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By IU Health Senior Journalist T.J. Banes, firstname.lastname@example.org
Those who knew her well referred to Katie Traynor as “spunky.” They said she was a “work hard play hard kind of girl.” From the time she was a child she wanted to be a nurse.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of when Traynor fulfilled that dream by graduating from Purdue University and becoming a NICU nurse at IU Health Methodist Hospital. It also marks the 10th anniversary of her tragic death.
An Illinois native Traynor came to Indiana as a direct admit into Purdue’s nursing program. “If there’s any consolation for us it’s knowing that Katie loved life, she loved nursing, and she packed a lot into her 22 years,” said her mom, Cindy Traynor.
It was early September of 2010 when Cindy and her husband, Gary, received a 3 a.m. phone call. It was the same weekend every year since Katie had been in college that she joined her friends for a weekend at Dale Hollow Lake. There were 15 of them and on the first night they took a late night swim. Afterward they boarded a speedboat to return to their houseboat. It was that fateful return trip that resulted in the middle-of-the night phone call. The speedboat hit a rock, throwing all the swimmers overboard. All the friends survived the accident except Katie.
Because Dale Hollow Reservoir is situated on the Kentucky/Tennessee border hours passed before Katie’s parents knew her fate. Authorities were uncertain about the jurisdiction, said Cindy Traynor. In addition to Katie, the Traynors are parents to two boys. Katie was the middle child.
“She did her capstone at IU Health and she had just started working in NICU. She once called me and said, ‘mom, I’m doing my dream job – rocking babies,” said Cindy Traynor. “We knew long ago if she became a nurse she would be working with babies. She loved babies. She once took her little brother to school for show and tell.”
To keep her memory alive, the Traynors formed a scholarship in Katie’s name. Each spring they award two $5,000 scholarships to Purdue nursing students. Among the guidelines are the student must be beyond their freshman year, an out-of-state student, and one who is well rounded.
Katie was a high school athlete and loved life. “We like to give the scholarships to people who are somewhat similar in that way,” said Traynor.
Last July, fresh out of nursing school, one of those scholarship recipients joined IU Health. Megan McLaughlan at first thought she wanted to be a NICU nurse. But when she was introduced to behavior health she knew that’s where she needed to be.
“The behavioral health department at Methodist has three different units so I float between the units and I feel like I’m constantly challenged and learning something every day,” said McLaughlan, 23, who met Katie’s family at the scholarship banquet. Like Katie, McLaughlan loves children and began working as a nanny at the age of 14. She said she has a natural caregiver personality and came to Purdue from a suburb of Detroit as a direct admit into the nursing program. She was social chair of her college sorority, volunteered for College Mentors for Kids, and like Katie was a member of the campus organization Nursing Without Borders.
McLaughlan is one of 14 recipients of the Katie Traynor Scholarship in the past 10 years.
“She was an awesome daughter and it makes me feel good to know that other nurses are living their dreams,” said Cindy Traynor. What does she think Katie would be doing if she were alive today? “I think she’d be a mom and still caring for babies in the hospital. That was her whole life.”