Journal entry by Kat Pattillo

A Message from Kat's Mom:



Our update for Caring Bridge is overdue, but I send this near Thanksgiving to say how grateful we are for all your care and support.  The positive energy, prayers and love you send are truly felt by Kat and our family!


Fall in Atlanta is always beautiful, and this year is particularly striking!  It’s the season of change and as the leaves are floating in the air and parading their spectacular colors, I’ve watched Kat’s miraculous changes with equal awe. 


It’s crazy to think that three months have passed since our world was turned upside down.  Kat and I have created a new routine which includes lots of moments of deep, sometimes hard reflection,  continued Netflix binging, more reading, and many laughs, too.   We’ve recently enjoyed celebrating a friend’s wedding, the Avett Brothers in concert, and the Democratic debate live (now that will get your juices flowing!).   Kat even has a great new haircut!


With steadfast persistence and tons of occupational therapy, Kat’s arm movement is vastly improved.  She is still sleeping 10-12 hours a night which the neurologist encourages, but when she’s up, she is moving!  The number of Doctor appointments has decreased and the time for the next surgery has finally arrived.  The new surgery, scheduled for Dec. 10, will be to reconnect the nerve in her arm.  Lots of ways to do that, but bottom line is that post-surgery will be a waiting game of about eight months to see if it was successful!   We are very hopeful!    Keep your fingers crossed!


We had another serendipitous moment a few weeks ago when we found out one of our neighbors, Dr. Don Freeman,  was Kat’s admitting doctor the night of the accident.  He never knew her real name since “Copper Mountain” was on her ID.  Small world…


Bigger picture, is it is heartbreaking to hear of new tragedies and life stopping events which occur each day.  We pass the same love and support you sent us on to our fellow Caring Bridge patients and to all those who are suffering.   


It’s difficult and feels somewhat counter-intuitive to always remain grateful.  Yet, gratitude is such a help in times like these and in all times.
Thank you to each of you.


Happy belated Thanksgiving!


Kat’s Mom, Katy



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Journal entry by Kat Pattillo

One month ago, I was swimming in a lake in Georgia and was hit by a boat. The propeller split open my skull. It severed a bone and nerves in my right arm and hand.
There is so much I still need to process and reflect on about this experience. On one hand, I’m grateful to be alive when I could have easily died.
I will never forget what it was like to come to in the water. To look down and see my arm hanging by a muscle. To not be able to see out of my right eye. Totally alone. Blood streaming red into the water.
I’m grateful for all the synchronicities that saved me. That the propeller missed my brain and eye by a few millimeters. That it didn’t paralyze me. That a friend of my sister happened to pass by on a boat, with her mother - and was able to call 911 - so that I didn’t pass out and die alone in the water. That the doctors were able to save my arm instead of amputate. That they were able to clean the broken bones out of my brain and sew up my head.
At the same time, I am struggling with a sense of loss.
The loss of putting my career on pause. The accident happened a week before I was to fly out for a year of work in India, Brazil, and Mexico. I still hope to take that journey (eventually). But I’m now back in Atlanta for a year of recovery and physical therapy - after living abroad for seven years.
The loss of many of the things that I had learned to rely on to keep me sane. Writing every morning. Yoga, swimming and other exercise. Being independent and able to travel. Meditating to start each day, in a body free of pain.
The loss of feeling carefree. My sister took this picture four days before the accident - a few hundred feet from where the boat hit me. I was light and happy there.
I am starting to feel more of myself again, with fewer post-concussion symptoms. My body is healing. I am supported by a whole web of caring family members and close friends.
And with that comes both the gratitude and the loss.

This week:  Health-wise,  I am doing a lot better each day.  The pins were removed from my hands  and I am now going to occupational therapy twice a week to increase the movement in my hand.  On Monday of this, I even touched my thumb to my forefinger!  Progress and gratitude!

And gratitude for all of you who are following my progress!

