BYRON – On June 12 Tiger Shark and transplant recipient, Natalie Ketter, will be representing Team Illinois at the Transplant Games of America in Cleveland, OH. Natalie has been a member of the Tiger Sharks Swim Team for over six years and is one of the most senior members on the team. Natalie began swimming at the Byron Park District at the age of six as her transplant team advised she avoid contact sports; however, Natalie’s journey to the transplant games began long before she joined Tiger Sharks.

Natalie was born with the liver disease known as biliary atresia, a progressive disease that over time damaged her liver. Biliary atresia is a pediatric liver disease with no known cause or cure. When Natalie was born, her gallbladder and bile ducts were present but not fully functioning. As an infant, before her transplant, Natalie had many complications of end stage liver disease including: jaundice, portal vein hypertension, ascites, and reoccurring infections of cholangitis. In November of 2004, Natalie was added to the national transplant waiting list. In February of 2005, Natalie received the gift of life for a second time from her mother.

Following her transplant, Natalie suffered from multiple complications including PTLD, a form of lymphoma. As a result Natalie has spent approximately 365 days of her life within the walls of Children’s Memorial Hospital, now known as Lurie Children’s Hospital. Last year, as a way to give back, with the help of the Byron Park District and Byron School District, Natalie collected 280 toys to donate to the kids at Lurie Children’s Hospital and to the Ronald McDonald house in Chicago.
Given her medical challenges, Natalie continues to amaze and inspire those around her. Her favorite swim meet with the Tiger Sharks was at Notre Dame, when the present Tiger Sharks coach McKenna Kurth was a high school swimmer and stood by the deck to cheer Natalie on.
This year, Natalie will be swimming as a member of Team Illinois at the Transplant Games. The Transplant Games of America are a multi-sport event to help promote the need for Organ & Tissue donation. The purpose is to show the world that transplantation is a treatment that does indeed work. For more information on the Transplant Games visit

Natalie Ketter

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