Katie Kramer

Christmas time brings a story of three wise men coming from far away for a child’s benefit. Something like that happened to Eva Kramer last December when she was in the most terrifying moment of her life, fearing her daughter would die.

She and her husband were told that extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, or ECMO, was needed because their daughter could not breathe. This terrified the Kramers because only a year ago doctors from the neonatal intensive care unit told her ECMO was not right for her.

The couple was crying, anguished about what to do when three NICU doctors suddenly showed up.

“We were crying to them, ‘They want to do ECMO, and last year you said ECMO was not the right thing for her.’ And they said, ‘Don’t think of last year, think of this year. It’s a different sickness. Do it. It’s going to be great for her.’ ” Ms. Kramer said. “I felt like God sent these people who we were so close with to our door to help us make that decision.”

They gave permission for ECMO – and it worked.

Katie was born in 2015 with chronic lung disease. She was in a NICU at a Dallas hospital for the first eight months of her life while her twin sister was healthy at home.

She came home in February 2016, and her parents started weaning her off the ventilator in October. By December she was off the ventilator twice a day for two hours. Then her oxygen levels suddenly plummeted.

“I thought she was going to die. She got so sick so fast. She required three to four liters of oxygen, which is really rare,” Ms. Kramer said. “I thought, ‘There’s no way we can take her to the hospital ourselves. We have to call for help.’ ”

An ambulance rushed Katie to Children’s Medical Center in Plano. She tested positive for respiratory syncytial virus, known as RSV. Her condition was so serious she had to be transported to Children’s in Dallas a few days later. Her airway collapsed, and doctors shocked the Kramers with the news that ECMO was the last resort.

Thankfully, it worked, but then the family had to wait to see how Katie would be when she came out of sedation.

“It’s a very scary thing because they said they said there’s a lot of potential for stroke, brain bleeds and clots,” Ms. Kramer said. “We were afraid she was going to wake up and not be the same baby she was.”

Her fears were stoked when Katie would look at her and then look away, seeming not to recognize her mother. One doctor said she was the sickest patient in the ICU. Another said she was youngest asthmatic patient he had ever seen. Other doctors said they were amazed that she was still alive.

“On Christmas Eve we were at my sister’s house. We were at the dinner table, and I just started crying. Then everyone started crying, but it was amazing to go visit her on Christmas morning,” Ms. Kramer said. “I remember walking in, and there like 15 gifts wrapped on the sofa in her room, and the nurses said, ‘There are so many donations every year.’ When you see people you don’t know do things for you, that’s amazing. It makes you want to give back, too.”

The greatest gift of all came when Katie responded when her mother spoke to her.It was a sign of recovery that continues to this day.

She is at home now breathing with a tracheostomy tube in her throat but largely without the ventilator. She gets physical and occupational therapy at home and responds well to it.

“I think it’s a miracle,” Ms. Kramer said with a smile. “I am not biased in any way, but I really do think it’s a miracle.”


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