Love, Kat

Journal entry by Kat Pattillo

Entry by Kathlyn's Mom:

Home Sweet Home

Since healing is a full-time job, I thought I would give Kathlyn a break and send a quick update. 

I apologize, particularly to those of you who trekked to Gainesville for naught,  for not writing an update sooner.   Frankly, adjusting to home sweet home has been all consuming!

For starters, it was bittersweet to leave our wonderful caregivers at Northeast Georgia Medical Center.  However,  it was definitely sweeter not to hear the constant beep, beep, beep and to sleep more than a couple of hours at a stretch.  Kathlyn’s Dad and great friends helped us move home on short notice last Saturday.   All the IV lines and monitors were taken off in a flash, and the arm re cast…and boom, we left.  I saw Kathlyn breathe really deeply for the first time when we stepped outside into fresh air.  It was so strange to leave a place which had the power to reattach an arm, clean out a brain, prevent infection and keep intense pain at bay.  Healthcare professionals, staff and housekeeping are all such miracle workers!    

Life at home means all the comfort you would expect, and since there are big ups and downs in each day, the grounding of home is really important.

Kathlyn is dealing with all the pains these types of injuries and her concussion brings.  She likes to be in quiet, dark spaces and prefers short tv programs and short conversations.    We’ve ventured out for ice cream on a couple of occasions, but the most comfortable she seems to be is when she is sitting at home enjoying the cards, messages, books, and food people have sent or dropped off.  Right now, she is best with only one or two visitors a day.  We’re usually at a doctor’s office two or three days a week and on the other days, Kat works really hard at becoming ambidextrous. (I don’t think I’ve ever had to spell that before.)

From a Mother’s perspective, I’m appreciating my cup of coffee in the morning differently and truly recognizing the fragility of life.  I feel such sense of solidarity with all those in our world who are suffering in a gazillion different ways,  and pray that our collective strength will carry each other through these times in life!

Most of all, I’m in awe of the Kat’s body’s ability to recalibrate and heal, her mind’s adjustment to change and decision making  to affect positive progress, and most of all, her spirit’s way of holding the light and love sent to her by so many.  This gives Kat, and the rest of us around her, such hope and gratitude. 

More from Kat soon!

Katy (Kat's Mom)




Journal entry by Ali Pattillo

Dear friends and family,


It’s been one week since my life changed. I am overwhelmed to have come so close to death and still be alive, and I am just beginning to process the magnitude of what happened. But, I feel a profound sense of gratitude and want to say thank you.


I want to first thank all of the people who have called, sent text messages, emails, flowers, and cards, those who visited the hospital, and the people I don’t even know who have been praying for me.  Thank you to my sister, brother, mom and dad, who have been by my side at every moment, and the many aunts, uncles, cousins and friends who have come to see me. Most of all, I want to thank the many nurses, doctors, first responders, and people who helped both at the site of the accident and in the surgeries and recovery that followed. It has been amazing to see the sheer number of people who care around the world and I am so grateful. 


Recovery has been full of highs and lows. It has been very painful at times and the surgeries have been intense, but there have been moments like seeing the view of the mountains outside my window, the smell of the flowers in my room, or sharing moments of laughter with my family that have kept me going. I still have a lot to reflect on,  but this experience has already taught me so much about the power of human connection. 


I’ll leave you with a few photos from my walk around the hospital hallway today. As you can see, I am adjusting to moving with a sling and an eye patch, but I have people supporting me and I’m getting stronger by the day. 


I’m sending my love to all of you, near and far. 


With gratitude, 


Journal entry by Ali Pattillo

Hello everyone! Kat has had a pretty eventful few days! The hospital has been flooded with loved ones and family. Thank you to everyone who has stopped by, brought us food, called or sent a kind note. We can feel the love surrounding us. 

Some exciting updates:

Kat got to thank her angels, Caroline and Virginia, for literally saving her life and maintaining such grace under pressure. We love them and can’t believe they were there at the exact right moment.


