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Lowell Brueckner

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Katia's Miracle


The lesson is: God will move heaven and earth on behalf of His children.

16 Apr 2013

Katia's Miracle

It's an unusually cold and snowy spring here in ND with several blizzards and lots of ice. I had put a roast in the oven for dinner.  Jessica was going to mix together a salad. I still had the potato dumpling to cook and was washing up in the bathroom sink. It was around 6 PM. Tom had just gotten home and we would eat when Rebecca got home from work. Tom was talking about how icy the roads were and it had started to snow.

Katia came running into me in a panic and I noticed she was choking. I grabbed her and hit her firmly on her back several times. She caught her breath and swallowed. I assumed she had choked on the mini-wheats I had given her shortly before to hold her over until supper. But she told me it was a battery and it still was stuck up in her throat and hurts, she informed me. I usually take the kids to our family doctor in Grand Forks for appointments, but if something unplanned happens after clinic hours, we often got to Cooperstown, because it is closer. For some reason, I called Mayville instead after deciding that, if we needed a bigger hospital, we would be closer to Fargo. 

The woman, who answered my call about the battery being stuck in Katia's throat, asked me first if I had tried to give her a drink to dislodge it. I told her, I wasn't sure if I should, because it was a battery. She went to consult with a doctor and then told us, we needed to come in right away.  Up until then, we weren't sure how serious this was and hoped (with the bad driving conditions) that they would tell us that it would be fine to monitor her at home. I told the kids to go ahead and eat and we took Katia and started toward the hospital in Mayville.

It took us longer than normal to get there with the bad roads. Katia informed us that the battery was no longer stuck… probably not a good thing that it was traveling in her system. Tori Archer was there, which was a nice surprise. To see someone we know, makes us feel better. We were asked what kind of battery it was and I knew, because I had seen one on the counter - a button battery about the size of a nickel. We called the kids at home and they gave us the number off another battery that let them know it was lithium. They took an x-ray and the battery was clearly seen down by her stomach 

We waited while the staff consulted with Fargo about the next step. The battery needed to come out immediately. It emits electrical currents as soon as it gets wet and once it reaches the stomach, it would react to the stomach acids and begin burning her stomach. It could not safely stay in her body longer than 2 – 2 ½ hours.

We were finally told the news that there wasn't a pediatric surgeon in ND, who could operate on her, and she would have to be flown by Life Flight to Sioux Falls, SD!  That was a shock and only one of us could travel with her. We had decisions to make then, but it was hard because Sioux Falls was having worse weather than we were. Schools had been closed for 2 days and there were reports of thick ice on the roads. We knew that if Katia had surgery it would be several days before she could come home. Whoever did not travel with her might not be able to get there by driving because of weather conditions. We asked Katia who she wanted to go with her, because Tom and I couldn't come to a decision. We both thought, she would choose me, because in the past, if she's given a choice who to go with somewhere, it's usually Mom. We were surprised, when she pointed at Tom and said she wanted Daddy! We took that answer and began to make plans for Tom to go.

The staff had called in a paramedic named Stefan, who was German, so he and Tom had common ground and got along great. They strapped Katia into the ambulance stretcher for the drive to the Fargo airport, and then lifted her into the ambulance, while she waved good-bye.  I was fighting tears and praying, I wouldn't cry and scare Katia. She was being very brave and still happy.

It was snowing harder as Tom walked me out to the suburban. I realized my gas tank was on empty. One of the staff agreed to fill the vehicle with gas, so Tom wouldn't have to leave Katia and I wouldn't have to mess with the chair and the weather. It took about an hour to drive home - double the time it usually takes. It was snowing hard by then and the kids were worried, when I got home. They had posted on Facebook, contacted family and called Pastor Mark to pray.

Meanwhile Stefan had been making calls and actually was able to get a team together in Fargo to treat Katia, as the flight to Sioux Falls with the weather as it was, was not a good idea. Tom said the ride to Fargo was also slow, but Stefan had his phone out and was entertaining Katia with Barbie songs from his little girl all the way there. He said, even as they were wheeling her into the ER at the Children's Hospital in Fargo, the phone was playing little girl songs!

