Dying Trenton woman granted honorary nursing license

Katie Viger, a 23-year-old who is dying of brain cancer, has been granted an honorary nursing license by the Michigan Department of Community Health.

The license is expected to be signed today by the Michigan Board of Nursing and could be delivered to the Viger family at their home in Trenton as early as tonight, according to state Sen. Ray Basham (D-Taylor).
“We are thrilled,” said Cathy Wakefield, who was Viger’s nursing instructor at Henry Ford Community College. “It’s exactly what we wanted.”

Viger graduated from the Henry Ford nursing program in May. She was diagnosed with a brain tumor in August but was unable to take the test to become a registered nurse. Over the last two weeks, Wakefield has led a push to get Viger an honorary license.

With the help of Basham, Wakefield has campaigned to enact Katie’s Bill, which would change state law to allow the nursing board to issue honorary licenses in situations like Viger’s, where there are extenuating circumstances like an illness.

Friends and supporters started a Facebook group called “Give Katie Viger her honorary nursing license.” Forty-eight hours after it was started, 800 people had joined. After the Free Press told Viger’s story on Wednesday, the group swelled to 4,350 members. Many readers called their state lawmakers, expressing support for the bill.

Basham said the Department of Community Health agreed to grant the honorary license because there is pending legislation with strong bipartisan support, and because of the need for urgency. Viger is now in the hospice care.

“How can our family ever thank everyone for all the love and support you have shown to our very, very special daughter?” Viger’s mom, Cathy Viger, said in a post this morning on Facebook. “I have never seen our government work so fast and it is because of all of you! Everyone will forever be in our hearts. Again, we can never thank you all enough. Love, The Overjoyed Viger Family.”

Joe Viger said the license is a wonderful, symbolic gesture.

At the same time, he and his wife are living the horror of watching their daughter go through extreme pain.
“She just can’t get comfortable,” he said. “We are maxed out right now on what we can give her. We are getting ready to call hospice to see what we should do.”