Thursday, December 26, 2013


Just this morning my friend, Trudy, and I Face-Timed (it must be a verb by now) and one of us said, "God's hand is in the details." Both of our families asked for prayer recently and saw God work His plan in His timing in His way.  Witnessing that "lamp unto my feet and light unto my path" is an honor to God's children.  Me included!

Last week's blog highlighted the recent birth of our miracle grandson, James. (Also be sure to see the video at the end of this one.)  He was not expected to survive his birth because of a medical problem.  I flew to Canada to be with our daughter, Katy, and her hubby, Dave-the Nut. (We get along exceptionally well, for obvious reasons. Today's his birthday--happy birthday, Nut!)  I packed for both a birth and a death. My wedding day prepared me for such extreme contrasts, because my grandfather died the same morning I was married.  

"The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.  BLESSED BE THE NAME OF THE LORD." We were all trusting in His sovereignty for this baby, knowing His will might not be our choice.

The family of 7, about to become 8, met my plane.  We got stuck in traffic between Detroit and the Canadian border crossing.  The lively conversation and van full of children filled our time and minds.  

Looming, however, was the next day when Kate would be induced in Toronto (3 1/2 hours from their home.)   The morbidity rate for babies with AVM (a vein malformation) was 77%. Traffic crawled then Dave spotted a Texas tag on the SUV to our front left.

Then we read three things on the back of that vehicle.  A sticker on the window that said

You'll get through THIS.
Below that were metal letters 
Under that was the sign of the fish. 

Dave grabbed his camera, leaned out the window and shot a picture.

And we did!  You may call this a coincidence.  We believe God spoke to us in various but personal ways that whole week in Toronto.  This was the first of many times we knew God was in the details, ordering our steps, whether we faced life or death.

He assured us in very intimate ways, like when we met the first nurse in the hospital, "I'll be taking care of you, Mrs. VanKestern.  My name is Kathy."

From her bed, Katy, asked, "Are you a Kathryn?"

"Yes," she smiled.

"Me too," Katy smiled back.

"Me too," I grinned.

Katy added, "My daughter at home is Kathryn too but we call her Kate."

I chimed in, "My mother's name was Kathryn.  She's in heaven. But we're to the fourth generation now on that name.

The nurse spelled it the same way. "Correctly!" as she put it.

I'd actually prayed, "Lord, if this baby boy dies, please have Mama ready to hold him.  Either way, he'll be in the arms of a Kathryn who loves him."

But God knew the plans he had for James.  After his amazing birth, one doctor exclaimed, "You DO know your baby is defying all the odds, don't you?"  

Next day after James' birth in NICU, a doctor came and introduced herself, "My name is. . ."  You guessed it, Kathryn. It happened 3 or 4 times. Dave found familiar connection and comfort as he repeatedly met other Dutchmen on our medical team.

He knows my name!

A friend made a quilt before James was born. On it were his name and Psalm 139:14 

"I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well."

This video captures our week beautifully.  We came expecting to enter a valley but found ourselves lifted to a mountain top.

Mother and miracle child right after birth

UPDATE: James' vein of Galen in his brain has shrunk some. They want to wait until he's about four months old for surgery to reduce it.  Sometimes it goes down in size enough on its own not to need surgery.  He's suffered no brain damage nor heart damage so far. In fact, cardio said, "We don't need to see him again for follow-up. Neuro has it from here." That is amazing grace for a baby with an aneurysm.  But our God's never been limited by odds or percentages!  So continue to pray God will keep him safe and in His will.  Whether God heals James through His natural plans or via medicine, we praise Him for the miracle of healing and life every day He's given us!

Dave, Katy and I spent that first week at Ronald McDonald House while James was in NICU.  By our room there, we Face-Timed Doug, Papa, back in America and found a creative way to include him in the picture!  Face-Time is most definitely a verb!

Thursday, December 19, 2013


I recognized the Canadian phone number as I answered, "Hey, Katy.  How was the doctor appointment?"

"It's not good news, Mama."

Katy was expecting their sixth child but something showed up on the sonogram so a second look was schedule in another city. Her due date was less than a month away. She explained that he (yes, he. . .also revealed by the sonogram) had AVM (a vein malformation) in the brain's vein of Galen.  Stunned, we all began a journey that carried a 77% chance the baby would die at birth.

My heart raced, breath grew short and my mind tried to grasp such devastating news.

"I'm coming, Katy."

"If there's ever been a time you want your mama, it's now," she murmured.  

"Of course, Baby.  We'll face this together." 

"We named him James.  James Robert, Mom.  We want him to have a name.  More personal." So plans to wait and be surprised by the baby's sex at birth were ditched. Enough surprises to deal with loomed for now.

Within 3 days of the news and scheduled induction in Toronto I packed my smallest luggage and boarded the plane.  It included funeral clothes.  My brain could not hold that image either.

