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!