Earlville, Iowa

Korri Hoeger of Earlville, Iowa, wasn’t feeling well over the 2009 Labor Day weekend, so Mitzi Hoeger, Korri’s mother, took the teenager to see their family doctor in nearby Manchester.

What began as a routine visit, however, turned serious: Korri’s blood pressure was a sky-high 172/120. Korri was transported by ambulance to University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital, where her medical team determined that she had Wegener’s disease, an autoimmune disorder that causes inflammation of the blood vessels and organs. Korri had hemorrhaging in her lungs, and her kidneys were not functioning properly. It was truly a life-threatening condition.

“We were scared to death,” Mitzi says, “but we also knew that Korri was getting the best care anywhere.”

Korri received immunosuppressive medications to treat her disease, and she began kidney dialysis. By the end of September, she was able to go home, with regular trips to UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital for dialysis. A few weeks later, however, Korri had a serious fungal infection, due to her weakened immune system. She was once again very sick.

Mitzi credits the UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital team in identifying and treating Korri’s infection. “We called the doctors when Korri started not feeling good again,” Mitzi says. “We couldn’t explain what the problem was; Korri said she just didn’t feel right. But they trusted her instincts and urged us to bring Korri back to Iowa City so they could check her out. We’re really glad we did.”

Korri stayed at UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital for the next several weeks. She went home the day before Thanksgiving—a great moment for the Hoeger family.

Korri and her parents travel three times a week to UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital for dialysis. It’s about 160 miles round-trip, but an alternative option is in the works. Korri became the first UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital patient to receive dialysis at home. This will make things easier for Mitzi and Russ, Korri’s father, and allow Korri to return to a more normal schedule.

By the time she’s a high-school senior and fully recovered from her infection, Korri will be good candidate for a kidney transplant. In the meantime, she’s excited about the possibility of home dialysis, going to school every day, and spending time with friends.

Through it all, Korri remains positive. When asked what she told herself during her hospitalization, Korri doesn’t hesitate. “That I was going to make it through and everything was going to be OK,” she says. “I just wanted to be home by Christmas, and I got home by Thanksgiving, so that was exciting.”
As her mom says, “She’s a strong kid.” Mitzi and Russ stress that words cannot express the appreciation they feel toward the doctors, nurses, and staff members at UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital.

“I like to use the word ‘amazing,’” Mitzi says. “They will do anything to help you, and all they want is to get kids well and back to normal…that’s their goal, and they do a wonderful job.”


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