Katie Hnida, who made U.S. history as the first woman to play and score in Division I-A college football, has suffered a life-threatening reaction to antibiotics, her family says.
Hnida, an athlete-turned-advocate for survivors of sexual assault, became ill in September after taking an antibiotic often prescribed for a common illness, her father, Dave Hnida, told The Washington Post. He said Thursday in a phone interview that Hnida had an adverse reaction that caused her kidneys and liver to start shutting down and her bone marrow to stop functioning properly.
After weeks of treatment, including emergency dialysis, Hnida is stable and expected to recover in the coming months, though her father called her prognosis “cautious.”
“It was a fairly stunning reaction,” her father, a primary care physician and medical commentator, said. He added that it underscores why, although antibiotics can be helpful, doctors try to avoid prescribing them unless it is absolutely necessary. He said his daughter’s response to the medication was “the last thing you’d ever expect in the world.”
Hnida’s father did not explain why his 37-year-old daughter was prescribed the antibiotics in September but said that within days she had become seriously ill.
Hnida said his daughter was taken to a hospital, where doctors learned that she had “almost no platelets,” meaning her blood would not clot. Hnida was admitted into the intensive care unit, where she underwent treatment.
He said that Hnida was in the hospital for weeks, though he did not name the hospital or say where it was located. His daughter is now making a “very slow recovery” at her family home in the Denver area, Hnida said.
“It was one of those life events that you never expect to have happen to you and, especially as a physician, it was frightening. But you become very thankful for a lot of little things,” her father said, noting that there has been an “outpouring” from people showing their support for his daughter. “It’s nice to know there are still a heck of a lot of kind people out there.”
Hnida gained national attention almost two decades ago when she joined the University of Colorado Boulder’s football team as a place-kicker and, then in the early 2000s, transferred to the University of New Mexico Lobos, where she became the first woman to play and score in an NCAA Division I-A game. In 2003, she kicked two extra points in a game against Texas State University, according to her website.
Then in 2004, Hnida made headlines for different reason. The college football player had came forward with sexual assault allegations against a former teammate at the University of Colorado Boulder — during a time when the team was embroiled in controversy over accusations that it had used alcohol and sex to impress recruits. Hnida told Sports Illustrated that she was a virgin when a teammate raped her in 2000.
A decade later — around the same time as Rolling Stone’s debunked story of a gang rape at the University of Virginia but before the #MeToo movement — Hnida told The Post that people were still calling her a liar.
“Sometimes I wish they could be there when I get so nauseous and sick that I’m throwing up and nights I can’t sleep and when I got into a depressive funk. Those times are rare now — it does get better, I want people to know that — but they are still around because it never truly goes away. It changes you,” she said in 2014.
Following news of Hnida’s illness, Jacque May, equipment operations manager at the University of New Mexico who knew Hnida when she was a student athlete, told the Santa Fe New Mexican she was “a wonderful teammate.”
“I remember the day the coaches came to us and said we had a female player transferring in,” she told the newspaper. “I’ll never forget it. They told us to treat her like every other athlete, and that’s exactly what Katie wanted, to be treated the same as the players around her. She never expected anything different and not once asked for special treatment. Never.”
“I’ve been around a long time and I can tell you, she was a wonderful teammate,” she added.
According to a GoFundMe page set up for Hnida’s family, Hnida will be unable to work for four to six months while she completes rehabilitation. The page has raised more than $11,000 to help cover her medical expenses and lost wages.
Hnida’s father said he is “extremely grateful” for what his daughter has done and hopes she will be able to continue her advocacy work.