Holly Katke always wanted to help people.

It’s what made her work so hard at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center, what drove her as she quickly rose through the ranks to become an Independent Duty Hospital Corpsman, the highest enlisted medical care provider in the Navy.

Holly’s skills as a Combat Medic Corpsman, her abilities as an Arabic linguist, and her long family history of military service all added up to make her invaluable to the Navy SEALs she worked with in Iraq. It was there on April 15, 2010, that the trajectory of Holly’s life changed forever. While providing lifesaving medical care to her fellow soldiers during an ambush, Holly was shot in the head by an enemy sniper. As a result of that injury Holly lost functionality in her right arm, hand and leg. It hasn’t been easy, but Holly has never given up.

“I’ve learned how to put my daughters hair in a bun for ballet with one hand. I have learned to cook and clean, and get her ready for school.”

Holly has tried every device and treatment option offered and worked hard with her physical therapists to make the most of her situation. She encourages MTEC researchers to work just as hard as she does to develop techniques and technologies to help her regain full functionality.

Holly’s message to MTEC Researchers

“Think outside the box. What else can you do? Hopefully you’ll be able to help out.”

We share Holly’s hope and we’re working hard to develop the solutions she needs to make her life better. When asked how she hopes research might change her life, Holly said:

“If I finally got use of my hand again… That would bring tears to my eyes. I miss using it. Just putting my hand up and looking at it instead of just crunched in a ball and unable to do anything.”

She adds that she admires medical researchers and others in the healthcare field. As a former Combat Medic Corpsman who aspired to become a physician’s assistant, she understands why they do what they do.

“I just would want to thank them. There are so many injuries…none like another – especially brain injuries. It affects the body in different ways. Research can never stop. Yeah, sometimes it’s not going to work…But you know what? You don’t scrap everything and throw it all away. Let’s try this again and not give up. And that’s what veterans need – someone who’s not going to give up on them. Someone who’s going to continue to work hard.”

That’s what we intend to do. MTEC researchers are determined to keep working hard for people like Holly who were willing to work hard for all of us.

Holly Katke is active with the Combat Wounded Veteran Challenge (CWVC), an MTEC member organization with the mission to improve the lives of our wounded or injured veterans by assisting them in realizing their newfound potential for the benefit of all. CWVC focuses their efforts on education, rehabilitation, research and innovations in field-based assessments/treatment of Orthotics & Prosthetics, Post-Traumatic Stress and Traumatic Brain Injury.