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Volunteer Highlight: Katie Adduci goes beyond the call of duty to honor veterans

Katie Adduci, MSN, FNP-BC, first realized her true calling as a nurse during her work with a Section 8 Housing Resource Center in DuPage County. The center provided things like after-school tutoring, ESL education, food, clothing, and diapers to the housing residents. Roughly a year into her time at the center, parents began bringing their sick children in for treatment, leaving Adduci, who at the time had a B.A. in Geography and Environmental Planning from Elmhurst College, feeling helpless. Although she had always wanted to go into healthcare, that feeling of helplessness lit a spark and prompted Adduci to begin pursuing her dream. 

Adduci obtained her Associate's Degree in Nursing from the College of DuPage in 2004 and has worked as an ER Nurse at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove for 15 years.  In May of this year, Adduci received her Master's degree from Lewis University and her Family Nurse Practitioner License. She exclaims, "It feels like, 21 years later, I'm finally going to do what I wanted to do all those years ago."

Giving back to those who served and sacrificed

In 2018, Adduci began volunteering as a medical guardian for Honor Flight Chicago (HFC), a non-profit organization operating both independently and also as part of a nationwide network of Honor Flight hubs. Honor Flight Chicago's mission is "to fly our senior war heroes to Washington, D.C., for a day of honor at the memorials built in tribute to them. This is done at no cost to the veteran and is intended as a heartfelt thank you for their sacrifice and service to a grateful nation." Upon learning about HFC through a colleague who volunteered, Adduci knew she needed to become involved. Adduci's husband, an Army veteran, was heavily involved in the local American Legion. She saw this as a unique opportunity to apply her medical expertise to honor and give something back to those who have served and sacrificed. 

Since first becoming a volunteer, she has completed two flights, including the first of HFC's Vietnam Flights last June, a particularly meaningful endeavor as her husband had an uncle killed in the war. Asked to describe her favorite part of an HFC flight, she responds, "The most incredible part occurs on the flight back to Chicago. That's when we do Mail Call, which is a total surprise for the veterans. It's a collection of letters written ahead of time—by family members, neighbors, school-children from the area, local sports organizations, all sorts of people—thanking the veterans for their service. I don't think there's a dry eye in the whole place."

Despite the necessary postponing of flights during the Covid pandemic, Honor Flight Chicago continues to find other ways of giving back to veterans. A new podcast series, Honor. Thank. Inspire., features ABC-7 Chicago reporter and HFC board member Paul Meincke speaking with senior war heroes as they recount their unique experiences and stories. A "Virtual Day of Honor" feature is now available on the HFC website, where visitors can "embark on a digital journey to Washington, D.C., and get just a taste of what our missions encompass." 

Lending a hand during times of crisis

Adduci's son, Max, was born with failing kidneys and was on dialysis between the ages of 10 to 18 months old before receiving a living donor transplant from Adduci herself. 

“I would be remiss to not mention the many and very important Nurse Practitioner’s that provide the most excellent care for him and have also provided a role model for me as to how independent and important the role of nurse practitioner is.  I communicate with them more than his doctors and they have been the most important providers helping us navigate his condition.  I would be lost without them!”

Having lived through this rare and traumatic experience, Adduci gives back to others suffering through similar situations by serving as a parent member on both the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago Ethics and Family Advisory Boards. She provides information and serves on various panels regarding organ donation and living with a child who has special medical needs,

"Kidney disease in Pediatrics is pretty rare and very specialized. I wish I would have had someone I could talk to when he was a baby, so I feel very passionately about volunteering for Lurie." She's also started volunteering for the National Kidney Foundation of Illinois. She serves on panels and assists with children's programs. "I just feel like it's my job to do this, not only as a mom, but as someone who has medical knowledge as well."

Now 10 years old, Max and his 13-year-old sister, Ellie, attend the same local school district. Adduci recently began volunteering for the district's pandemic response advisory team, explaining, "They have a lot of questions about personal protective equipment and getting the kids back to school because, as of now, they're going virtual. So I've been helping translate the metrics that DuPage County provides. As someone who has lived through every iteration of PPE at a hospital, I feel like anything new can be pretty scary. So I want to help the schools—if and when they can go back—to go back safely. I never thought I would know so much about COVID metrics or have all the percentages memorized, but it's how I've been spending most of my spare time now. I'm just happy to help wherever people think I can."

ISAPN inspires her

One of Adduci's teachers at Lewis University inspired her to become involved with ISAPN. At the time, ISAPN was leading the way in getting full practice authority for nurse practitioners. As part of an assignment, students were asked to call their representatives and tell them they wanted the bill to pass, which piqued Adduci's interest in the organization. She decided to join as a student and saw an opening for the board's student representative position. Adduci applied, and to her surprise, was selected. Upon graduating, the board voted to keep her on for another year, meaning her role will continue through October 2021. Given she attended school both pre and post-pandemic, her unique perspective is arguably ideal for the position during such already confusing times.

Adduci believes ISAPN is an excellent resource for students, attesting, "It was hard to find pediatric and O.B. sites; they're like gold. I'm not someone who cries often, but I would be in tears at least once a semester, thinking I would never find one. One thing that kept me going was the members of ISAPN. You hear their stories, and they are truly the most inspirational men and women with the craziest backgrounds. They're so smart and do such amazing things; I'd think, 'I want to be like them someday.' And I feel like I'm still a long way off from that, but it has kept me motivated. Otherwise, I probably would have quit 100 times. One of them even helped me get one of my pediatric sites. So being around people who have this level of inspiration has kept me motivated, and I feel fortunate I’m able to participate.”

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