Katarina Altmeyer strapped on her signature Beatles backpack and hopped on a plane with her family last week, ecstatic to be heading to Golden 1 Center to see Paul McCartney on Tuesday night. Instead, the 13-year-old ended up in a room at UC Davis Children’s Hospital, hooked up to fluids and antibiotics as she battles an infection in her heart.
The teen’s bedroom in Calgary, Alberta, is plastered with posters, CDs and other Beatles paraphernalia that family and friends have given to her over the years, said Katarina’s mother, Karen Strutynski. Last year, her present was a ticket to a Ringo Starr concert. This year, it was sixth-row seats for her and her sister to see McCartney in Sacramento.
“Katarina has always loved the Beatles from a young age,” Strutynski said. “We saw he was playing in Sacramento. We thought we’d come over and see Paul McCartney, especially because it was her birthday Oct. 1.”
But on Monday, after the family spent the weekend at the Elk Grove Pumpkin Festival and other area attractions, Katarina began to feel ill, Strutynski said. She drank fluids and kept her spirits up, certain she would still make it to the big event. By Tuesday afternoon, though, she was vomiting and delirious. It became clear that the family would need to skip the concert and take Katarina to the emergency room instead.
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She was admitted to the hospital’s intensive care unit Tuesday night for what doctors diagnosed as endocarditis, or an infection in the heart’s lining. Katarina, who was born with a congenital heart defect and has received multiple shunts, is more susceptible to those types of infections, said her father, Dr. Chris Altmeyer, a family physician in Calgary.
UC Davis physicians are treating her with fluids and antibiotics, and expect her to need care for several more weeks. The family is waiting anxiously to hear when Katarina, who is stable, can be medically transported back to Canada.
In the meantime, hospital staff members reached out to McCartney’s team to see if he would visit Katarina in the hospital. Sadly, he could not, with a spokesman citing McCartney’s busy schedule Wednesday, according to the family.
Katarina’s two favorite Beatles songs were “Octopus’s Garden” and “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer,” but lately she’s embraced “Let it Be” and “Hey Jude,” her parents said. She has gotten her 9-year-old sister into liking the band as well, and the two often compete in the Beatles quiz on their iPhones.
“Katarina is like an encyclopedia of information when it comes to Beatles history,” Altmeyer said.
Strutynski added: “Katarina was the one who heard it, immediately liked it and wanted to hear it again. They binge on Beatles together.”
Editor’s note: This story was changed Oct. 6, 2016, to reflect that the staff at UC Davis Medical Center requested Paul McCartney visit Katarina Altmeyer in the hospital, and not necessarily play a private concert for her.