Katie Tuff Celebrated for Excellent Acts

Celebrating Acts of Excellence, One Act at a Time

The Acts of Excellence program connects us with individuals and organizations who are building a culture of excellence in South Dakota, one act at a time.

Please join us and area inductees to celebrate this Act of Excellence on Wednesday, November 14, 2018 from 4:30 to 6 pm at Sanford Health’s Imagentics Building in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. See all of the event details here:

Katie Donates Her “Real” Heart


At 6 years old, Katie Tuff from Sioux Falls (originally Watertown), SD was diagnosed with stage IV kidney cancer. She received a “wish” from Make-A-Wish South Dakota in 1994 to visit Disney World.

Katie, who is 30, graduated from Presentation College in Aberdeen with a nursing degree and had been working in the Brain and Spine Institute at Avera McKennan Hospital in Sioux Falls.

Katie’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. Medications ensued, but they stopped working, which is when Katie found out she needed a new heart. She went to the University of Minnesota for a second opinion and was told she needed a heart transplant. She was then diagnosed with restrictive cardiomyopathy. This is 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. Katie had the heart transplant and was in the hospital for three months with repercussions of gastrointestinal bleeds, blood clots, and chicken pox. She decided to donate her heart because she “always tries to find something good out of the bad things that happen.” She said “why waste this?” The heart was eventually wrapped up and rubber-banded in a jar of preservative and had been with her family since it was removed. It had been sliced and some pieces could be seen separate from the whole. Trisha Waldman, Associate Dean at Presentation dove into the jar, carefully unwrapped the organ and handed it to Kate. Katie posed with her heart before officially delivering it to the college.

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

Act of Excellence submitted by Ms. Mary Olinger

Submit your own Act of Excellence here

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