Watertown native recognized for her big heart

Watertown Public Opinion

KatieTuff_ThePublicOpinion

Presentation College alum Katie Tuff talks about the heart transplant she had in April during a ceremony in which she donated her old heart, which is wrapped in the jar in the foreground, to the anatomy lab at the college. (Dakota Media Group photo by John Davis)

Katie Tuff, of Sioux Falls and originally from Watertown, has been recognized by the South Dakota Hall of Fame for its Act of Excellence (AOE) program.

The AOE is a way to recognize and share everyday stories about excellence. These real stories can inspire and influence the pursuit of excellence throughout South Dakota.

Tuff is being recognized for donating her heart to Presentation College in Aberdeen. Tuff, age 30, was diagnosed with stage IV kidney cancer at age 6. She eventually went on to graduate from Presentation College with a nursing degree and had been working in the Brain and Spine Institute at Avera McKennan Hospital in Sioux Falls.

Tuff’s heart issues began in 2009 as a result of chemotherapy and radiation treatments she encountered fighting cancer as a child. She was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. She took medications following the diagnosis but they stopped working, which is when she found out she needed a new heart.

Tuff was then diagnosed with a restrictive cardiomyopathy, the rarest form of cardiomyopathy — a condition in which the walls of the lower chambers of the heart are abnormally rigid and lack the flexibility to expand as the ventricles fill with blood.

Tuff then received a heart transplant and was in the hospital for three months. She decided to donate her heart because she “always tries to find something good out of the bad things that happen.”

The heart was eventually wrapped up and rubber-banded in a jar of preservative and had been with her family since it was removed.

Trisha Waldman, Associated Dean at Presentation, removed Tuff’s heart from the jar and handed it to Tuff, who then posed for pictures with her heart before officially delivering it to the college.

Tuff is going to try to go back to work before the predicted year of recovery is up.

Mary Olinger submitted the Act of Excellence to the South Dakota Hall of Fame for Tuff.

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