One true story of God's clear intervention...
Kirsten’s pediatrician told my husband and me that they had done all that they could do for her.
During the months of my first pregnancy, I had a recurring dream that my baby had not come home with me. In my dream, I was no longer pregnant, but I had no child. Like someone else had my baby — just whom, and where, was never in these dreams.
I shared with friends this strange and unrelenting dream of mine and the dark, real and heavy grief it caused me to feel when I woke up. My friends, naturally, would try to console me by saying that my baby was just fine; that all new mothers have fears like this, and my dreams are only manifesting what I feared. I kept saying, no, something is wrong.
My husband was a full time doctoral student at the University of Oregon in Eugene, and we didn’t have the finances, or insurance, to see the pregnancy through with an OBGYN. So, we elected to save money and go through a midwifery clinic. There were no ultra sounds performed, so we neither knew the gender of our baby, nor had any evidence that anything might be wrong.
On Sunday, June 26th, 1983, just one week shy of the due date, I went into labor.
But all day that Sunday, and into Monday, the contractions could not progress enough for delivery. So, on Tuesday, June 28th, I was admitted to McKenzie Willamette hospital for an IV drip to induce and force the delivery.
Still, in the hospital, no ultra sound was performed to see what the hold up was, and the physician on call, Dr. Lou Marzano, did not know that one had never been performed. He went on to do the best thing for me, assuming my 9 months of pregnancy had been approached like any other.
My husband and I were angry with God for putting us in a situation that would clearly cost us money we did not have. Hospital, physician, emergency treatment…we couldn’t imagine how far back this would put us. But, we couldn’t dwell on that at the moment, we’d had no choice, so we spent some time going over names for our baby: if it’s a boy, we’ll name him Austin, if it’s a girl, we’ll name her Kirsten.
At 5:04 p.m., June the 28th, after three hard days in labor, a bright, yellow-blond, blue eyed baby girl was born…Kirsten. But, as she was pulled out and into Dr. Marzano’s arms, the reason for my dreams and her three-day delivery delay was there for all to see: she had a complicated omphalocele. Her intestines were outside of her body and they had developed in the umbilical cord, crammed in there tight as a balloon, and the size and shape of a melon.
Dr. Marzano was quiet, and very taken aback – this was a surprise he'd not expected. He, very calmly, instructed the delivery nurse where to cut the umbilical cord, and he knew, as soon as Kirsten’s life support was cut from me, her life might well be cut off, too...or a brief one at best.
With daddy following behind, Kirsten was rushed by ambulance to the larger Sacred Heart Hospital, in Eugene, where there is a neo-natal intensive care unit and where there was a pediatric surgeon waiting for her. With my husband waiting and praying for the surgeon, Kirsten underwent hours of surgery to put her intestines back into her tiny abdomen. Approximately one third of her small intestine had to be removed because, squashed in the umbilical cord, that portion had died. Herein lay the reason for her case being complicated and, for Kirsten about to hang in the balance of life or death.
I guess you could say at this point, if my husband and I had a problem with God over the cost of the delivery, we were about to see that expense as mere pocket change and the total monetary cost insignificant against the backdrop of our daughter’s life.
Sometime around midnight, I was awakened by a nurse at McKenzie Willamette where I had remained. Of course, I was privy to nothing in those seven hours since I had last seen my daughter. The nurse wanted me to know that Kirsten’s surgery was done and that she was alive in the intensive care unit. This nurse was crying when she went on to say, “God is going to take care of her now; we have all been praying for her and you."
Even while everyone knew my baby was expected to die, they gave me a baby shower anyway. I cannot tell you how deeply that affected me, and I would recommend others doing the same for a mom who may deal with such a time as that. When this picture was taken, I am thanking all of my friends and speaking about my dying infant and their gifts that I would save forever anyway. The shower was a HUGE gift of LOVE...such love and compassion! And how many would think to go ahead and do that, and not have cancelled it? It truly was the epitome of extreme love and illustration of their faith. No words can I muster to describe what I felt, when they gave me a baby shower anyway: profound.
Weight was a major factor in Kirsten's condition, because she had nothing to live on, except for IV feeding - her pudgy little birth fat had disappeared; her intestines were not going to be able to support her, hence, her body was starving to death. Kirsten lost over 12% of her birth weight in just her first nine days of life. She was in NICU for three months and lost weight the entire time. The staff tried to feed her my pre-pumped milk, but her intestines could not assimilate and digest, and in fact, when she had been given food it gushed out her other end and the digestive enzymes/acids "ate" the skin off her bottom; so she was treated for 3rd degree burns on her bottom.
