‘I am my ancestors’ dream’

Katina Griffith, R.T., a respiratory care coordinator at Norton Children’s Hospital, makes her impact helping sick kids recover in the pediatric intensive care unit and Jennifer Lawrence Cardiac Intensive Care Unit. As a registered respiratory therapist, she’s been a vital part of helping the hospital respond to surges of COVID-19, flu and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).

In March, Katina celebrates her 25-year service anniversary as a member of the Norton Healthcare family. In her current role, she collaborates with providers on details of patients’ care, educates other staff and works with children receiving treatment in an intensive care unit (ICU).

“My favorite thing is seeing patients get better, move out of the ICU, feel well enough to start smiling and playing, and then hearing parents say, ‘This is my child,’” Katina said.

A 12-year breast cancer survivor, Katina graciously offers support to young patients processing all that accompanies their own breast cancer diagnosis. She regularly volunteers with the American Cancer Society to mentor these patients, sharing encouragement and advice from her own experience to provide comfort and companionship.

Katina views Black History Month as an opportunity to showcase the many great contributions African Americans have made in our country.

For Katina, Black history’s relevance is not limited to a February commemoration, but she does appreciate the time to remember that many of the things we use in everyday life, such as traffic lights and automatic elevator doors, were patented by African Americans.

A student of history, Katina loves reading to learn more about trailblazers. During February she might share Black history facts on social media or wear Black history-themed T-shirts throughout the month, viewing both these approaches as opportunities to spread awareness and education.

Lived experience is often the greatest teacher, and Katina greatly appreciates the wealth of knowledge that is her 93-year-old grandmother. Together they attend Fifth Street Baptist Church, one of the oldest churches in Kentucky. Katina is proud to share how her grandmother was in attendance when the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. visited the church to speak. Katina also appreciates the congregation’s rich history in leading civil rights rallies.

“Knowing these people marched and sacrificed for me to have my birthright and to make sure every American was treated equally, no matter the color of your skin — to make sure we got our equal due in education, in the workplace and in all parts of society — I feel that I am my ancestors’ dream,” Katina said.

When asked to name inspirational role models, Katina lists aunts, uncles, parents, grandparents and great-grandparents, along with specific ways each shaped who she is today. Throughout Katina’s family tree, education has been a consistent value. Older generations share how they had to fight tenaciously for the opportunity to receive quality education, and they want Katina and the next generation to take advantage of the doors education can open.

Katina shares that her grandfather lived in Calhoun, Kentucky, during the Great Depression. When times were particularly tough, he ran out of toilet paper and had to use tobacco leaves. It was then that her grandfather made a promise that once he had a family, he would never let them be without. For the rest of his life, he kept a pantry in his house stuffed to the brim with toilet paper, a symbol of that promise.

For Katina, February is a time to appreciate how far we’ve come but also to remember how far we still have to go.

“We’re all in this world together. We should put colorism behind us and see each person as a loving individual who contributes to society,” Katina said.

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