Neighbor helps woman in need of liver transplant

By Bill Althaus
The Examiner

Miriam Keith first met her new neighbor, Katlyn Bokhoven, when she lost her new dog, Akira, shortly after moving to Independence last December. 

When the puppy ran away, Keith suggested that Bokhoven place some of her clothes in the yard, in hopes the runaway would follow the scent home. 

Miriam Keith started a Facebook/GoFundMe page for a new neighbor, who needed a liver transplant. She also manned her phone for days, and finally found a way for that neighbor to get insurance under COBRA. Today, Katlyn Bokhoven is recovering after receiving a life-saving liver transplant.

It worked like a charm. But that is far from the most significant role Keith played in the life of Bokhoven, who returned from a recent vacation in Mexico suffering with leg cramps. 

Bokhoven was soon moved from hospital to hospital, and last week underwent a liver transplant that was made possible, in part, through hours of time on the phone by Keith, who helped her get insurance under the federal continuation-of-coverage law commonly called COBRA. 

She also raised $70,000 that went toward the surgery on a Facebook/GoFundMe page that Keith said “caught on like wildfire.” 

Bokhoven’s boyfriend, Tim Fuller, said Keith is one of many individuals who have helped through prayers and generosity. 

“People back in Pella (Iowa) have been so amazing, and I don’t know if you could ever find a better neighbor than Miriam,” Fuller said, from Bokhoven’s bedside at Saint Luke’s Hospital. 

“I simply don’t have words to describe the impact she has had on our lives. She keeps saying ‘Anyone would have done what I did,’ but that’s simply not true. She did it! She made an impact on our lives and we will always be thankful for her.” 

After spending a few minutes with the longtime Independence resident, it’s easy to see how she started the ball rolling, enjoying the snowball effect it had on the life of the 29-year-old who had started a new job and had not yet received insurance coverage. 

“First of all, Katlyn is one of those bubbly individuals who just light up a room when they walk in,” Keith said. “I have done a lot of rescue work with dogs, and when I found out Katlyn’s dog had run away, I told her to put some of her clothes in the yard – and it worked. She was so happy, and so was I.” 

A few months later, Bokhoven and Fuller went on a vacation to Mexico, where her legs began to swell. The pain became unbearable, and when she returned home, she went to the emergency room. 

“They told her she was dehydrated, and to take Tylenol – that was back in April,” Keith said. “She was taking two Tylenol, every four hours, for two and a half weeks, and that led to a new problem.” 

Overuse of Tylenol along with other factors can cause problems.  

“She only had a couple of drinks of the vacation, but felt too bad to eat,” Keith said, “so it all led to her liver failure.” 

Bokhoven soon wound up at Saint Luke’s, in need of a liver transplant. And that’s when Keith went into action. 

“She didn’t have insurance, because it hadn’t kicked in at her new job, and she needed some money, so I started making phone calls, and reaching out to people over Facebook,” Keith said. 

She received a replay from an insurance broker in St. Louis, who explained a way that Bokhoven would be eligible for insurance under COBRA. 

“If I hadn’t received that phone call, I don’t know what I would have done – it was a gift from God,” she said. “It really was.” 

She also started the Facebook/GoFundMe page. 

“I couldn’t believe that,” Keith said. “I had no idea what to expect, but I wasn’t expecting that. You know, you hear about how the world is such a terrible place, but there are a lot of good people out there.” 

And her husband Patrick met one recently, which brings tears to Keith’s eyes as she talked about an encounter that “was meant to be.” 

“My husband does some work as an Uber driver, and he picked up a young woman and they began talking, and she said she was a nurse in the transplant unit at St. Luke’s,” Keith said. 

He soon found out that she was on duty when Bokhoven received her transplant. 

“She told my husband she was meant to be in his car that day, and when he told me, I couldn’t believe it. It was another God moment." 

“And Katlyn – who we heard was in a coma all the way until she had her surgery – is responding to her family members from Iowa who came down to be with her.” 

After a long pause, Keith simply added, “Please, don’t try and make me a hero out of this. I just did what anyone would do, if they knew someone, like their neighbor, was in trouble.” 

“I’ve been in situations in my life when people helped me, and I’m just paying it forward.”