Karis Kornfield is a bright, warm and caring individual, who is now 27 years old. That’s a miracle given the medical challenges she has faced.
Karis was born with a congenital deformation of her intestines which has required innumerable hospital visits and surgeries over the past two decades. With each surgery, more and more of her intestines was cut out, until there was virtually nothing more that could be removed.
As a result, for several years Karis received most of her nutrition through a central line: a catheter placed into a major vein in her body, thus bypassing the intestines completely. But there were two problems with that:
(1) the catheter was prone to rapid, life-threatening infections. That happened several times and nearly took her life.
(2) the nutrients damaged the veins, and Karis began to run out of viable venal options. That’s why things became critical.
Karis was needing an intestinal transplant. Only after the turn of the century have new techniques begun to produce more encouraging outcomes for recipients of transplanted intestines. The key research center for this procedure is located in Pittsbugh. Karis was accepted to go on the active transplant list starting March 10, 2004.
On Aug 26, 2004 Karis received a transplanted intestine, but in November that intestine was removed due to rejection and complications from Legionnaires Disease. For 14 months Karis lived without an intestine, receiving all of her nutrition through TPN. This destroyed her liver, and she developed chronic pancreatitis.
On Jan 10, 2006 Karis had a 5-organ transplant (small intestine, duodenum, stomach, liver, and pancreas). On May 12 she was strong enough to be transferred to a rehab hospital where she spent a month. On August 15 she returned to Notre Dame where she continued her studies, finishing everything but her thesis paper, before returning to Pittsburgh in May, 2008 for further surgery and treatment.
In the last two years Karis has continued to face challenges and frequent hospitalizations related to her intestine and has needed significant home care. She currently lives with her parents, David and Debbie Kornfield, in Pittsburgh.
Karis’ journey has been one marked by great pain. But it has also been marked by great trust in a God who understands pain and whose transcending love sustains the soul in life’s darkest hours.