My husband drove me to my six-week post-partum check-up with Dr. Marzano. Dr. Marzano was too kind for words. I cried profusely when he inquired of my baby – I told him that, not only is my daughter dying, but also we owe more than a lifetime could confront. This physician, whom I had only met and known for one day of my whole life, and this only the second time of our meeting said, “I know it is but a drop in the ocean, but as far as I am concerned, you owe me nothing – I do not need money; I need to see you get through this and your baby survive – her living is payment to me.” I went out to my husband and I said, “I have just seen Jesus.” And told him what Dr. Marzano had said. We both cried.
I went to Sacred Heart every day during that long, bleak summer. I sat next to Kirsten’s isolette from morning until late at night. I watched her weight plummet and her eyes become more pronounced as her tiny face grew lean. I watched the needles and the tubes that supported her, constantly being inserted, removed, changed, reinserted into every vein they could find. I listened as she cried in such pain; watched when no noise came with the terrifying screams her face could only portray. I watched the weight chart taped on the window of her isolette as the numbers continued to decline. She was dying.
One day in September, Kirsten’s pediatrician told my husband and me that they had done all that they could do for her. She should be transferred to Dornbecker Children’s Hospital in Portland “for the duration of her life.” We had been coaxed before about preparing for her death, funeral and all, and our pastor had even been called to help us accept our daughter’s fate. All the while, we were also being hounded by the hospital to set up a payment plan for the burgeoning debt that had already reached $80,000.00.
In those days, I prayed more than eating. I had prayed in my unlit bedroom with a begging and pleading to God to let me keep my baby; not even the sheet on my bed could absorb all of those tears. I told God that, as a Christian, I could accept His grace for my daughter; for her to have such a brief stay on this awful earth, in this perverse and unforgiving world, and go home so mercifully swift; but I could not survive her death as a human being. I went from praying for her recovery, to thanking Him for His love for her and, for Him to give me the strength to let her go.
After church in September, my husband and I went to the hospital to see our daughter, as was our custom to do. We arrived as the nurse was trying to shove yet another needle into Kirsten’s already collapsed and fragile veins. Kirsten was screaming and writhing in pain. I did not think when I said, very calmly, “Stop what you are doing. No more needles.” The nurse swung around with a look of shock and said to me, “Do you know what you are saying?” I thought for a second that, no, I didn’t know what I was saying…it just kind of came out of me, but I responded, “Yes. If God is going to take my baby then nothing you are doing is going to make any difference now. And if He isn’t, nothing you are doing is necessary.” My husband, with wide eyes, just looked at me... and with an accepting look, said nothing. ("...and the peace that surpasses all understanding shall guard your hearts and minds..." - Philippians 4:7)
No more IV's in her head, tiny arms or ankles to augment her nutritional intake; no more slashing her heel three times a day with a razor blade to draw and test her blood. No more pain for her. Just rest for the first time in her short three months of life. The hospital staff could do nothing more than bottle feed her, with what I had pumped for her all summer, burp her, swaddle her, rock her, snuggle her down for slumber...and just let her sleep like a baby.
The next morning, Monday, I went to see my infant as I did every morning. Kirsten’s pediatrician, who stopped by every morning too, said, “I have good news for you. Kirsten gained weight overnight. If she keeps this up for the next week, she might well be able to go home with you.” As the days of that week followed, Kirsten gained weight dramatically: she was on the mend.
She had lost a lot of weight, but I cannot say what the ultimate number was in the end, before I took her off of IV. However, she gained weight immediately after God intervened and she came home one week later, healthy. Her picture with me, I think, shows how tiny she had become.
There are many details between her dramatic turn-around and her discharge, including the signing of papers for withdrawing my daughters I.V.’s. The important thing is that Kirsten came home a little more than a week later and never went back. At three months old, I finally had my newborn home. I believe, unquestionably, that when my heart trusted and "let go", God gave back.
Kirsten was, and is, a high achiever. She was the lead in school musicals, singing with such natural and impressive talent. She went on to be a varsity cheerleader in H.S and she batted a 4.0 GPA for at least half of her academic career. She is extremely bright, and incredibly gorgeous. She loves the Lord, and knows that she is here because GOD SAVED HER LIFE.
She has had no recurring problems whatsoever, other than the little "crop" of skin the surgeon formed, so that it could appear she had a navel. In 2010, Kirsten had to have an emergency C-section when she had Luke (ironically, he was in NICU for 3 days); but anyway, the physician came out and told me, "Kirsten's intestines are normal by the way; can't tell she had a resection, except for the scar tissue."
Kirsten turned 30 on June 28th. She is beautiful. She is most precious to me and to everyone who has known her.
Dr. Marzano went on to deliver my sons, Austin and Preston. He was my doctor for absolutely everything I ever needed under the sun. He is the king of doctors, and the finest man I have had the privilege of knowing. I love him with all my heart. He has followed the progress of my children and, although he is retired, he and I have kept in touch. I have never found another doctor like him.
The hospital debt? Both hospitals wrote it off. The God I know is really true and IS truly God!
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding;