Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Healing Touch

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

There are many wonderful health care professionals touching Katherine’s life during this healing process. She is strangely touching theirs as well.

Dr. Gonzales was the chief neurosurgeon during her operation. I met him for the first time in the wee hours following the nightmare night of endless waiting. I had arrived at the hospital around midnight. The lobby was packed with 100 or so watching, praying friends. By around 5:00, it had dwindled down to Jay, Amie, me, Mia, and 3 or 4 of Jay’s best friends. After hours of restlessly awaiting news, we’d each slumped into an uncomfortable chair for a few moments of troubled half-sleep. I heard a faint, accented voice come out of the humming silence. Jumping up with a hammering heart, I saw Jay talking to The Man in a White Coat. He was pale, somber, and looked absolutely exhausted. I strained to hear and comprehend the sort of words every doctor hates to deliver: although he believed they had successfully removed all or most of the AVM, there had been massive bleeding into the brain tissue and spinal cord. There would be “deficits.” I stared at him blankly. No one said anything for a few seconds. “What kind of DEFICITS???” I finally managed. In a low, controlled voice, Dr. Gonzales dropped the bomb of hideous possibilities: partial paralysis, inability to swallow, coma, or “machine.” Somehow, I thanked him before dissolving into Jay’s arms.

I didn’t see Dr. Gonzales again until 8 days later.

During that interim, we had interactions with many other staff members at the hospital. I made a great first impression in the ICU, sob-praying all over Katherine before lying down on the dirty floor. A nice lady came in to coax me up, speaking to me very s-l-o-w-l-y. I think she must specialize in assessing whether or not relatives need a little psych consult. Over the next few days, we got to know several of the wonderful nurses pretty well. They are unbelievably hard-working, focused on the multitudinous complexities of the electronic jungle of life-sustaining equipment, caring for Katherine physically, and trying to keep up with volumes of paper work. We’ve managed to make friends in spite of this intricate multi-tasking. At first, I’d catch some of them glancing our way as we did ‘atypical’ things around Katherine’s bed. Gradually, conversations began. They looked at the pictures we’ve stuck on the walls from happier times in Katherine’s life. (Of course, the baby always provokes comments.... he IS the cutest one in the world, don’t even try to argue about it.) Prayers were observed. Questions were asked. They looked at the websites. They entered into our story.

One told us about Dr. Gonzales’ first visit to see Katherine after the surgery. She said he had tears in his eyes when he saw her move. Another told us that she’d never witnessed such interest in a patient. Someone had printed out a couple of pages about Katherine from the website of Jay’s dad’s church with a tract stapled on. The nurse told us that three different doctors had stopped to read the print-out...and read the whole tract as well. “That kind of thing NEVER happens around here,” she said. A third told us, “They’re very scientifically-oriented at this place. I’ve never heard this kind of talk about a case.”

One day I looked up and saw a young Asian guy with spiked hair, a wild-colored t-shirt, and a backpack, looking into Katherine’s room. I thought he might be a UCLA student, there to see his nurse girlfriend. When I gave him a “May-I-help-you” look, he introduced himself as Katherine’s anesthesiologist. He told me it was his day off, but he’d wanted to check up on her. He had been with her for 16 hours. He said that there were never fewer than 5-8 of them working on her at a time. “Doctors?” I asked. “No. That was just the anesthesiologists.” He told me that he’d never, ever, seen a surgery like it before. He said that he’d been transfusing blood as fast as he could. When I thanked him for saving my child’s life, he said modestly, “Oh that wasn’t me...that was Dr. Gonzales and Dr. Frasee.” Brooks had come up by this point. “I’ll be keeping her in my thoughts,” he told us as he left.

I’ve witnessed 3 or 4 nurses tear up when speaking of Katherine. They’ve told us about several doctors, respiratory technicians, and others involved in her case who’ve been emotional about it. But the most moving experience for me was when I finally got to see Dr. Gonzales again. He looked very different from the previous time I’d seen him. His eyes were bright and kind, and he looked somehow younger. Smiling warmly, he shook my hand. I thanked him again, and he told me that he’d been honored to have been a part of Katherine's surgery. He let me know that hers was the most complicated case he’d ever seen. Many hospitals wouldn’t even have attempted it...there had already been so much bleeding into the brain and spinal cord before she got there. When I said that she’d been in the right place at the right time, he replied, “We were ALL in the right place at the right time.” (It evidently took a village.) As I thanked him for saving her life, he pointed up. “I had a helper,” he smiled. “Most would not have survived.” He told me that although there were still dangers from stroke and infection, he felt very optimistic. “We have done our part. Now it is up to you. The love and support of her friends and family are what will bring her through.” I had heard that he had asked his mother and grandmother in Colombia to pray for Katherine. He told me that his mother prays daily for Katherine and checks the websites for news. (If she should somehow stumble upon this, I want to thank her for raising such a wonderful son.)

Later, a nurse told me that Dr. Gonzales had sought her out to tell her how much he has come to care about our family. She said, “You don’t hear words like “miracle” used around here. But that is what he’s calling it.”

They still happen.


(p.s. I was told that Katherine was not expected to live at the time of the surgery. The prognostication was that if she did, she would be in a “persistent vegetative state.”

She squeezed my hand the first day.)


Karen Blickle said...

