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Family, friends organize benefit for young victim of cardiac arrest

Kate Bapst already has beaten the odds.

Now the people who love her want to help her keep her winning streak going.

Family, friends and fellow members of the Hamburg Assembly of God have organized a benefit for Bapst, who suffered complications after going into cardiac arrest last fall. The benefit will take place from 3 to 8 p.m. Saturday in the Knights of Columbus, 36 Pierce Ave., Hamburg, and will include theme baskets, silent and live auctions.

Bapst, a 19-year-old Hamburg woman, was in a college classroom when she went into cardiac arrest last fall.

Despite quick action by her professor, who performed CPR and used an external defibrillator, she suffered from lack of oxygen and was in a coma for weeks.

At one point, her liver and kidneys started to shut down, and a blood clot in her leg led to its amputation at the knee. She had a tracheotomy, a feeding tube and was on dialysis.

But the young woman with expressive eyes and sunny smile is making her way back. It has not been easy.

She was transferred from Crouse Hospital in Syracuse to Erie County Medical Center Dec. 14, and is undergoing physical, occupational and speech therapy, as well as music and art therapy.

Her breathing tube was removed, but she has not been able to talk. While she has learned how to swallow again, her feeding tube remains in place as a precaution.

"She's amazingly upbeat and positive," said her sister, Liz. "Every day I go in there she's laughing, and we joke around. She sticks her tongue out at me. She's just so funny still."

An environmental engineering student at the State College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, Kate Bapst collapsed in class Oct. 25.

"It's a blessing she had her cardiac arrest where she had it," Liz Bapst said, adding that her sister's professor was trained in CPR and the hospital was minutes away.

Kate Bapst has touched others, and they are reaching out to her. Her third-grade teacher leads a Youth Kiwanis Builders Club, which donated 14 theme baskets for the fundraiser. The Frontier High School Choral Department will present a concert, "Bach and Beyond," at 7 p.m. Thursday at St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church, 160 Court St.

"Kate has always been a very friendly and giving person," her mother, Marjorie, said in response to written questions. "She has been living her life helping to improve her community and the environment and anyone who is in need."

Kate Bapst told her sister last year she wanted to be a forest ranger or work in a water treatment plant. She went on a mission trip to Senegal in June, and later told a friend she wasn't sure what career she would have, but she knew it was in God's hands.

"She had really strong faith," Liz Bapst said. "I feel she still does."

Liz Bapst, 25, whose friends and family worried about how she would handle her sister's illness, has become a strong advocate for her sister. She plans to be the primary caregiver when her sister comes home from the hospital, and is looking for first-floor living quarters for her mother, sister and herself. It's a bit of a change for her.

"In a time of devastation, I'm not the take-charge type of person. I'm usually off somewhere, crying in the corner," Liz Bapst said.

Kate Bapst had been seeing a cardiologist after experiencing arrhythmia and low blood pressure earlier last year. After her cardiac arrest, doctors diagnosed her with right ventricular dysplasia, a genetic condition which can cause sudden cardiac death, particularly in young athletes. An internal defibrillator was implanted.

When her family last fall met the professor who saved her life, he was distraught.

"He just seemed just really sad. He kind of seemed more distraught than we did, in a way," Liz Bapst said.

But when they saw him in December, he had changed.

"He had a completely different outlook on life. He was talking about how many students were touched by Kate's story, how much it's made people think, and how much it's changed people," Liz Bapst said. "She's already touched a lot of people's lives."

e-mail: bobrien@buffnews.com

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