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Beloved Katy ISD Teacher Fights for Her Life in ICU


December 27, 2018

Jennifer Lynn Greenway

Pam Hightower, a retired Katy ISD P.E. coach, has been in the intensive care unit since late November after contracting a bacterial infection and sepsis.

(Hightower with her daughter and son-in-law)

Hightower, 61, was admitted to Houston Methodist West in Katy on November 27 with a bacterial infection. She had been diagnosed with Perry-Rhombergs Syndrome decades ago, which in addition to facial abnormalities, makes her susceptible to infections because of low immunity. She is also suffering from breast cancer.

Hightower had scratched her face causing a bacterial infection that spread throughout her facial/head area. During an appointment to treat her breast cancer, her oncologist realized the severity of the infection and called an ambulance. Family members say that if the oncologist had not called the ambulance that day, she would not have made it.

Hightower had been treated at Houston Methodist West Hospital for 29 days in ICU for the bacterial infection, sepsis and many other complications. Sepsis, the body's extreme reaction to bacterial infections, is a very serious and deadly condition that affects 1.7 million Americans each year and of that kills 270,000. One in three patients who die in hospitals had sepsis. During Hightower's hospital say, she has had may setbacks keeping her in ICU.

Sepsis commonly occurs in those with weakened immune systems, over 65 and children under one. The symptoms to be aware of are confusion or disorientation, shortness of breath, high heart rate, fever or shivering, extreme pain or sweaty. Click here for details on sepsis from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

On day 29, Christmas Eve, Hightower was transferred to St. Catherine's in Katy, which is a Long Term Acute Care facility (LTAC), until she has fully recovered. Each day is full of ups and downs. The doctors expect her to recover but the road will be months long before she can be released.

Thirty-eight years ago, Hightower moved to Katy with her husband. This is where she has lived, worked and raised a family. Both her children are Katy High graduates. Each moved to Tulsa, OK to attend college and remained there to raise their families.

Hightower was a long-time PE teacher at Hayes Elementary and recently retired from Katy ISD in the Spring of 2017. Most of her time in Katy ISD was at Nottingham Elementary and Hayes Elementary. She also worked as a special education teacher. Hightower also privately taught thousands Katy area to swim for over 20 years.

"Mrs. Hightower loves all of the kids as her own,“ says Naomi Williams, mom of four children who attended Hayes elementary. Williams recalls Mrs. Hightower would even come to children’s outside youth sports games to show her support.

Hightower is an avid fan of the Katy Tigers football team and has been closely following the team and cheering them on for many years. She had planned to move back to her home state of Oklahoma to be near her children and grandchildren, but hoped to watch the Katy Tigers win state this year.

“Pam has always been a champion for kids of all abilities,” says Katy ISD name sake Amy Campbell. “She was Katy’s first Special Olympics coach and taught P.E. for many years in Katy ISD. After Hurricane Harvey, Pam worked with other retired teachers for weeks, helping muck out people’s flooded out homes. She has been a good friend to many!”

Many of Hightower's friends and her children have been by her side throughout this ordeal. Elissa, Hightower's daughter, has not been surprised by the outpouring of love from the Katy community, " enormous amount of people have stepped up to care for my family in this difficult time. I am not surprised, people here have always been the type to know your name, hold the door and when they ask "how can I help" truly mean that they will stop their busy lives to help another family. I have received so many messages and kind phone calls from this community and the power of prayer in and amongst this community has given my mom a chance."

Her children have been flying back and forth to help care for their mother as they juggle their full time jobs and families. They have endured expenses such as flights, hotels, car rentals and food while they are here caring for their mother on top of time off from their jobs. This would be hard for any family but at Christmas, the burden is greater.

Ann Russey, Hightower's dear friend, started a GoFundMe to help the children and Hightower with expenses. Russey felt led to start this campaign because, "She's (Pam) dedicated nearly her whole life to teaching children in Katy, TX and cheering on the Katy Tigers and she and her children could really use the encouragement and show of support and love right now." Each of the children will receive enough to cover their expenses and any financial contributions beyond the cost of their expenses will be put towards Pam's anticipated medical bills and helping her though her recovery. Click here if you would like to donate.

Katy Magazine wishes Mrs. Hightower a full recovery and long life with her children and grandchildren in Oklahoma.


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