JEFFERSON TOWNSHIP — Annika Kelner, 7, is living a new and different life after receiving two new lungs one year ago today.
The young girl was born with healthy lungs in June 2015, but later that summer she developed an adenovirus infection which led to respiratory and multi-system organ failure that required desperate, life-saving measures, said Annika’s mother, Kourtney Kelner.
The young girl eventually developed bronchiolitis obliterans, a serious lung condition, and in November 2017 the family began reviewing treatment options.
As the condition worsened the family was able to get on a transplant list in the spring of 2021 and received a call Sept. 16, 2021, that a transplant option was available.
Annika had surgery the next day.
“This is a huge milestone for a transplant patient,” Kourtney said of the one-year anniversary.
Annika had been using oxygen full time and was on a ventilator for for a month prior to the operation,.
Kourtney said Annika has made the best of the last year, joining a 4-H club and even participating in a youth running club. Annika said was happy to cross the finish line in her first race.
The sad part of the joyous story is another young boy lost his life.
“We are beyond thankful. The donor’s name is Noah,” Kourtney said.
Noah was a 3-year-old boy.
The family will have another special celebration coming up when Annika has the opportunity to be a Marathon Mile Champion for the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Columbus Marathon and Half Marathon on Oct. 16.
Annika will be at the six-mile mark cheering the runners on with the help of her family and team of professionals that have helped he return to health, Kourtney said.
The theme of the cheering area will include a large presence of “Sponge Bob Squarepants” items, she said
“She gets to high five anyone who wants to,” Kourtney said.
Kourtney started running in 2020 and was planning to run the Columbus Half Marathon, but the coronavirus pandemic took care of that dream. She was able to run the 2021 race but the lung transplant took center stage in the Kelner family.
“It totally abolished my last month of training,” she said with a laugh.
Kourtney said she ran on adrenaline and was happy with her time.
She will be running again this year and her daughter will be offering encouragement along the way.
“We could not be more grateful for the entire transplant team. Everyone works together with Annika’s best interest at heart. The entire team is so compassionate,” Kourtney said.