Whitby teen to compete in World Transplant Olympics

WHITBY — It’s been only a year since Katie Sutherland lay in a hospital bed clinging to life, but the Whitby teen is getting ready to compete in an international sports competition.

Katie, 16, underwent a double lung transplant last year and since then has been building her strength back up to take part in the World Transplant Olympics being held in Australia this summer.

“Some people think that once you have an (organ transplant), you might just be in bed or not doing anything but we’re trying to show that organ donation actually works so people are aware of that,” said Katie, who is an avid soccer player.

Katie was diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension, a rare lung disorder that constricts veins and arteries in the lungs and forces the heart to work harder than usual to pump blood to the lungs.

Surgeons at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children fought to save her life in a three-hour emergency operation that involved attaching Katie’s heart to an external artificial lung that kept her alive for 30 days until a double lung transplant could be performed.

The World Transplant Games promote the high levels of health and vitality that can be achieved after transplantation. Starting out with only about 100 competitors back when the Games were established more than 30 years ago, the event now draws up to 3,000 participants from up to 70 countries.

To support Katie’s participation in the Games, where she’ll be competing in the 100-metre track, ping pong, badminton and other categories, staff at Valentino’s Hair Salon in Whitby are rallying around the teen to raise money to send her to Australia.

“We do fundraisers all year round but we usually pick one big one so this year we decided to support Katie,” salon manager Teresa Abbatangelo said.

“She is one of our own clients and she has quite a great demeanor after what she’s been through while continuing to do very well in school so we wanted to help out.”

Valentino’s will host a cut-a-thon at Katie’s school, Sinclair Secondary at 380 Taunton Rd. E. in Whitby, offering students, faculty and all members of the public haircuts for $20 each.

Fundraising efforts have already helped Katie raise just over half her goal of $9,000 but she hopes to see even more success with the assistance of the community.

To book an appointment for the cut-a-thon, taking place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Wednesday, June 3, call Sinclair Secondary School at 905-666-5400.

To make a donation toward Katie’s fundraising efforts to join Team SickKids in the competition, visit her donor page for more details.

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