Once again, even MORE amazing, miraculous news beautifully expressed! Your yellow flower vision is being realized every day. HALLELUJAH!!

I love you!

Bobbie said...

When God blessed you and Brooks with Katherine, he blessed the world as well.....could you ever have imagined at the time, that the unfathomable love you felt for her would someday be shared by countless others.... in such a profound way?! Thank you for your intimate, beautiful writings that allow us to feel better equipped to pray for you all.
In today's "Streams in the Desert" devotion:

Not until each loom is silent,
And the shuttles cease to fly,
Will God unroll the pattern
And explain the reason why
The dark threads are as needful
In the Weaver's skillful hand,
As the threads of gold and silver
For the pattern which He planned.

We all wait with the absolute knowledge that God's "Katherine Pattern" will be one of utter magnificence!

With love and faithful prayers from Charleston,
Bobbie Lloyd

katie said...


Tom, Mom, Dad, Robert and I have been thinking of you day and night. We pray constantly, check every bit of updates, and hope you know how much you are in our minds and hearts.

I have never been so moved by Katherine's resilience, by all the love and support surrounding her, and by the beautiful way you've expressed yourself in these blogs. Your writing is so poignant, so hauntingly beautiful, such a paradox of vulnerability and strength. I am amazed by how resilient you have been as well, and by this ability to share your experience with all of us. It does make everything more real, and yet more special as we imagine you all together, you and Kat having you mother daughter "sandwich", knowing that she is aware of all the love around her. Each time you welcome us into your new life, I leave with tears in my eyes and a deeper understanding of both family and faith. Thank you.

God bless you,
Katie Long Stevenson

Jimmy said...

You are an amazing woman of God. I see where Kat gets it. Thank you SO MUCH for taking the time to write all that. You still have no idea the worldwide impact Katherine's faith-guided struggle has become. Prayers and love to your entire family...

Jimmy Kirk

MJ said...

I was born at UCLA Medical Center, and both of my parents worked there while we lived in Los Angeles during my first seven years of life. Dad's a doc, Mom's a nurse. I met an array of white-coated people on various occasions, and I do remember what a wonderful community it was. I'm glad to know that there are still great people there doing great things!

Now, a big *CHEER* for all involved in orchestrating and receiving this miracle! Thank you so much for sharing your soul with us throughout, and may Katherine continue to receive (and, one day, give) the spiritual gift of healing from all who touch and pray for her.

Sending warm rays of healing from San Francisco,
MaryJane A.

klong said...

Kim and Brooks,
We're so encouraged- miracles are clearly happening! Thank you for bringing us in to your world as we all pray for Katherine's recovery and peace for all of you. Not a day goes by that we don't read your updates and think of you.

Much love, Kathryn + Bobby

candycarrillo said...

Your ability to convey just the perfect thoughts are amazing. Not only are you blessed to have Katherine, but she is blessed to have you as a mother, sharing words from the heart; living devotions testifying to the love Abba, Father God, has showered upon you and your loved ones who now surround you, sharing the Good News with the "scientific" minds(how well I know them)! I keep wondering how many thousands of prayers are being sent heavenward hourly in Katherine's behalf, and how God keeps using this tragic event for His good. Prayer changes people. So many of my friends (who only know you through these reports) are praying for all of you. We all stand in awe of God's faithfulness and look forward eagerly to each report of improvement.
Hugs across the miles,

astackhouse said...

Thank you for sharing. Your words draw me in to a very special closeness to what you are experiencing. Hope your back is holding up. Know that we wrap you all in prayer morning and night.

You help me remember to love my children a little tighter and plant the good seeds of faith as we go through each day. You certainly gave Katherine something of substance to cling to right now.

Still holding the other end of the rope for you.
Love, Amy Stackhouse

Liz said...

Kim- reading your touching and inspiring words has really moved me. I hope it has been as cathartic for you as it is to all the people who are reading your precious words. I remember how eloquent you have always been and that always came through in your teaching. I think of you often and am so happy to read about all the wonderful improvements Katherine has made.

Love, Liz

Liz said...

Kim- reading your touching and inspiring words has really moved me. I hope it has been as cathartic for you as it is to all the people who are reading your precious words. I remember how eloquent you have always been and that always came through in your teaching. I think of you often and am so happy to read about all the wonderful improvements Katherine has made.

Love, Liz

Natalie said...

Kim (Brooks and family)-
Drew and I are heartbroken and amazed at this nightmare that God is shining His beautiful light in. Thank you for sharing your heart with us. Please know that the St. James family in Denver, CO prays for each of you daily and many other Denver Seminary prayer warriors do as well!
Much love and many more miracles to come!

drew and nat

Tenille Rauls said...

I "stumbled" across your family's blog tonight only to be blessed, amazed, and overwhelmed by the miracles God is performing in your families life. I worked for a neurosurgeon, Dr. Al-Mefty, the last 5 of 6 years. He specializes in skull base abnormalities, including AVM's. I understand God's miracle here a little too well. Wow, I needed a reminder of just how big He is. I will add Katherine, you,and her entire family to my prayer list and blog roll. I can't wait to see what God has instore for Katherine. What an amazing miracle that is unfolding. My words are not doing justice to the presence of the Holy Spirit I feel through your and other family members words. May God give you strength, peace, endurance, wisdom, and more miracles as we unknown sisters in Christ watch Him work in your lives. God bless, Tenille Rauls