Thank you for taking the time to learn something of this extraordinary woman and the heartrending tragedy that befell her. I am Joseph Hoane, Katarina's partner.
Some of you will recognize the tall blonde woman in the pictures as the teacher who helped and inspired you. Others will see their loyal friend or distinguished colleague. It was always a pleasure to encounter Katarina because of her warm smile, lively personality and elegant appearance. Beyond first greeting, her intelligence and warm heart made it a pleasure to know her. She is a caring, devoted friend.
One friend expressed it this way: "Some of you may know Katarina as a Professor of Design Theory and History. Or you may know her as I do - an amazing, passionate, spirited, creative, motivated person and good friend. Lover of sailing, rollerblading, skiing, Tango, Opera and one avid Traveler."
Katarina was noted early as having a gift for drawing, One person compared her drawings to Egon Schiele's. For a career, however, she wanted an intellectual challenge. Taking this path led her to become one of our preeminent Design Historians. She has lived in four countries beside her native Austria and speaks five languages. This broad cultural experience gives her insights into the relation between designs and society/culture that escape others.
Early in the pursuit of her interest in design history she was hired by the Centre Pompidou in Paris. There she curated an important design history exhibition, the first ever offered by the Centre. Official Japanese visitors were so impressed with the exhibition that they offered her a five year fellowship in Japan toward a degree. She accepted this offer and went on to gain her Ph.D. in Design History from the Tokyo National University of Fine Art and Music. Katarina then moved to New York and joined the faculty of Pratt Institute where she has taught Design History for 15 years. This last summer, ironically just before her surgery for a brain tumor this summer, she was promoted to full Professor. Katarina is widely recognized as one of the best teachers at Pratt in any department. She has inspired hundreds of design and design history students. [Take a look at some of the notes written by her former students who have donated and you will see something of the impact she had on people's lives.]
In a tragedy that goes beyond words this brilliant, lively, cheerful, warm-hearted woman suffered a brainstem stroke in July in the course of brain surgery to remove a tumor. This event left her completely paralyzed. Her mind and sensations remained completely intact, but she could not breathe, eat, talk or move any part of her body except her left eye. This condition is known as "locked-in syndrome". Thank God people around her were able to keep her alive and recognize that she was still there, still mentally intact.
Now after difficult months of recuperation and therapy she is able to breathe on her own and has full use of her eyes and many head muscles. She can move a finger and a toe a bit and is working hard to bring the rest of her body back. She uses a letterboard with eye signals to communicate now, but is determined to come back and regain her life, to talk, to walk, to live. But Katarina has a long way to go and needs our help.
Her immediate need is for a special computer that can be controlled by eye movements ($7,000). With this she could fairly quickly rejoin the world and send emails. Soon she will also need a motorized wheelchair that will help her stand up ($12,000) and a (used) van to transport her and the chair ($40,000) as no one in her family has such a vehicle.
She also needs your thoughts and prayers.
If you leave a little note with your contribution I'll make sure she sees it -- your words will mean a lot.
======================================= UPDATE May 2016
Sufficient money has already been contributed to get Katarina a battery-operated wheelchair with a special collar-like sensor. She has now regained enough head movement to use this collar to control the motorized wheelchair obtained with your donations. I've posted a video of her in the wheelchair taken a few weeks ago. At this writing her head movements are even better. Thank you!
In addition, because of your help Katarina will get back her access to the online world. The surgery left a problem with her right eye muscles. She can see out of the eye but can't control its movements perfectly enough to use the standard eye-controlled computer interface. But thanks to you she was able to get not just the computer but also get a custom interface in which the camera just tracks her left eye! The associated new software is also quite impressive. I think she will be able to communicate with us by email before too long. Thank you so much.
So, because of your kind donations, the first two goals of the campaign have already been reached. It's a wonderful development and has made such a difference in her life and prospects for the future.
Katarina still hasn't been able to get the transport van we hoped for as the third goal. It would make a big difference in her ability to get out. The family live outside of Vienna where she stays. They work hard to arrange outings for her, but without a van parked where she lives it's not so easy and just doesn't happen that often. I hope we can help her get one.