Katherine suffered a massive hemorrhagic stroke caused by the rupture of an AVM (arterial veinous malformation) in her right cerebellum on April 21, 2008. Only 13 percent of strokes are hemorrhagic and of those, only about 2 percent are from AVMs. In other words, the chances of this happening were extremely slim. She had just turned 26, delivered a healthy baby six months before with no epidural, and worked out almost every day. She had never smoked, was not overweight and had no family history of any neurological issues. She had no idea that an AVM had been growing in her brain since birth. According to her neurosurgeon, Katherine’s AVM was the largest he had ever seen, in the worst possible location, and with the worst possible blood drainage. All of those factors, coupled with the massive pressure which was literally squeezing her brain down into her spine, placed the surgeon in quite a predicament. Should he attempt to operate at all? If he did operate and Katherine survived the surgery, would she ever wake from a coma or worse, would she wake only to live in a persistent vegetative state or with “locked-in” syndrome? The CT scans and testing done in the emergency room revealed that Katherine was on the verge of death.
In that moment, God came along side that surgeon and led him to take on her case against all the rational odds. After a very delicate, 16-hour surgery, Katherine’s full blood volume had been replaced 5 times and the entire AVM had been removed along with over half of her cerebellum. In the process of the removal, several of Katherine’s intracranial nerves were damaged. Less than 24 hours after the surgery, Katherine responded to a nurse’s command to wiggle her toes and lift her fingers. Such signs of God’s hand were evidenced innumerable times in the following 40 days that Katherine spent in ICU. Though each day was fraught with new death-defying drama, Katherine pulled out of the darkest waters, and after stabilizing off of life support, she was transitioned to the Acute Rehab unit.
She spent almost 4 months in Acute Rehab, before going to Casa Colina for continued therapy, where she was for over a year. Seven intercranial nerves were damaged in surgery and she has many dramatic deficits today (including partial facial paralysis, the lack of cooridination in her right hand and severe double vision), BUT she is getting well. After losing the ability to eat or drink for over 11 months, she passed a swallowing test on March 25, 2009. After being confined to a wheelchair for a year and a half, she was able to walk with a cane on October 21, 2009. God has been good to her and spared her life. Now He is healing all her deficits.
***Katherine wrote an essay about her journey on the one year anniversary of the AVM. Go to the Journal and scroll down to 'One Year Later' posted on April 21, 2009.
Has it really been 2 years?I’ve been so busy rehabbing, I’ve hardly noticed.A few days before the moment that changed my life forever, I put a swimsuit on James (he was so cute in it) and we took him swimming for the first time.I remember how little and cute he looked in it.That mental picture of mine showcases the passage of time in our lives.James has grown so much since then.He’s talking and running all over the place now, a far cry from the little doll in his first swimsuit.
I’ve grown, too.Jay is different now.My family has changed.We’ve all been taken to the brink of death and survived. We ALL survived though it has not been easy on anyone.It’s been sad; it’s been hard, but it’s been our reality, and we’ve come out OK.
I heard recently that challenges either make you bitter or beautiful.Symbolically, with a face that is paralyzed on one side, I’m choosing to be beautiful.Gorgeous in fact.We cannot control what happens to us in this world.Control over anything is just an illusion.What we do have control over is our response to what happens to us.
For all of the 11 months I did not eat, I wanted food.I wanted the taste, the texture, and the feeling of food.It drove me crazy.My mouth would water when I fed James baby food. If I was watching television and a commercial came on for food, I would salivate and epic cravings would follow.It was terrible. In those dark moments (I think not eating was the worst part of all this), I would take a deep breath and think that this was all part of something bigger than I could understand.I had to believe that God was using my suffering for good.I still believe that.
I would be lying if I did not tell you that it has not been terrible.It has been worse than anything you could ever, ever imagine.So much is different now.It’s really heartbreaking.However, nothing (not even this) is stronger than God’s power working through this broken vessel.I am getting better.A year ago I was in a wheelchair. I could only eat certain foods on an approved list, and my right eye still pointed in to the middle.What a difference a year makes!
I’ll keep this short (mainly because my double vision makes it so hard to see), but the bottom line is that I am so grateful to God.I have a wonderful family, a wonderful home, and a wonderful life.Above all my earthly blessings, I am so grateful for such an amazing husband.While this has been very hard on me, it’s been harder on him.So, I’m grateful.That gratitude leads me to a deep contentment as I sit here at the 2 year mark.Things may not be perfect, but I am content with where I am.Thank you Lord.That’s sufficient.Yes, that’s plenty.
P.S. I had a fantastic day yesterday.My amazingly sweet and pregnant friend Anna pushed me all over Beverly Hills in a wheelchair!We spent the afternoon in two of my favorite places on Earth – Sprinkles Cupcakes and the PaperSource Stationery shop.It concluded with a wonderful, final Esther Bible Study here. My sister, Amie, is in the study and she made us all laugh ‘til we cried. The 21st could be a sad day, and yet it was so happy!God is so good to me.
P.P.S. CaringBridge readers, after today, I will only be writing my updates on www.katherinewolf.info .Please go there if you would like to continue to follow my progress.That site now has all the features that CB has, including email updates, the same pictures, background story and links.A big thanks to Charlie Saliba (a stranger to me when all of this started) who has selflessly managed that website for 2 years now!!!