Following Her Heart
Kelsey Bland received an emergency heart transplant when she was 13. Since then, she’s had family, friends, teachers and church members looking out for her. But at 18, it was time for her to head off on her own.
Kris Foster of Dale, left, kissed her daughter Kelseyas the two sat together in the waiting area of the Transplant Center of the Jewish Hospital in Louisville while Kelsey waited to see her doctor. The two have grown accustomed to long waits before doctor visits in the last five years since Kelsey received a heart transplant at the age of 13. "We are notorious for sleeping in the waiting room," Kris said. "We are used to wait, wait, wait."
One of Kelsey's heart-shaped pendants dangled near the transplant scar, which extends to the bottom of her ribcage.
During a visit with her heart doctor at the Jewish Hospital in Louisville with her mother, Kris, right, Kelsey told the doctor she was feeling lightheaded so the doctor took her blood pressure while she was laying down, sitting and standing. The doctor's visit was a follow up to a biopsy she had performed on her a week early. Kelsey has an annual biopsy to test for rejection of the heart.
The list of pills Kelsey takes twice-daily is long: three pills to help prevent the heart from being rejected, one pill for high cholesterol, one for nerve damage, one for high blood pressure, and "One to keep her from getting every infection in the world," Kris said while Kelsey sorted her pills.
A side effect to the various medications that Kelsey takes is that she often feels sick and has to stay home from school. Kris, who comforted her daughter after coming home from a half day at work in their Dale home, said that it makes her nervous whenever Kelsey is sick and she feels she needs to keep a close eye on Kelsey to watch for any signs of her body rejecting the new heart.
While classmates played a version of soccer called "line soccer" on the gymnasium floor at Heritage Hills High School, Kelsey walked laps by herself around the balcony during physical education class. Since she was not allowed to do vigorous activity, Kelsey was not able to take the class her freshman year but was still required to take it to graduate and did so her senior year. Kelsey is still unable to do much vigorous activity so she would often walk during class or asked to write a paper.
Lacey Stepro of Chrisney, left, played with Kelsey's tassle of her graduation cap as they waited with their classmates of the 2010 graduating class from Heritage Hills High School for a group photograph. Despite all the school she missed around the time of the transplant and the days since then that she was sick, Kelsey managed to stay on track with schoolwork and graduate on time.
Heritage Hills High School seniors Seth Stallman, left, Taylor Huffman, third from left, and Jade Albin surrounded Kelsey with bubbles during Kelsey's "Heart Day" party. Each year since Kelsey has received the heart transplant, Kelsey along with her family and friends have celebrated the anniversary with a special party. This year the anniversary party and her graduation party were combined into one celebration.
Members of the Dale United Methodist Church laid their hands on Kelsey and two other Heritage High School graduates during the "Graduation Sunday" service. "She didn't have anything written down under accomplishments, but I think her biggest accomplishment is just being her," Tammy Medcalf of Dale said to the congregation about Kelsey. Kris said during the trying times the family faced around the time of the transplant, the church congregation supported the family with a prayer vigil and prayer chain.
Kelsey and her mother, Kris, packed up Kelsey’s room as she prepared to move to the University of Southern Indiana the following day.