(SALEM) - When Stephanie Scifres of Salem learned of 13-year-old Katie Morris' very serious heart condition, restrictive cardiomyopathy, she was stunned.
"My chin hit the floor," said Scifres, who attends church with the Morris family at Salem Presbyterian. "I was so shocked. This happens 'to other people.'"
Stephanie Taylor Ferriell, of the Leader-Democrat reports, Katie was, by all appearances, a healthy young teen. She began experiencing some unusual symptoms, including passing out, and was diagnosed during the holiday season.
Restrictive cardiomyopathy is a rare, progressive disease. While the symptoms can be treated, there is no cure. A heart transplant is the only option.
After Katie's parents, Chris and Chris Morris, shared the devastating news with the congregation, Scifres said, "I felt like I had been kicked in the stomach for several days until I could process the information. She is such a great young lady. She is nice, friendly, everyone likes her and cares about her and her family at church. When young children attend, they all seem to gravitate to Katie. The smile on her face just warms my heart."
Scifres decided she had to do something to help. She has worked with Papa John's Pizza, which will hold a benefit for the family Wednesday, March 6.
The expenses associated with such a serious operation are astounding and not all of them are covered by medical insurance. A few weeks ago, the family received a call that a heart had been located and they started the trip to Cincinnati, where Katie will have surgery. That, however, did not work out and Katie remains on the organ donation waiting list.
Scifres hopes the community will rally around the family and help them in any way they're able. She also wants to raise awareness of the importance of organ donation.
"I have always believed in it," she said. "My mother [the late Jinny Scifres] was a nurse and it was very important to her and she passed it on to the rest of us.
"As an employee of the Washington County license branch years ago, I was to ask everyone as they renewed/received their driver's license if they wanted to be a donor. I suppose it might be a little more important to me now because of Katie, but I have always been a supporter of organ donation."
While registering as an organ donor when one renew's his or her license is important, Scifres said it's not the only thing potential donors should do.
"It is something a person should think seriously about and talk to their family about so everyone knows what a person wants. Putting it on your driver's license isn't enough. If you are in an accident, your license might get lost. It could end up somewhere where it can't be found, so your family needs to know so they can make sure a person's wishes are followed."
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