Even though she sustained a very serious head injury (and has a gnarly scar to show for it), she is showing zero signs of any cognitive impairment. She’s been recalling dates and details that even my brother and I don’t remember. The accident does not threaten her place as the know-it-all of the family :) 

As of now, Kat is not showing any signs of infection. This is GREAT news as lake water is notoriously dangerous for causing infection cases like hers. She has had a few surgeries to clean and wash out her arm and brain, and a few more are expected. She will also have operations to repair the nerve damage in her arm and tendon damage in her hand. 

We have been so impressed and thankful for the wonderful care we’ve received at Northeast Georgia Medical Center. For the past few days, the ICU floor became our home. Thank you to all the nurses and doctors who made it feel a little less scary. 

Today, Kat moved out of the ICU and two floors up, to a different trauma floor. She has a bit more independence and a mountain view! When the first responders first checked her into the hospital, they didn’t know her identification details, so they checked her in as "Copper Mountain". Gus bought Kat a fuzzy little friend (see pic attached) who Kat named Copper.

The doctor’s can’t stop telling her, “You should be DEAD,” which is kind of freaking her out, but also underscores how strong she is. One of the nurses keeps telling Kat she needs to try out for the Olympics, because clearly, she is a champion swimmer. 

Kat has a long road ahead but with everyone’s support behind her, she is expected to make a full recovery. She can’t wait to get back to work, to her friends and family, and to life outside the hospital.


Journal entry by Ali Pattillo

Miracles happen!

On Thursday afternoon, Kathlyn was enjoying a day at the lake. She was swimming along the shore when she was run over by a boat (or at least we think -- she isn’t sure). At first, it was reported that the incident involved a broken boat lift,  but the doctors later confirmed that the injuries were likely sustained by a boat propeller. The propeller cut her skull in half, severed her arm and cut it in two other places. From the impact, she must have been knocked out, but when she came to, she managed to tread water. While holding her severed arm, she was able to kick her feet and somehow swim towards our dock, screaming in pain.

Two true angels and our heroes, Caroline and Virginia Ellis just happened to be boating nearby and heard her scream. Caroline and Virginia helped Kat out of the water, called 911, tied a tourniquet, and comforted her until the incredible first responders arrived about ten minutes later. Everyone worked fast to get Kathlyn stabilized, onto a stretcher, up to an ambulance where our angel Aunt Lynn Pattillo was there to reassure Kat. Kat was put into a helicopter where she was flown to Northeast Georgia Medical Center in Gainesville, Georgia. She was rushed into surgery where a team of amazing  trauma doctors and nurses managed to reattach her arm, repair her head injury, and sew up her face and hand. 

Kathlyn’s brain is ok, even though the injury was 5 millimeters from causing catastrophic brain damage. The doctors cannot believe that she survived the swim in the lake and did not bleed out or drown. Everyone says she is lucky to be alive. She has a few more surgeries to come, and recovery will be intense, but she and our family are beyond grateful that she is still with us. Kathlyn is so strong. 

For now, she is surrounded by grateful family and loved ones. She’s laughing and joking, her beautiful spirit intact. Thank you for each and every prayer, call, text, and visit. Thank you to the Ellis family and all the first responders, the Rabun County Fire Services, Rabun County Emergency Medical Services, AirLife Georgia, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, the Clayton Police Department, the awesome nurses, Souleymane, Courtney, Lacey, Dr. Wheeler, Dr. Gibson, Grunge, Dr. Bruce, Dr. Abbell, and PA Seth Engerline, and the countless others at Northeast Georgia Medical Center who helped save her life. 

Please keep sending Kathlyn positive energy, prayers, love and light. We’ll continue to update this page as her healing continues. 

When Kat came out of surgery she said, “Life is precious.” This accident is a painful reminder just how true that is. 

Love, Katy and Ali

Kat’s Story

Site created on August 24, 2019

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