Lesson in crafting gave heart transplant patient new lease on life

MINNEAPOLIS — A west metro nurse has a new profession, a new passion, and a new story to tell. While on the brink of death, a lesson in crafting helped keep her alive.

The Mayo Clinic is known as the best hospital in the U.S., but the people inside are often experiencing the worst of times, like Katie White, a nurse turned patient.

“The doctor came in and said this heart has gotten you as far as its gonna go,” she said.

The newlywed’s lifelong heart condition was now so critical, she was living at Mayo Clinic. As stressful as it was on her heart, it was also wearing down her soul. She had to focus.

“Honestly my nurses, my doctors were so amazing, they saved me because they didn’t let me give up. They were like, ‘If you give up, you will die,’ and I know that that’s right,” she said.

As she tried to focus she was allowed a visitor who would change her life — Robin, with Mayo’s Art at the Bedside program.

“I hadn’t done any art since high school. And then she said, ‘I think you might like this polymer clay.’ And then she brought it to me and I just loved it.  All I could think about is I want to work on my earrings, I want to work on my earrings,” White said.

Ultimately, it gave her that will to live.

“It literally saved me, because I had something to look forward to, I had a purpose, and when you are waiting for a heart you have you no idea how long, or if you’re not gonna get a heart and you are going to die, ’cause that’s the reality,” White said.

But her reality was life. She got the call, and she got a heart.

And now she’s also got a thriving new business, selling her clay earrings at boutiques around Minnesota and Wisconsin. Katie White Designs are sold at the General Store in Minnetonka and La Rose and Company in Chanhassen, Scandihoo in Stockholm, Wisconsin and The Big Lake in Grand Marais. She also sells online.

And a transplant doctor was so moved by White’s story, they’ll now be selling her earrings at the Mayo Clinic gift shop.

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