Kari holds many dates from 2009 in her heart from Holy Thursday and Easter Sunday to her son’s First Communion. Feb. 21, 2009 is a date that will be forever etched in her memory.
Kari woke up this Saturday morning with her thoughts on her husband and a group of men from her church who were on a retreat called Christian Experience Weekend (CEW). Kari was at home with their three young sons. Her seven-year-old, Braydon, woke up that morning complaining of a headache and not feeling well. As the day went on, he progressively got worse.
“By the afternoon he seemed to be confused and not making sense,” said Kari.
She drove him to Urgent Care where he was then transported by ambulance to the hospital.
Kevin was alerted and left the retreat immediately. The news about Braydon was shared and all of the retreatants and CEW team began praying.
When Braydon got to the hospital, a CT scan revealed a blood clot in his brain. The neurosurgeon shared the grim news.
“He looked at us and I’ll never forget his words, ‘This is a time bomb and we don’t know how long the fuse is. I’m not sure what will happen but I will do my best.’”
Immediately, they began prepping Braydon for emergency surgery. Kari and Kevin had the opportunity to tell Braydon goodbye before he was intubated.
By the time Kari and Kevin got to the waiting room, a chaplain was waiting for them. About an hour later, several friends from church came to sit with them. They learned the entire CEW community, which included hundreds of people from their church, were praying for them. “It was amazing to have their support,” said Kari. Their friends at the hospital, along with Kevin’s family, stayed and prayed with them for the entire surgery.
During this scary time as they waited, Kari tried to focus on being still and surrendering to the will of God.
Six years earlier when Braydon was 18 months old, they journeyed through another health scare. Braydon was hospitalized for declining health but they didn’t know why.
“Our parish priest was such a gift to us. He helped us to direct our prayers for what we needed right then. To focus on Jesus, trust in the moment, and to pray specifically for the physicians to discover a diagnosis. The experience was definitely a lesson in trust.”
Kari said they drew upon their previous experience. “During this time of prayer at the hospital, we focused on the truth that we knew God had a plan for Braydon and it was established well before we had even met Braydon. While God called us to raise Braydon, he didn’t belong to us. He is a child of God. We knew God may be calling Him home. And, although it was way earlier than we would like, we also knew that our ultimate goal for Braydon was for him to be in Heaven with Jesus.”
After five long hours, Braydon’s surgery was completed and they heard that everything went well. “We were singing songs of praise as he woke up,” said Kari. “His recovery immediately after surgery was amazing.”
When the surgeon came out, they learned he was from Tennessee and the only reason they had a neurosurgeon present in the hospital on a Saturday afternoon was because he was covering as a locum tenem, which is a physician who fills in due to an absence or when a hospital is short-staffed. The surgeon told them that another 30 minutes and the clot would have been fatal. It was sobering to hear as Kari realized the neurosurgeon’s presence at the hospital on a Saturday afternoon was a true gift from God. The doctor went on to say that he was not alone in the operating room, he felt the prayers, and Braydon’s successful surgery was a miracle.
A few days later, they found out Braydon would need another surgery. He was diagnosed with a brain arteriovenous malformation (AVM), which is a tangle of abnormal blood vessels in his brain. They were able to get the main clot but he would need more treatment and surgery to address all the little vessels. The second surgery was scheduled a month later in March 2009.
“I really struggled with his second surgery,” said Kari. “He had already survived one miracle and I really feared giving him over again. I spent a lot of time in prayer during this time in preparation. Kevin reminded me to trust in God’s plan and I focused my prayers on accepting His will.”
“I also started to reflect on Mary, Jesus’ mother and how she must have felt so powerless as she watched her son suffer and die on the cross. I felt unified with Mary. I had held Braydon’s limp body, just as Mary held Jesus’ body when He was taken down from the cross,” said Kari.
On the day of the surgery when Kari’s anxiety was running high, she received another gift from God when they met Braydon’s OR nurse.
“She introduced herself as Julie which is the same name as my sister who is a nurse. She told me, ‘I’ll watch over him. He’ll be okay.’ Those words brought me a lot of comfort and eased my anxiety,” said Kari.
Kari was so grateful for another successful surgery. After the second surgery, Braydon faced many obstacles with infections. He continued with more surgeries and treatments for another 15 months.
“During this time, we felt God on our side and our faith community with us. They provided so much support emotionally and physically,” said Kari. “And, so many prayers. We were blown away by so many who were praying for us from around the world.”
Today, Braydon is a healthy 19-year-old. He was spared from the significant impairments they were warned about after undergoing his brain surgeries. He excelled in school and graduated from high school last year. He is now going to DMACC and working as a fabrication welder. “We have been so blessed,” said Kari.
One of the things Kari has realized through their experience is that spirituality is communal and is meant to be shared with others. Shortly after Braydon’s second surgery, he boldly walked in front of church with his bald head and scars to have his feet washed for Holy Thursday.
“It was powerful to watch and share that experience with our church community,” said Kari. I’ve had several people comment how their faith has been strengthened as they have watched Braydon’s journey back to health. Others have shared what a powerful experience it was to pray for Braydon in the chapel and to witness his miracle. We’ve been given a gift. It’s not meant for us to keep to ourselves. It’s meant to be shared with others,” said Kari.
1. Have you experienced the power of prayer from others praying for you or someone you know?
2. How have you seen Christ through the people God places in your path?
3. How do you share the gifts God has given you with others?