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A quick recovery for Katrina

Katrina Olafson underwent a kidney transplant last weekend and left the hospital yesterday. (Family photo)

A tiny dynamo left a Rochester hospital one week after undergoing a kidney transplant last Saturday.

And if Katrina Olafson's miraculous recovery continues, she will finally be able to meet the Century School kindergarten class she's heard so much about but hasn't been able to meet this school year.

She's been at the Mayo Clinic since March 2010 undergoing dialysis until a matching kidney was finally located last Friday. Saturday morning bright and early she was on the operating table. Four days later she was up out of bed.

"She's doing wonderful!" said elated dad Justin Olafson Thursday afternoon.

He's pretty much been keeping a bedside vigil the past year as legal entanglements complicated a transplant from a family donor. Mayo then waited for just the right donor.

Twin sister Kayla is attending classes in Park Rapids and makes a regular commute to Mayo to see her sibling. Justin's dad Steve has been filling in as a driver for Justin's Skelgas route.

Skelgas employees have also been keeping a vigil for the little girl they consider a loved one, keeping in daily touch with Justin.

The twins were preemies: Katrina weighing in at 1 pound, 11 ounces.

"She didn't get enough oxygen to her system so her organs started to shut down and caused her kidney failure," Justin said. The single father knew his daughter would need a transplant eventually.

But Katrina was tough enough to hold on until age six for that transplant. She had to leave pre-school when renal failure interrupted her young life.

"The school has been absolutely wonderful," said paternal grandmother Talaine Collins. "Just a godsend. They've been so supportive for everything for both of the girls. I just cannot sing their praises enough."

"We're going to have to stay in Rochester for a couple more weeks and do a little blood work," Justin said. "And after that if everything is going smoothly, we'll be coming home."

They've been staying at the Ronald McDonald House in Rochester.

Like a hurricane about to blow in, Katrina can't wait to get home and get life started again.

"Absolutely," Justin said. "That's probably the biggest thing she's missing out on that would do her the most good. To get back and get into the routine of school."

But she hasn't been ignoring her studies. She reads a lot during dialysis and plays Nintendo games. A tutor has been helping her with her schoolwork.

"She's so far ahead of many five, six-year-olds remembering words," her dad said proudly.

"I've only me her once but she definitely made an impression!" said kindergarten teacher Alyssa LaVoie.

Family photos show an impish grin and sparking eyes that portray her zest for life.

Katrina will have a recovery period of anti-rejection dugs that will zap her immune system temporarily.

"Our lifestyles have to change significantly when she comes home," Talaine said. "We'll have to work with the transplant coordinator on cleanliness. She'll have no immunity. The anti-rejection drugs are going to cause another whole drama."

But the little blond sprite is game for the next challenge.

"Through all she's had to go through it's pretty hard for her to have a bad day," her dad marvels.

"She is the most beautiful little human being," her proud grandmother says. "It's like this perfect child who throughout all the negativities of life is always very, very positive."

And a pixie hurricane named Katrina can get swept up in all life has to offer her.

Sarah Smith

Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers courts, business and breaking news in addition to outdoors events.

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