As I descended the escalator in the Detroit airport, I scanned the baggage area for Dave, my son-in-love.  Then I heard a chorus of, "NANA!  There's Nana!  Hi, Nana!"  There stood the whole family, including a pregnant Katy to greet me. Joy overtook any shadow of death we all held at bay.

The one and a half hour trip to their home took almost four hours because of traffic crawling, sometimes stopping before we crossed the border.  At least we all had time to visit and catch up.  More than once I heard from the backseat, "Dad, I gotta pee."

Stuck on the bridge, Dave instructed, "HOLD it!"

The subject even came up at crossing as the border patrol questioned so many in one van. Then from the backseat my unnamed grandson said on the pee subject, "Never mind, Dad." Too late.

(Next week's blog will share a fascinating incident that happened at this point.)

This was Sunday.  By Monday evening the other five children were in the care of their Oma VanKesteren (Dave's mother.)  Katy, Dave and I drove three and a half hours to Toronto where the world-renown doctor on AVM surgery was notified.  Though he pioneered the surgery to save these children back in 1984, he only does 3 or 4  a year because most infants die.   If they survive the birth, more often they die of a heart attack as they struggle to supply adequate blood to the huge vein.  "It's like having another baby on board," one nurse explained.

So many friends and family began to pray for James, for us all.  We needed a miracle. The days ahead revealed how those prayers were answered.  Let me share some of those moments at Mt. Sinai Hospital through quotes we heard.

"We'll deliver your baby in the operating room right next to the resuscitation room for the baby," said the doctor, somber-faced.

"Most of us have never seen an AVM infant.  It's that rare."

"Katy, we'll induce now.  With your history of fast deliveries, natural childbirth is less traumatic."

"You're at about 2-3 centimeters."

Next check we heard, "You're TEN centimeters!  Let's roll this bed to the OR.  Call the doctor!"

"He's in surgery. We'll get another!"

Within minutes and one hard push, James was born.  I saw his blueish body breathe then cry on his own.  He's breathing, crying.  That's good.  He's alive.  But blue. . . I kept my thoughts to myself as they placed him on Katy's chest briefly before whisking him to the next room.  A door was between us in OR and James, struggling to live.  A shade was drawn on the door.  But I peeked in at a crack.

When I peeked in, he was pink. . .PINK!  What a beautiful color. The medical team in there is smiling!  I did share that with his parents.  

And then, we joined them for these scenes.

 Then a few days later we could relax, put our feet up and cuddle a bit!

Our miracle baby reminds us all of another miracle Baby born in Bethlehem.  For unto us a Child is born.  Unto us a Son is given.  Praise God!

He came in awe and wonder.

(Next week's blog will share more about our little miracle.)

Thursday, December 12, 2013


Two weeks ago my blog covered the first half of 50 anatomical facts guaranteed to stun you. God must smile as science and medicine discover what He designed in us from the beginning of time. 
Marvel with me at the Creator's masterpiece. . .you!

26. By 60 years of age, 60% of men and 40% of women will snore. 

27. We are about 1 cm taller in the morning than in the evening, because during normal activities during the day, the cartilage in our knees and other areas slowly compress. 

28. The brain operates on the same amount of power as 10-watt light bulb, even while you are sleeping. In fact, the brain is much more active at night than during the day. 

29. Nerve impulses to and from the brain travel as fast as 170 miles per hour. Neurons continue to grow throughout human life. Information travels at different speeds within different types of neurons. 

30. It is a fact that people who dream more often and more vividly, on an average have a higher Intelligence Quotient. 

31. The fastest growing nail is on the middle finger. (omit art work here)

32. Facial hair grows faster than any other hair on the body. This is true for men as well as women. 
33. There are as many hairs per square inch on your body as a chimpanzee. 

34. A human fetus acquires fingerprints at the age of three months. 

35. By the age of 60, most people will have lost about half their taste buds. 

36. About 32 million bacteria call every inch of your skin home. But don't worry, a majority of these are harmless or even helpful bacteria. 

37. The colder the room you sleep in, the higher the chances are that you'll have a bad dream. 

38. Human lips have a reddish color because of the great concentration of tiny capillaries just below the skin. 

39. Three hundred million cells die in the human body every minute. 

40. Like fingerprints, every individual has a unique tongue print that can be used for identification. 

41. A human head remains conscious for about 15 to 20 seconds after it has been decapitated.

42. It takes 17 muscles to smile and 43 to frown. 

43. Humans can make do longer without food than sleep. Provided there is water, the average human could survive a month to two months without food depending on their body fat and other factors. Sleep deprived people, however, start experiencing radical personality and psychological changes after only a few sleepless days. The longest recorded time anyone has ever gone without sleep is 11 days, at the end of which the experimenter was awake, but stumbled over words, hallucinated and frequently forgot what he was doing. 

44. The most common blood type in the world is Type O. The rarest blood type, A-H or Bombay blood, due to the location of its discovery, has been found in less than hundred people since it was discovered.

