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The path to adulthood for Jaime Katz, clinical nurse III and extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) specialist at Children's Hospital Colorado, began with an unexpected diagnosis in her teen years.
After a routine physical exam at age 16 revealed she had a low platelet count, Katz was diagnosed with idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP), an autoimmune blood disorder that can lead to excessive bruising and bleeding. She was referred to Children's Colorado for treatment and put under the expert care of Taru Hays, M.D., staff hematologist and professor of pediatrics, a doctor who believes in partnering with teens and allowing them to make choices for themselves.
"In my practice, when children are of an appropriate age, I like to make treatment plans with them," Dr. Hays said. "Adolescents are my favorite patients as an age group because they like to participate in planning their treatment." The experience, and the amount of respect and choice Dr. Hays gave her, was transformative for Katz.
"Dr. Hays was the first doctor that treated me like an adult. She gave me agency, which was really incredible at the time," Katz said. "Before that point, doctors had always treated me like a kid."
Dr. Hays was likewise impressed by Katz's maturity and understanding. "She was very easy to deal with, and she took her diagnosis very well," Dr. Hays said. "Jaime was always reliable and pleasant, and she understood what she needed to do to live her life as normally as possible."
Katz knew she wanted to pursue a career in healthcare from an early age and her experience as a patient at Children's Colorado both confirmed and reinforced her desire to work in the field. In fact, she was so impressed with the care she received, and in the empathy she saw displayed by staff, that Katz set her sights on becoming an employee here.
"My positive experience really drove me to want to work here and nowhere else," Katz said.
Dr. Hays continued to treat Katz as a patient into her mid-20s, and when Katz decided to apply for a job at Children's Colorado, Dr. Hays even served as a reference on her application. That was back in 2001, and Katz has now spent her entire adult life, outside of nursing school, employed by the hospital.
Dr. Hays, meanwhile, retired from her full time duties at the end of 2014 after a 37-year career at Children's Colorado that began with a research fellowship in the 1970s. She continues to volunteer at the hospital a few times a week and still follows some medically complex patients.