Nurse Fell In Love With The Habit

Transplant coordinator Karen Graves talks about her love of nursing and educating families as they prepare for transplant.

The way Karen Graves remembers the start of her interest in nursing is this:

“I went to a Catholic School. The nuns wore habits. The ones who were nurses wore white ones and the ones who were teachers wore black ones. I wanted to wear a white habit so I decided to be a nurse.”

After attending Holy Spirit Catholic School, she completed high school at the former St. Mary’s Academy, and her nursing degree at IU. She began her career working with the School of Medicine in Nephrology. Ten years ago she joined IU Health, working as a pre-transplant coordinator with both kidney and kidney/pancreas transplant patients.

“I do a lot of education for the families. The best part is the patients and working with the doctors,” said Graves. “I have a lot of admiration for the way things have advanced – what would have been hopeless 20 years ago are sometimes easily treated today. It’s amazing to see how nephrologists and surgeons can help patients get through difficult health issues.”

Among the improvements she’s seen are the use of Epoetin drugs that enable patients to keep their blood counts up without transfusion. “These are important because each transfusion has the potential to increase a patient’s antibodies, which makes finding a transplant match much more difficult,” said Graves. Another change she’s seen is the reduced time spent in the hospital after transplant. “In the 70s they’d have their surgery at IU Hospital for a kidney transplant and then be transported to the VA Hospital where they’d be in isolation for about 30 days. Now it’s nothing for them to go home in four days,” said Graves.

More about Graves:

  • She is married to Bob Graves. They are the parents to two daughters and grandparents to five grandchildren. “My grandchildren are the joy of my life,” said Graves.
  • They also have two rescue dogs Ali, 12 and Max, 14
  • Her hobbies include gardening and traveling. She likes to can vegetables and salsa from her garden in the fall.
  • Growing up she had three older brothers. Her father died when she was 13 so her brothers stepped in to help her mom keep an eye on her. “After dad died, mom worked at Ayres in the bridal registry and raised me on minimum wage. She had a little German stubbornness in her,” said Graves.

— T.J. Banes