Kali Garman

In Their Words

Serena Reemtsma
Algona, Iowa

"On June 24, 2015, my daughter, Kali was transferred from a hospital in Des Moines after a dirt bike/SUV accident she was involved in on June 17, 2015. Kali suffered a traumatic dirt bike injury that resulted in a below-the-knee amputation. She has undergone 13 surgeries, 11 of them at UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital. It was her sixth surgery that resulted in the amputation.

When we arrived at UI we were met in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) with a huge team of doctors and nurses. I remember feeling overwhelmed but then Dr. Keith and Dr. Willey pulled me aside and consoled me. They told me they would fight for Kali. They understood how devastating it would be for a 15-year-old girl to lose her leg. They assured me they would do everything they could to prevent this.

And then I remember the day that changed our lives forever. The day they stopped surgery early and called me to her room to meet with Dr. Keith and Dr. Willey. They told me they were going to have to amputate. We figured deep down this was coming. They were so kind and understanding. They were sorry and said this was not what they had hoped for. They agreed to come and talk to Kali themselves, and they did so, again amazing me with their gentle manner and genuinely caring attitude.

Kali spent 28 days at UI her first stay, most of those in the PICU. Unfortunately she had five additional hospital stays there, some for surgeries and some for complications. The PICU staff treated Kali like family. They brought Kali her favorite foods trying to entice her to eat, they brought her books from home, and gifts from the gift shop. They joked with her, they cried with her. She always looked forward to seeing them. In fact, when she moved off of the PICU, she went back as often as possible to see them, and they visited her as well on their days off, after their long shifts, and during breaks.

They advocated for her—ensuring her pain was managed, and she was treated well by other departments (hyperbarics, radiology, etc). The nurses would tell me stories about radio talk shows that would come on on their way to work reminding them of Kali and what an inspiration she is and how strong her faith is. They would tell me how proud they were of her. Her days on 2JCP were a little less hectic, but she looked forward to seeing Taryn Mahaffey, one of the nurses. In fact she would try to bribe the off-going nurses to have Taryn assigned to her. She ‘got’ Kali. She knew just how to deal with her, and she always made the days brighter.

Jim Porter, the social worker, did amazing things for Kali, from making referrals for us and helping with financial assistance to working after hours to get things in place for her to be discharged. He never forgot us and would drop in to say hello when she was there for outpatient visits. Kali made 20+ visits to the Peds Specialty Clinic for conscious sedation for dressing changes. These were long trips for us and long days, but Cathy Smith and Lindsay DeMoss, two of the nurses, quickly became two of Kali's favorites in the hospital. They too advocated for Kali, ensuring she was comfortable prior to procedures. On days I was tired from travel they would tell me, ‘Don't worry we will take care of Kali; we are her nurse moms.’

On one occasion, Kali came through the Emergency Department with a pretty severe infection and she was taken care of by Ben Darling. Again, a huge advocate for Kali. His bedside manner was top-notch. He told Kali she was amazing, and he would never forget her. He came up and visited her on the floor on more than one occasion. These medical people were more than just medical staff to us. They were/are angels sent to make a difference and lasting impression on Kali—and that they did. And the best thing I can say about these people is that they don't just do their jobs. They excel at them. They put their heart and souls into their work, and it shows. I could go on and on about the kindness we felt during our times/visits at UI.

There is no better place to receive medical care. I cannot put a limit on the miles I would travel to have my family treated at U of I. In fact, during one hospitalization, I drove Kali from a hospital in Minneapolis, Minnesota, to Iowa City in the middle of the night. The entire medical staff from the CNAs to the housekeepers, from the nurses to the doctors, and on and on, are thorough, kind, and patient. We were treated like family during our stay and visits. The staff ALWAYS went above and beyond. They made an awful situation a hopeful one each and every day we were there. We made some lifelong friends that I will be forever grateful for."

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