Thrive by IU Health

June 29, 2021

With every transplant, nurse’s family grew a little bigger

IU Health Methodist Hospital

With every transplant, nurse’s family grew a little bigger

After a 40-year career, Kim Fox is retiring from Methodist, but she will carry her patients with her in her heart.

By Maureen Gilmer, IU Health senior journalist, mgilmer1@iuhealth.org

When Kim Fox came to work at the biggest hospital in Indiana, it was her first job out of nursing school, her first time living in Indianapolis and her first step in a career that would span 40 years.

Early photo of Kim Fox and coworkers

Her job for the past 21 years, lung transplant coordinator at IU Health Methodist Hospital, didn’t even exist when she first started at Methodist on June 15, 1981, because lung transplants themselves didn’t begin locally until the mid-1980s.

Before that, she worked as an ICU bedside nurse for about 15 years, then transitioned to liver transplant coordinator and kidney transplant coordinator for about four years. With the exception of a few months at IU Health University Hospital, all of her career has been spent at Methodist.

And what a career it has been. Fox has been a part of so many transplant stories that her family has grown a little each time.

“A lot of my longtime patients, we get to know them like family,” she said.

That family includes people like Jen Weber, whom Fox has guided through not one, but two double lung transplants over the past 11 years.

Weber plays the guitar

“She has really been my anchor,” Weber said of Fox. “It’s hard to put into words what she has meant to me. She’s the one you call the minute you don’t feel right and also when things are going well. I sent her pictures from my vacation, and when I ran my first half-marathon.”

When Weber received her second transplant in 2012, Fox was by her side, coaching her every step of the way, teaching her how to care for her new lungs.

“She is calm, and she keeps me steady,” said Weber, who was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis as a child. “I’m really glad she can retire, but my gosh, I’m going to miss her.”

As a transplant coordinator, Fox attends all of her patients’ transplant-related appointments, keeps track of their medications and is always a phone call away.

“We’re in close contact with our patients to help ensure a positive outcome,” she said. “We see them for life in clinic.”

Or in this case, until retirement.

Fox is one of nine lung transplant coordinators at Methodist – three pre-transplant coordinators and six post-transplant coordinators. Darla Mitten, who currently works in pre-transplant, will be moving over to take Fox’ position.

As she counts down the days until June 25, her last day at Methodist, Fox is looking forward to spending time with her grandchildren and traveling with her husband.

But she’s going to miss her other family – her transplant family. That includes the people she works with and her patients, especially those who are many years out from transplant. She has one patient who is about 18 years out from his transplant, so he holds a special place in her heart.

Kim Fox conversing with a teammate

“It’s strange thinking I’m not going to be working anymore,” she said. “I’ve enjoyed my work life here.”

Jill Gorman, clinical manager of Thoracic Transplant Services, will miss Fox’ “fountain of knowledge,” as well as her leadership and compassion.

Fellow transplant coordinator Danyel Gooch remembers meeting Fox back in 2000 when Gooch was new to transplant.

“Little did I know in those early days I would meet one of the most impactful people to grace my life,” Gooch said, as she recalled coordinating her first transplant with support from Fox.

“Kim sat with me and guided me through the long evening. She is an excellent nurse, wife, mother, daughter and friend. She loves with a love that is felt in every fiber of your being. I will miss her greatly … but I am so excited that after so many years of sacrifice she can fully enjoy life with her family and friends.”

Coordinator Wendy Rosenberger echoes her colleague’s comments about Fox, with whom she has worked for more than 20 years.

“I have been so blessed to have her on my team all of these years,” Rosenberger said. “Her compassion for her patients is amazing, and she is very diligent in making sure they have everything they need to succeed. The patients she has worked with are all so blessed to have had Kim in their corner.”

A retirement celebration for Fox is planned for June 25, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., in the Advanced Heart and Lung Care Clinic in MPCII at Methodist. That same day, her youngest son will complete his residency and begin his career as a physician in Fort Wayne. Her oldest son works in accounting, her daughter is a nurse for IU Health, and her son-in-law works for IU Health LifeLine.

As the state’s only lung transplant program, IU Health Methodist has transplanted 1,057 (and counting) patients in the past 35 years.

Photos submitted and by Mike Dickbernd, IU Health visual journalist, mdickbernd@iuhealth.org

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