Kathy Ketchum, RN, CRNI, was in junior high when a local physician visited her school to give students an up-close glimpse at real human lungs.
Although Ketchums grandmother and five uncles died from smoking-related illnesses, she wasnt about to quit the nearly half-pack-a-day habit she had started in seventh grade behind the school gym.
Then she saw the black lungs.
“[The presenter] had a good set, and he had several bad sets,” said Ketchum, a staff nurse on the IV therapy team at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett (Wash.), recalling the presentation she saw as a teenager. “The bad sets looked like a dirty, rotten sponge.”
Ketchum and her friends, whom she calls her “smoking buddies,” decided to help each other kick the habit. Today, that experience serves as inspiration for “Inside Out: The Original Organ Show,” a Providence program founded by Ketchum. Through the program, Ketchum and Rebecca Rose, RRT, pulmonary rehab specialist at Providence, bring human organs to area schools and organizations to show youngsters the effects unhealthy behaviors such as smoking, drinking, drug use and poor eating can have on their bodies.Kathy Ketchum, RN, speaks to an audience during the “Inside Out” program.
Ketchum started the program in 1989 when her sons teacher, knowing Ketchum was a nurse, asked her if she could bring real human organs to the class as part of a lesson on the human body.
“I had to put my hand in my lab coat because I was shaking so bad,” Ketchum said of her first presentation. “I realized at that point, ‘I have a big responsibility here.”
Word of mouth spread, with Ketchum visiting three schools the first year. Funded through donations from the Tulalip Tribes and the Providence General Foundation, the program now includes about 40 to 60 school visits in Snohomish County each year. Ketchum and Rose have reached about 350,000 children and teens, with presentations taking place in 196 arenas, including Navy ships, police departments, the YMCA, health fairs and programs for at-risk youths.Rebecca Rose displays damaged organs to a captivated audience.
Ketchum said she has received nearly 15,000 letters from students whose lives she has touched. She still gets approached everywhere — from the grocery store to sporting events — by children and adults who remember her from the organ show.
“Ive never thrown a letter away Ive gotten from a kid,” Ketchum said. “I read every one.”
In addition to lungs, Inside Outs collection of organs includes tongues of two men — one 18 and the other 22 — who developed cancer after chewing tobacco for less than 10 years. The presentation also features an enlarged heart of a heavy smoker and drinker, as well as a heart with a bullet hole in the left ventricle from an accidental shooting of a 15-year-old boy.Kathy Ketchum, RN, displays organs during an “Inside Out” presentation.
“Ive had people hand over their cigarettes and say, ‘Im done. I had no idea what this was doing to my body,” said Rose, who began giving presentations after meeting Ketchum in 1999 at a Great American Smokeout event. “People think theyre so indestructible when theyre young, and heres young people whose organs are on display.”
Although “Inside Out: The Original Organ Show” continues to gain popularity in Washington state, Ketchum would like to see the concept expand nationally. She encourages fellow nurses and other healthcare professionals to start similar programs in their own communities.
“Nurses have an incredible responsibility,” Ketchum said. “We have tools that can change lives forever.”
For more information on the program, visit InsideOutOrganShow.org.