The doctor there explained to Tom that he wanted to be honest and was nervous about treating Katia, because he doesn't usually treat children. He explained all the things that could go wrong and Tom had to sign lots of paperwork. He explained that he would try to find the battery with a scope that went down her throat and into her stomach. But it had been in almost five hours by this time and they didn't have much hope of removing it that way. They expected the surgeon, who was also there, would have to open her stomach and look for the battery. They then prepared to go to the operating room. They told Katia to say goodbye to her daddy. She smiled and waved, but Tom wasn't ready to separate, so he asked if he could tag along until she was put under anesthesia. They agreed and he had to put on scrubs and mask and went along to the operating room.

Katia remained calm, even with the bright lights and masked faces everywhere. Tom left after they put her under and went to wait in another room and prayed. He said it was only 15-20 minutes later when the doctor came back and said he had found the battery quickly with the scope and removed it. It had only left a small amount of irritation that was not anything to worry about. The invasive surgery wasn't needed after all! I had asked Katia in Mayville, if she had eaten that bowl of cereal, and she said she hadn't, because she forgot. In toddler terms that means that she got distracted by her toys. Now it turned out to be a good thing that she had an empty stomach, making the battery easier to locate.

 Katia was moved to recovery until she woke up. In the recovery room, Tom was surprised by another familiar face. It was the wife of a friend of his! They laughed at the coincidence and she explained that she usually doesn't have the night shift but was filling in for someone. When Katia awoke from the anesthesia, she was declared in excellent health. She was told that they would release her as soon as she had eaten something, instead of waiting until morning as originally planned. 

Tom started to think about how he would get home. His friend's wife offered him a ride, if he'd wait until her shift ended at 7 am. They then moved Katia to a normal room and Tom tried to wake her up again to eat something. It was very difficult, but she finally roused and ate. The nurse there was very friendly and good with her. She also told Tom, he could take her vehicle home and bring it back again at 10:30 am, when she got off her shift!  And at home Sheriff Beckman had offered to drive me down to Fargo as well! Such kind people! In the end, since we were still all up at home and the kids were begging to see Katia, we decided that we would just drive slowly and carefully and pick them up ourselves.

 We left after 1am and Jessica and I split the drive about halfway, when I was having trouble staying awake. We got to the hospital between 3:30 & 4 am. The snow fell continuously and the roads were icy, but we made it safely there. Katia was awake and smiling big. Tom said the most amazing thing to him was how calm she stayed through it all and how all the right people were there to help us… people that God put in our path. When we finally fell into bed around 6am, we talked about how it was a very hard night, but also full of answered prayers, miracles, and God's peace and presence. We mentioned that instead of having Katia far away in Sioux Falls, separated from us by hundreds of miles of icy roads, recovering from stomach surgery and acid damage from the battery, instead she was sleeping in her own bed, still happy and in no pain at all. That is the power of prayer to an awesome God!

Then I was reminded that she started out a miracle baby, four years ago. At my 21-week ultrasound, they discovered a sick baby with a large hole in her heart and club feet that pointed to a syndrome.   The hole was so large that at first they thought her heart just had three chambers instead of four. We were sent to Minneapolis for a fetal echocardiogram that confirmed the findings, as well as another ultrasound that showed the club feet.

It was decided that Katia would be born in Minneapolis, where they had a pediatric heart specialist. We were warned that, while smaller holes have been known to close by birth, this hole was very large and would require surgery. She would be born bluish in color, would need oxygen right away and a specially trained NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) team would rush her to the NICU after birth. Katia was born as planned in Minneapolis and the heart specialist was present at her birth, as well as the NICU team and the delivery team. It was a crowded room, but labor was short. Just about an hour later, Katia was born pink and healthy without club feet. She stayed with me. Everyone was amazed and commented on a very healthy-looking baby. She never made it to the NICU.  Later, when they did do an echocardiogram, there was no hole. It had closed! We went home the next morning.

Back in Grand Forks, I took her along to my appointment with Dr. Brown, who is also the mayor of Grand Forks. He picked Katia up, left the room and I heard him tell the staff to come look at this baby.  He said, "You hear about miracles, but you rarely get to see one. Katia is a real miracle!"


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