Angela Hill / Eyewitness News
NEW ORLEANS – Imagine what your life would be like if you were never able to take a step, never able to hold a glass of water or put yourself to bed. That is the reality for Katherine Klimitas.
But this story is not about what she can't do. Instead, this is a story about the remarkable things she has accomplished.
We first met Katherine almost a decade ago, when, as a bright 13-year-old, she showed us how she trained her dogs for agility competitions. She showed us her artistic skills, with her work already in art competitions.
Born with brittle bone disease, she has never walked and has broken most of the bones in her body, but has never stopped enjoying life.
Now 22, Katherine continues her art, has her own graphic design business and is an accomplished jewelry designer.
“I'm not someone who wants to sit down and do nothing,” she said.
She graduated summa cum laude from Loyola University this year: all A's and one B.
Then she reworked her senior project into a book that has just been published, entitled "Looking Up: Lived, Written and Designed by Katherine Klimitas.”
It's the story of what brittle bone disease is, how she has lived her life with it and how people have reacted to her.
“To show people that when you have a disability it doesn’t mean you are useless,” she explained.
Katherine must be picked up and placed on a surface, whether it is to eat, to paint, to do her computer design work or make her jewelry.
“I can read sideways, just because that is how I have always done it,” she explained.
One wrong move and a bone can break. Many have. The most recent was at a concert, when she leaned the wrong way in her wheelchair and broke a rib.
The worst case followed a car wreck with her mother.
“I broke my sternum, my palate, my collarbone and my knee and had a couple of black eyes.”
She ended up in the hospital for that one, but for most of her broken bones, her parents, who are both veterinarians, know how to set and wrap or cast the breaks.
“I am very lucky, and even better, dad specialized in orthopedics,” she laughed.
Her indomitable sense of humor has gotten her through the tough times.
“If I had an X-ray for every bone I broke, I would be glowing from radiation,” she told us.
In her book, she tells of being stared at, even petted, with people thinking the person in her tiny body is a baby. Like the woman who saw her in the mall eating.
“She pointed at me and to the whole mall says, ‘She's eating chicken wings all by herself.’”
As Katherine says in her book, she is different. But she is also normal in so many ways, whether it is her love of music, the fun she has with fashion and makeup, or the dreams she has for the future.
“Just because I can't walk and I’m 2-foot-7 and drive a wheelchair doesn't mean that I don’t care.”
She has looked up her whole life, but that has given her a rare perspective.
“My biggest pet peeve is people who are physically completely normal and mentally completely normal and choose to not do anything with their lives,” she said.
It is an incomprehensible thought for a young woman who looks beyond her physical limitations to achieve her next dream.
You can find out more about Katherine's book on her web site: kakartnola.com.