Katy Foltz Hastings '03 is dedicated to serving her community at home and abroad.
It began with following a calling. In 2009, Katy Foltz Hastings ’03 made an intentional career move from sports therapy to nursing. The new path paved the way for her to volunteer on global medical mission trips.
After graduating with a degree in health and sports studies from Miami University, Hastings began her career as a strength and conditioning coach and personal trainer. After two years, however, she was eager to travel overseas and make a more meaningful difference. To turn this aspiration into a reality, Hastings sought out a profession where her skill sets would be essential and transferable. “I needed to do something more impactful,” she says. “I was thinking, ‘This is not the service I want to provide to my community,’ and I asked myself, ‘How am I going to continue my life of mission work?’”
In 2009, she returned to college to pursue a second bachelor’s degree—this time in nursing—from the University of Oklahoma. Today, Hastings is an operating room registered nurse at Scripps Health Hospitals. Now, she not only serves her local community but also is able to provide medical support to those in need around the world.
Medical Relief and More
When a 7.8 magnitude earthquake shook Nepal in 2015, killing approximately 9,000 people and injuring nearly 22,000, Hastings and two friends, Amber, a nurse, and Gupri, who’s in public relations, pulled together a group of volunteer medical professionals from around the nation to immediately begin fundraising for a service trip.
In the swift, monthlong planning process, the group reached out to their networks to gather necessary supplies, purchase medications, fundraise, and network with local organizations in Nepal. “We did a lot of grassroots fundraising through GoFundMe and solicited donations from surgeons, family and friends,” Hasting shares. “We also had a yoga studio in Encinitas donate profits from a class. If we had more time, we would have done more, like corporate fundraising or events.”
The team arrived in Nepal in June, a month after the earthquake. The group of surgeons, anesthesiologists and staff were briefly stationed in a hospital in Kathmandu before proceeding into the Himalayas. There, they set up a medical clinic to perform checkups, surgeries for earthquake victims and other non-earthquake-related medical care.
While there, they also visited a school damaged in the earthquake, East Point Academy. “A lot of the kids were orphaned because their family members had been killed,” Hastings shares. “What’s most amazing is the principal of the academy adopted all of the schoolchildren who had lost their families.” In addition to offering health screenings, the team donated funds to support the school’s rebuilding efforts. The relationship continued after the trip with fundraising efforts to support the school’s upkeep and collection of winter coats for the students.
Sparking a Fire
Hastings’s passion for service work was sparked in high school. In fact, she was the first recipient of the LJCDS Deora Bodley Alumni Association Award for Service, named in honor of alumna Deora Bodley ’99, who was a passenger aboard Flight 93 on September 11, 2001.
Hastings remembers volunteering in a San Diego soup kitchen the first Sunday of every month and forming the first school team for the diabetes walk. As an upperclassman, she embarked on global service trips to Mexico to build homes and to Africa on a peacekeeping mission with the United Nations. “[Former Community Service Director] Susie [Nordenger] changed my life,” she shares. “Her [community service] program was so small, but there were many opportunities to get involved. You start volunteering in the soup kitchen, then you’re going to Mexico and Africa. It goes from there, and then once you are hooked, you are hooked, and you find ways to do it. You find ways to make it happen.”
Her global service work continued in college, when Hastings accompanied her father on a medical mission trip to Fiji. As he performed surgeries, she taught CPR and supported preoperative and postoperative care.
Life-Changing Plastic Surgeries
In 2013, Hastings and her friends Amber and Gupri accompanied a team of surgeons, medical students, other nurses and staff with the American Society of Indian Plastic Surgeons on a trip to India. In four days, the team performed 104 life-changing surgeries, including cleft lip and palate repair, and hand and facial reconstruction, among others. “[Nurse] Amber and I were helping with suturing and getting patients into post-op in the next room,” she says. “The doctor would literally finish one surgery, wash his hands in between and go to the next room. One doctor would do all hands because that would be really fast. And one doctor would be doing full neck burns.”
The doctors had to avoid performing multiple surgeries on a patient due to time constraints because many families traveled far distances. As a result, the major surgeries were done in a single operation. And recovery time was unlike anything in the United States.
“The children were so scared, and you’re able to communicate somehow non-verbally to get them calm enough to do the procedures,” she says. “And you see just how strong they are. They wake up and all they need is their moms to come hold them, and they’re OK. We don’t have heavy-duty narcotics. We’re doing these with minimal post-op. They get anesthesia, but postoperatively, it’s just a little Tylenol and mom’s hug, and that’s all.”
Commitment to Service
Pursuing medical missions as a passion comes with its challenges, requiring intense pre-travel preparation and commitment. Hastings’s son was 1 1/2 years old when she traveled to Nepal. “Not only are you gone from your family and your job, but it takes a lot of time beforehand to prepare,” she says. “Hours and hours to set up fundraisers, call people on the phone who don’t speak your language, and organize everything.”
It’s been three years since her trip to Nepal, and Hastings is beginning to get the travel bug again. Now with a newborn and a 4-year-old son, she hopes to return to medical missions in a few years. “I get to live my passion for service and travel at the same time, all while having a family and working full-time. It can be done; you find ways to make it happen. There’s never a good time. You just do it. My family and my husband have always been so supportive.”
In the meantime, Hastings’s son, James, is getting a lesson on the importance of giving back and understanding different cultures. “When you have kids, you just incorporate them,” Hastings says. She and her family are currently supporting a refugee family from the Congo. “I wanted something for James to get involved with. They have a young boy who’s 3; James is 4. When we go over to their apartment, James always wants to bring over a bag of toys and clothes. It’s been great for him. He’s asking a lot of questions and thinking about the world outside of the United States. It’s something that is important to me, so hopefully, it becomes important to him too.”