme stomach pain returned. She went directly to Minneapolis Children’s Hospital where she spent ten days. Follow-up treatment did not work so in December of 2008 Katelyn underwent her first surgery.
“Once you have a resection you have to be wary of complications,” said Teresa.
“From that point on I was basically in pain,” said Katelyn, who from January of 2009 to February of 2010 underwent multiple hospital stays and another surgery at Abbott Northwestern. Four more weeks of pain after the second surgery and Katelyn was referred to the Cleveland Clinic. A third surgery, countless procedures and an allergic reaction to an infusion all made life a little challenging for Katelyn and her family as the months and years rolled by.
During a particularly difficult procedure, Katelyn received a tie blanket while at the Cleveland Clinic.
“It helped me get through the procedure,” said Katelyn. “It impacted how I reacted and I thought it was cool that they selected one for me with soccer balls on it.”
The Child Life Department at Minneapolis Children’s works to make every child’s health care experience a positive one.
“I had interacted with Child Life many times while at the hospital and I wanted to give back,” said Katelyn, who inquired if they had a blanket program like the Cleveland Clinic. They did not, so the compassionate teenager started to work on a way to give back.
In April of 2011, Katelyn and her sister Shannon created Blankets for a Brighter Day. Shannon also designed the logo. To date they have donated 260 blankets to Minneapolis Children’s Hospital. This month, they will be taking over fifty more made by the Hudson High School students.
Most people donate money, which the Baiers use to purchase fabric. Various groups then assemble the blankets. Fabric donations are also accepted. It takes three yards to make a tie blanket. Area churches have donated blankets as well.
“We have been grateful for their support,” said Katelyn, who hopes to keep the Crohn’s disease in check, while she continues to work to brighten other patients’ days.
“I see us growing and perhaps expanding to other communities,” said Katelyn, who recently found out that someone in Montana heard about Blankets for a Brighter Day. They are going to start a “branch” and deliver them to their local children’s hospital.
In the meantime, the need is real and so is the comfort a cheerful, soft blanket can give a frightened child.
“As fast as we can make them they use them,” said Teresa, of the blankets.
“It has been really cool to hear the feedback from the nurses and pediatric department,” said Katelyn.
“One of the things we realized is that we have received so much more that we have given,” said Teresa.
The blankets are distributed in the radiation department, pre-op and on the floor.
For more information, to volunteer or donate go to Katelyn’s website at www.blanketsforabrighterday.org.
Katelyn is also on the children’s advisory board at Minneapolis/ St. Paul Children’s Hospital.
Katelyn is the daughter of Teresa and Kevin Baier.