Katie Dalsemer is Recovering

Katie and her dog Olivia.

Katie Dalsemer, a 22-year resident of Topanga and photographer for the Topanga Messenger, is recovering from a severe illness at the UC, San Diego, Medical Center, La Jolla.

Her parents, Emily and Allen McCutchan, MD, have kindly kept her friends in Topanga notified of her progess, which at times has been decidedly touch and go. They write:

Katie developed a minor finger infection in mid-December, 2016, but it seemed to clear without treatment. The staph bacteria causing this finger infection apparently spread through her bloodstream to her prosthetic hip and one of her heart valves. Her first symptoms were hip pain and difficulty walking that she reported to her mother and stepfather, a semi-retired UCSD infectious diseases specialist. When they arrived the next day, she was not having symptoms of the heart infection, but was in severe pain from her hip and barely able to walk. After consulting her orthopedist and rheumatologist, a MRI scan of her hip showed an abscess indicating an infection. They drove her to their home in Del Mar that evening for treatment at UCSD where the hip joint had been implanted in 2007.  

The following morning she was confused and unable to stand, requiring urgent evaluation in the Emergency department and admission to UCSDMC on Christmas eve. Within the next two days she was found to have the staph bacterium in her blood, infection of her heart valve (endocarditis) and delirium of unknown cause possibly caused by the endocarditis. She has had operations for drainage of the abscess in her hip and replacement of her mitral heart valve. The staph bacteria was susceptible to standard antibiotics so she was treated with good response except for her mental status which is slowly improving.  

Although her mental status varies, at times she seems to appreciate seeing cards from friends and family and pictures drawn by her students at her City Hearts-sponsored after-school program.

We thank those of you who have sent her cards and are keeping her in your thoughts.

January 24–Katie seems to be back with us. She is nodding to answer our questions and closing her eyes as a signal for Yes. She clearly understands our questions. We are rejoicing at this dramatic improvement in her mental function. They are removing monitors and tubes on a daily basis, but have not yet discussed moving her from the ICU. We are very hopeful she will make rapid progress from here.  

Thanks to all of you who have been so supportive.

February 4–Katie continues to improve her communication with us and her nurses by nodding head, but still no writing (she tries) or speech (because of tracheostomy).


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