A Michigan woman waiting on a double lung transplant at Mary Free Bed received a big surprise when her boyfriend of five years dropped to one knee and proposed in front of some family and hospital staff.

Credit: Anthony Norkus / Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital via Facebook
Credit: Anthony Norkus / Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital via Facebook
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Why Did Kaitlin Sterling Need A Double Lung Transplant?

In November 2021, Kaitlin Sterling started feeling ill and visited urgent care. With alarmingly low oxygen levels, she was routed straight to the ER. For weeks she fought to survive in the ICU. She was eventually diagnosed with Antisynthetase Syndrome.

Health Care Professionals Treat Coronavirus Patients On The Acute Care Floor Of Harborview Medical Center
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What Is Antisynthetase Syndrome?

According to RareDiseases.com, Antisynthetase syndrome is a rare, chronic disorder that can affect multiple systems of the body. The disorder is immune-mediated, which means there is inflammation resulting from abnormal functioning of the immune system and the presence of autoantibodies that target a specific protein in the body. The symptoms and severity of the disorder can vary greatly among affected individuals. Common symptoms include inflammation of the muscles (myositis), inflammation of several joints (polyarthritis), interstitial lung disease, thickening and cracking of the skin of the hands, and a condition called Raynaud's phenomenon, in which the fingers or toes are numb or have a prickly sensation in response to cold. Affected individuals also have nonspecific symptoms like fatigue, unexplained fevers, and unintended weight loss. The exact, underlying cause is not fully understood. Antisynthetase syndrome sometimes occurs along with other conditions, such as uncommon inflammatory muscle diseases like dermatomyositis or polymyositis. Antisynthetase syndrome is a rare autoimmune disorder. The disorder, combined with extended time in the hospital, caused so much damage to Kaitlin's lungs, that she is now on the waitlist for a double lung transplant. 

Credit: Anthony Norkus / Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital via Facebook
Credit: Anthony Norkus / Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital via Facebook
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How Did The Proposal Happen?

Kaitlin, with the help of her Mary Free Bed respiratory therapists and nurses, took a walk Thursday night with her boyfriend Stan along the hospital’s outdoor walking path.  

Credit: Anthony Norkus / Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital via Facebook
Credit: Anthony Norkus / Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital via Facebook
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Beneath the springtime blossoms, Stan got down on one knee to propose. Kaitlin said, “Yes,” and accepted the engagement ring, which was appropriately engraved with the phrase Together in the Storm.  In the video below, Stan can be heard telling Kaitlin that she means the absolute world to him and that "whatever hardships are ahead of us, and whatever good times are ahead of us, I'm fully committed to you."

Credit: Anthony Norkus / Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital via Facebook
Credit: Anthony Norkus / Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital via Facebook
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Mary Free Bed
Mary Free Bed
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What Services Does Mary Free Bed Provide?

Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital has a storied history. Its roots date back to 1891 when a small group of women wanted to help people who couldn’t afford health care. Seeking support from the Grand Rapids community, they passed around a little black purse asking anyone named Mary – and anyone who knew someone named Mary – to donate 10 cents. Mary was the most common women's name at the time, so the group quickly raised enough money to fund a bed at a local hospital. It became known as the first “Mary free bed.”

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