45. Every human spent about half an hour after being conceived, as a single cell. Shortly afterward, the cells begin rapidly dividing and begin forming the components of a tiny embryo. 

46. Right-handed people live, on average, nine years longer than left-handed people do. 

47. Your ears secrete more earwax when you are afraid than when you aren't. 

48. Koalas and primates are the only animals with unique fingerprints. 

49. Humans are the only animals to produce emotional tears. 

50. The human heart creates enough pressure to squirt blood 30 feet in the air.

Thursday, December 5, 2013


Katy and I share more than the same name. We're genetic tongue rollers and her baby girl, Kate, can do it too!  Such a talented family, aren't we?

So do some others!  

And to all a good night!

Friday, November 29, 2013


Science and medicine amaze me in the discoveries that unfold.  The amplify the mysteries God placed throughout His creation.  The psalmist declares that we are

Human anatomy still confounds doctors in the details of its working.  It's not an overstatement to say that every part of your body is a miracle.  This week and next I'll share 50 facts that leave me stunned.  Here are the first 25.

1. It's possible for your body to survive without a surprisingly large fraction of its internal organs. Even if you lose your stomach, your spleen, 75% of your liver, 80% of your intestines, one kidney, one lung, and virtually every organ from your pelvic and groin area, you wouldn't be very healthy, but you would live. 

2. The largest cell in the human body is the female egg and the smallest is the male sperm. The egg is actually the only cell in the body that is visible by the naked eye. 

3. The strongest muscle in the human body is the tongue and the hardest bone is the jawbone. 

4. During your lifetime, you will produce enough saliva to fill two swimming pools. Actually saliva is more important than you realize.  If your saliva could not dissolve something, you could not taste it.

5. Human feet have 52 bones, accounting for one quarter of all the human body's bones. 

6. Feet have 500,000 sweat glands and can produce more than a pint of sweat a day. 

7. The acid in your stomach is strong enough to dissolve razor blades. The reason it doesn't eat away at your stomach is that the cells of your stomach wall renew themselves so frequently that you get a new stomach lining every three to four days. 

8. The human lungs contain approximately 2,400 kilometers (1,500 miles) of airways and 300 to 500 million hollow cavities, having a total surface area of about 70 square meters, roughly  the same area as one side of a tennis court. Furthermore, if all of the capillaries that surround the lung cavities were unwound and laid end to end, they would extend for about 992 kilometers. Also, your left lung is smaller than your right lung to make room for your heart. 

9. Sneezes regularly exceed 100 mph, while coughs clock in at about 60 mph. 
10. Your body gives off enough heat in 30 minutes to bring half a gallon of water to a boil. 

11. Your body has enough iron in it to make a nail 3 inches long. 

12. Earwax production is necessary for good ear health. It protects the delicate inner ear from bacteria, fungus, dirt and even insects. It also cleans and lubricates the ear canal. 

13.  Everyone has a unique smell, except for identical twins, who smell the same. 
My husband, Doug and his twin
Don, are not identical.  Therefore they must have their own unique smell.
(So many things come to mind here that I'll not write another word, thus, resisting temptation!)
14. Your teeth start growing 6 months before you are born. This is why one out of every 2,000 newborn infants has a tooth when they are born 

15. A baby's head is one-quarter of its total length, but by the age of  25 will only be one-eighth of its total length. This is because people's heads grow at a much slower rate than the rest of their bodies. 

16. Babies are born with 300 bones, but by adulthood the number is reduced to 206. Some of the bones, like skull bones, get fused into each other, bringing down the total number. 

17. It's not possible to tickle yourself. This is because when you attempt to tickle yourself you are totally aware of the exact time and manner in which the tickling will occur, unlike when someone else tickles you. 

18. Less than one third of the human race has 20-20 vision. This means that two out of three people cannot see perfectly. 

19. Your nose can remember 50,000 different scents. But if you are a woman, you are a better smeller than men, and will remain a better smeller throughout your life. 

20. The human body is estimated to have 60,000 miles of blood vessels. 

21. The three things pregnant women dream most of during their first trimester are frogs, worms and potted plants. Scientists have no idea why this is so, but attribute it to the growing imbalance of hormones in the body during pregnancy. 

22. The life span of a human hair is 3 to 7 years on average. Every day the average person loses 60-100 strands of hair. But don't worry, you must lose over 50% of your scalp hairs before it is apparent to anyone. 

23. The human brain cell can hold 5 times as much information as an encyclopedia. Your brain uses 20% of the oxygen that enters your bloodstream, and is itself made up of 80% water. Though it interprets pain signals from the rest of the body, the brain itself cannot feel pain. 

24.  The tooth is the only part of the human body that can't repair itself.

25. Your eyes are always the same size from birth but your nose and ears never stop growing. 
This guy actually won the world championship for big noses.  I know his mama is proud of him!
Next week we'll take a look at the second half!