Katherine Alderfer is 16 years old and from Winona Lake, Indiana. She has a twin sister, Caroline, and she has been a Riley kid since she was age 4.
When she was younger, she started having some serious and unexplained health issues. Eventually, she got to the point where she could not get up the stairs in her house. Katherine was choking on food and had developed severe rashes.
Finally, she was sent to Riley where she was diagnosed with a rare disease called Juvenile Dermatomyositis.
The disease is so rare that it affects only 3 out of a million children and there is no cure. Katherine was admitted to the hospital just days after her 4th birthday. It was a super scary time for her, her sister and family. She immediately was started on IV chemotherapy, immunotherapies, steroids and other medications right away. Life changed in an instant.
She went through some really difficult body changes with being on steroids. Her weight doubled and her face was puffy. The medications, and the disease, took a toll on her body and she spent time undergoing rehabilitation after complications of spine fractures that put her in a wheelchair.
Katherine’s childhood was filled with hospital visits, infusions, medications and being “different”. She was lucky to have her sister as the best cheerleader and she was lucky to have wonderful doctors and nurses at Riley Hospital.
Riley has an amazing pediatric Rheumatology department and they worked hard to save Katherine’s life and to help her achieve some normalcy along the way. In 2019 and 2020, Katherine was named a Riley Champion and she has worked hard to talk to people around the state to advocate for Riley kids like her. She and her family have raised money for the hospital programs and are especially fond of the Art Therapy programs which helped her so much. She is thankful for the amazing nurses and doctor and all of the other people who helped to care for her.