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Friends, family rally for 'fighter'

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Kathy Dowling was awaiting her second kidney operation in this photo from July 2011. Friends and family are now taking a cue from her positive attitude. (Tom Russo / Daily Reporter)
Kathy Dowling was awaiting her second kidney operation in this photo from July 2011. Friends and family are now taking a cue from her positive attitude. (Tom Russo / Daily Reporter)

GREENFIELD — A Greenfield-Central School Board member is in critical condition after complications arose from a kidney transplant that friends and family members had hoped would save her life.

Kathy Dowling, who joined the school board in 2013, is currently being treated in the transplant intensive care unit of the Indiana University Health University Hospital in Indianapolis.

Dowling underwent a kidney and intestine transplant four weeks ago, the third transplant she has undergone since 2009. Her medical troubles first began in 2004 when a bowel obstruction resulted in Dowling having a portion of her small and large intestine removed. That surgery prohibited the intestines from delivering key nutrients to her kidneys, which in turn began to fail.

Dowling was initially recovering well from her latest 16-hour surgery but recently took a downturn.

She’s been sedated for the past week and using a ventilator to breathe.

It’s been a difficult week for Dowling’s friends and family, but those who know Dowling best are trying to channel her positive spirit.

 “She’s a feisty fighter, and she’s in there, fighting,” said Kim Clark, Dowling’s neighbor and a 40-year friend of the Dowling family.

Clark said Dowling has been unfailingly upbeat in spite of persistent struggles with her health over the years.

Now, her supporters are trying to harness that optimism.

“For one woman to go through what she’s gone through in her life and still come out at the end with such a positive attitude is humbling,” friend Ted Jacobs said.

Jacobs and Dowling have a special connection. He is one of two living donors who have given her a kidney. Rick Schoeff, whose wife taught at Greenfield-Central High School, where Dowling oversaw the guidance department for many years, donated a kidney in 2009. Dowling had learned at the time that she had only 8 percent kidney function.

Jacobs, also a teacher at G-C, donated one of his kidneys two years later.

The malabsorption problem that calcified Downey’s own kidneys eventually overtook each of her donor kidneys.

Clark said Dowling’s supporters reach far and wide. Each day, updates on her condition go out to a number of friends and family members who then spread the word on to others in their support networks.

“She has tons of support,” Clark said. “It’s all over the world that people are praying for her.”

And the family is feeling the positive energy.

Dowling’s parents, James and Rosemary Dowling, issued a statement Friday afternoon thanking those who have sent cards and letters and words of encouragement.

“The family so appreciates the outpouring of love, support and prayers from the Greenfield community,” the statement said. “The family asks that those prayers continue during the remainder of Kathy’s recovery.”

Some unexpected visitors have even popped into Dowling’s room to check on her, her mother said.

“She is receiving excellent care here, and some of her former students who are employed here … have stopped in,” she said. “It’s very gratifying, and I know she will be pleased about it.”

Board president Retta Livengood said she has worked to keep the board informed of Dowling’s progress while still respecting her privacy.

During the last 20 months, Dowling’s perspective has been invaluable to the school corporation, and board members look forward to her return, Livengood said.

“We’re certainly just all praying for her recovery,” she said. “We’d love to see her sitting in that seat again soon.”

But there is no one missing Dowling more than her faithful companion, a German shepherd mix she rescued from a shelter, her mother said.

“Her puppy dog, Max, is anxiously awaiting her return home,” she said.

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