Katie Boone (2005) simply invited herself. She didn’t even wait to be asked.
When a physician on her surgical team at St. Francis Medical Group in Indianapolis mentioned in passing that he was planning to travel to Haiti on a disaster-relief service trip, Boone’s interest was immediately piqued.
“I had been wanting to go on some kind of trip,” Boone says. “When he said he was going, I said, ‘Are you kidding me? Can I go, too?’ I just jumped in and said I was going.”
This is the same Katie Boone who, as a sophomore at Valpo in 2003, hit a pair of free throws with 7.5 seconds left in the Mid-Continent Conference championship game to give the Crusaders women’s basketball team a berth in the NCAA Tournament. In other words, Boone is not afraid of a challenge.
And traveling to Haiti, where the people there were still reeling from the effects of the horrific earthquake a year later, was going to be a challenge. But Boone welcomed it.
So she went. A physician assistant at St. Francis Medical Group, Boone joined Dr. Don King and others through Lifeline Christian Mission in Columbus, Ohio, for a 10-day journey from Jan. 27 to Feb. 5 earlier this year to help those in need.
Boone’s group set up a clinic in Grand Goave, a town about 35 miles southwest of Port-au-Prince. About 90 percent of the buildings in Grand Goave were destroyed by the 7.0 magnitude earthquake on Jan. 12, 2010.
“I have to say, it was shocking, obviously,” Boone says. “I hadn’t been exposed to anything even close to that. Right outside the area we were located, there were still tent cities. There are still homes that, even if they weren’t completely devastated, a lot of families won’t move back in because they’re afraid they’ll still crumble or fall.
“I don’t think anything can get you prepared for it. It’s just an indescribable experience.”
The term clinic, however, is a loose description for the rudimentary medical facility the relief workers were able to set up. Boone says it was more like a room with a table in the middle of it and a few medical supplies.
“We didn’t even have anesthesiologist equipment,” Boone says. “We had an ER doctor performing anesthesia with some old oxygen tanks. We were using a defibrillator box to keep our vitals. This was not your regular stuff.”
The workers treated several patients’ abscesses and infections and successfully repaired 12 hernias, which Boone was proud of because they were able to create a critically important sterile environment for such procedures. They also amputated the toe of an 18-month-old baby, who Boone says may have died if the surgery didn’t take place when it did.
“The Haitians were wonderful, sweet, and grateful for us to be there,” Boone says. “We didn’t take appointments at the clinic and basically just handed out tickets. So they came and waited outside the whole week, and we didn’t hear one complaint. They’re just grateful for what we could do for them.”
While having an outstanding basketball career at Valpo, where she ranks among the all-time leaders in several categories, Boone also excelled in the classroom. A chemistry major, she made the Mid-Continent Conference All-Academic Team three times.
“Valpo was great for basketball and great for my schooling,” Boone says “I had to learn a lot about time management and prioritizing.”
At Valpo, she knew she wanted to go into the medical field. And after having surgery herself, she realized she wanted to be a physician assistant, which is a health care professional who is licensed to practice medicine with physician supervision.
After graduating from Valpo, she earned a Master of Physician Assistant Studies degree from Butler University.
“I’ve always liked helping people and being able to help them,” Boone says. “I like the way it makes me feel. My brother is four years older than me and has had diabetes since he was 2. Growing up around him, he was dealing with this chronic disease, and I think that kind of made an impression on me as early as I can remember.”
At St. Francis Medical Group, Boone works with a group of general surgeons.
“I love it; I really do,” Boone says. “I love being in surgery. I love the actual physical technique it takes, and I love the fact that when somebody comes in with a problem, we can usually fix it.”
Story by Tom Wyatt ('94) for VALPO Magazine.