When I first walked into the hospital room and saw my beautiful daughter Katie, lying in the hospital bed at Seattle Harborview Trauma Center, It was jolting! Katie had just turned 40, and had been the picture of health. Now, she lay still before me in a medically induced coma. I could see no movement or sign of life.
In her mouth were tubes for oxygen and intravenous feedings. Medical monitors, glowed with statistics displaying what was happening in her body. As I looked at her, I asked God to take me instead. After all, I am “the Mom.” I felt that I should be first in Heaven and be there to greet my children after they’d lived a good long life. My husband Tom told me that he had offered the same prayer. Katie was too young to leave us. Her family needed her.
Tom and I were in California, getting settled at Sun City Shadow Hill retirement community, when we received the call from her husband Peter, informing us that Katie had experienced a cardiac arrest and was hospitalized. How could this happen? She was the picture of health. She ate organic foods, exercised and ran regularly. She also had a successful career with a great company, and served as a deacon in addition to teaching a class at BelPres church.
I told Peter we would be flying home ASAP. Tom got us a flight that afternoon and our son Kevin picked us up at the airport. Visiting Katie at Harborview that night, we were overwhelmed seeing our daughter in that condition. Peter stayed with Katie that night. Even though we knew in our hearts that Katie would be okay, seeing her in a coma was extremely difficult for our family. If only she could give us a gesture to let us know she could hear us.
The Appearance of God’s Heart
As I stood by Katie’s bedside, my dear son-in-law, Peter, put his arm around me and said, “Look, there’s a heart on her face.” He knew well the family story. Katie at age 7 was accidentally burned by fireworks on her face, neck, and chest. She’d been rushed to the hospital where friends and family prayed for quick healing.
A month later, we noticed the appearance of two skin discolorations shaped like a heart and a fish. They took years to slowly disappear and served to remind us how God had been with her during her time of need. We felt strongly that the heart on Katie’s face was a sign from God, telling us that he was loving and protecting her. In that moment, I just knew that Katie was going to get well and come back to us!
The Doctor Briefing
We joined the doctors’ meeting to discuss Katie’s condition and their treatment plan. They simply didn’t know why her heart stopped, especially since they had determined that her heart and arteries were in excellent condition. They had cooled her body temperature to 33 degrees Celsius, a state known as Therapeutic Hypothermia and were monitoring her brain activity.
The following day, Katie’s sons, 10-year old Torsten and 8-year old Niklas were brought to the Hospital to visit their mom. They held up well with help from Peter and the hospital staff. Katie was surrounded by family, except for Brian who was flying in from Dubai where he’d been on business. Brian’s wife Daniele told me that, “Brian said he’s coming to wake up Katie.”
Friday morning, Tom, Brian, and I arrived at the hospital to attend another doctors’ briefing. They all wanted to know if anyone in our family had experienced a sudden-death episode. The MD’s agreed they would attempt waking Katie late that afternoon after gradually warming her body to its normal temperature.
At 4:00pm our family was called into Katie’s room. We surrounded her bed; leaving little room for her doctors. The lead physician asked Katie to give him a thumbs-up with her left hand and then her right. It was awesome to see her response. She was then asked to open her beautiful eyes.
She struggled because they were filled with tears. Immediately all of us became tearful as well. Thankfulness filled our hearts. The Doctor continued testing Katie with various questions to access her reasoning ability. She could not understand why she was in the hospital, but loved being surrounded by family.
Katie’s heart showed us that God cared, but what was going to happen now? Could we dare to presume that everything would return to normal? We prayed that it would. Our family and Peter’s family were one and although we were frightened and saddened by Katie’s physical state at the time, her heart gave us hope.
After waking from her coma, we were concerned that Katie repeatedly asked Peter why she was in the hospital. He repeated that her heart had stopped beating during her presentation to her company’s internal auditor. The auditor himself had given her CPR and called the medics. She was taken to Harborview, given CPR again, then shocked with a defibrillator and stabilized by placing her body in a medically induced coma.
Peter asked us to visit on Sunday. Katie had asked to see us and Brian because she’d forgotten everything from the day before. We were no longer worried. God doesn’t give you more than you can deal with. Kevin and Suzie’s daughter Ashley, mentioned to me that she and Katie had just watched the movie, 50 First Dates. She hoped her aunt Katie
Thanks For the Memories
Thankfully, Katie remembered everything that day! Two days later, she went to UW Medical Center to have a defibrillator, (a life-saving device) implanted in her chest. The doctors viewed her condition as similar to athletes that experience sudden death cardiac episodes for unknown medical reasons.
Katie went home the next day. She still had some pain from the implant surgery as well as her five broken ribs from the CPR efforts. What a perfectly wonderful gift that our Katie was able to return home healthy! We’re so thankful to God for his healing powers. As I write these words, It’s been only a few weeks since our daughter woke up from her “sudden death” three-day coma. The Heart-shaped spot on Katie’s cheek, though it may fade over time, will serve as a reminder of God’s Love.
I couldn’t end this story without the reflections of daughter Katie. “When I awoke from the coma,” she said, “I was overwhelmed to be surrounded by my wonderful family, friends from BelPres church, neighbors, sorority sisters and others. My friends are close like family and our family is close like dear friends.
“Following my recovery, my friend Denise told me how she’d gone outside alone for a walk while saddened by my condition. While walking, she saw a beautiful rainbow in the sky. As she gazed at God’s colorful promise, peace filled her mind and relaxed her stressed body. In that moment, she knew in her heart that I would be healed and everything would be okay.
God speaks to us in many ways, if we just open up and listen for his voice,” said Katie.