Katie Malca, 2019 Courage Award Recipient

(L-R) Miss Pacific Coast, Miss Pacific Coast Teen, Jeanine Hansen Stanford Federal Credit Union, Dr. Roham Zamanian, Courage Award Recipient Katie Malca, Dr. Yon Sung and Dr. Kristina Kudelko. Photo by Victor M. Aguayo

Katie Malca is the 2019 Adult PH Courage Award recipient, sponsored by Stanford Federal Credit Union, on behalf of the Wall Center at Stanford University, School of Medicine

Katie Malca is not an ordinary superhero, she is a superstar PH Superhero.

With the help of her incredible family (mother, father, two sisters) and trusted canine friends (Lucky and Bryn), she has beat the odds and survived more than 15 years with her PH diagnosis.

Katie's beloved pups: Lucky & Bryn

At age 13, while on a family holiday in Thailand, Katie’s mother noticed something was considerably wrong. Katie’s lips had turned blue as they trekked up a mountain. She immediately had her daughter sit down and Katie’s PH journey began.

Upon returning home to the Philippines, Katie’s aunt recommended a well-known cardiologist, who made the PH diagnosis immediately, which was officially corroborated at Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital. Even today Katie is amazed at how quickly it happened, since there are physicians in the world today who struggle with pulmonary hypertension detection and diagnoses.

Pushing on as an international school student, Katie started treatments and continued to battle her illness, following closely the advice of her family, “You can choose to be happy with what you have, or be angry.”  She still incorporates that motto in her advice to other PH survivors.

“Don’t let it get you down. You can cry about it for a while, but then you need to choose to have a happy life, accepting your diagnoses. If you focus only on the bad stuff, you won’t have much of a life.

As a young PH patient, Katie recalls the trouble she created for herself when she ignored her PH treatments. “You can really get yourself into serious problems, by not taking your meds.” She internalized that lesson and made a personal decision to do her best. That same ‘can-do attitude’ permeates every core of her being today, making her a role model for other PH patients.

Throughout Katie’s schooling, she has met the demands of her illness with grace and courage. She thanks her parents and sisters emphatically for the support they have provided. Katie remembers being pulled out of school for months at a time, including the 4-months her family spent in Melbourne, Australia. That was time away from school for her sisters as well, and yet they rallied to her side.

In her high school years, Katie’s family heard of Stanford’s PH program and moved to the Bay Area to access the best care they could find for her. Since that time, Katie has lived in Israel, excelled in her favorite subjects (English Literature and Art), and taken on art commissions (mainly show dogs and horses), all while being a PH patient at Stanford.

Katie Malca embodies the Courage Award’s spirit of ‘determination, honesty and resolve in battling this disease.’

She is a ‘patient who validates the journeys of hundreds of others by being truthful in her own journey: acknowledging the hardships, cherishing the poignant moments of hope, looking forward to the promise of therapies on the horizon.

A patient who surfaces as a natural leader and mentor and inspires all of us to press on fighting, press on teaching, press on researching, press on healing.

A patient who serves as a powerful beacon of optimism for fellow patients, families, clinicians and scientists alike.’

Katie is a true PH hero.

In Katie’s own words:

“Having been in Packard as a kid and then at Stanford Hospital as an adult, it's been incredible seeing some of the same friendly faces year after year, and meeting all new ones. Chronic illnesses aren't exactly fun, but the amazing people at Stanford have made hospital visits a pleasure. Coming in to smiling faces at all hours of the day has made such a difference, as has the attention and consideration of people who work here. I took this for granted until I moved to a facility with a horrible doctor who had no time for his patients or his job. Patients would be waiting six hours for a five minute meeting and getting yelled at by the secretary. Contrarily, Stanford's doctors, nurses, patient transporters, and everyone else I've encountered have been a delight. Doctors are actively working to improve your quality of life, and they care about their patients, which apparently is not something that's standard issue in the health profession. Stanford and everyone inside it has been invaluable to me and my family, and I owe everyone a huge thank you to everyone for all that they've done over the years!”

2018 Courage Award

2018 Courage Award

Q&A with Transplant Patient: Lena Bolivar

(L-R) 2018 Miss Silicon Valley, Janine Hansen of Stanford Federal Credit Union, Dr. Roham Zamanian and 2018 Courage Award Recipient, Lena Bolivar.