The door swung open and a small, excitable puppy bounded out. “I’m so sorry,” Kerry half-laughed, half-apologized. “Come on in.”
Walking past finger-paintings in the entryway, the kitchen was already bustling with morning routines. Her middle sons wandered in—one was looking for shoes, the other for something to eat. Kerry’s youngest child was curled up on the couch. Her oldest son sat at the computer going over his college classes as a first year student.
Even though there is nothing particularly special about this morning, Kerry and her four children interact with a subtlety that can't be missed. It may look and feel like any other family, but there’s something unsaid about the uneventful.
Kerry settled into an overstuffed chair. Her blonde hair back-lit by the sun. “I remember clearly the first time I heard about Jesus. I remember the room. I was a little girl and I just knew that he was someone I wanted to know.” He had sought her out as a child and had been faithful ever since.
In Kerry’s early 20s, life threw her a curveball and God’s faithfulness became fundamental to her survival.
She was an idealistic newlywed planning to head back to school to get her teaching degree. On a normal day in April she woke to join a friend for an aerobics class. “I didn’t think anything of it, because I’d been doing it for years. About 10 minutes into the class, my friend watched me fall to the floor.”
Later it was discovered that Kerry had experienced "sudden cardiac death" or sudden cardiac arrest. Her heart had spontaneously triggered a dangerous rhythm leaving her clinically dead. “Very few people survive that, because you have to get intervention so fast,” she explained. According to the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation only one out of ten victims survive.
In a bold stroke of sovereignty, directly across the street from the studio where Kerry laid unconscious, was a fire station and help arrived almost immediately.
Kerry was then airlifted to UW medical center. Her husband, Kiernon, waited on the ground in the arms of their pastor. After being stabilized, the weeks that followed were spent dedicated to extensive testing. They discovered a genetic heart condition that she had been born with.
Kerry had a defibrillator put in and was interchangeably handed a more fragile lifestyle–one that hinged on a new reality: pregnancy and childbirth were out of the question.
“The hardest news that I received was that I would never be able to have children. As a twenty-year-old new bride, that news was more devastating than any of the news about my heart."
"I didn’t cry when they diagnosed me. I didn’t cry when they told me about the prognosis. But I was inconsolable when they told me I couldn’t have children." She paused long and thoughtfully. “I would love to say that I leaned on Jesus and that everything was wonderful and that he gave me a great abundance of comfort in every moment. But in reality it was a lot of crying out and asking why.”
Kerry and her husband pursued adoption, but she explained frankly, "People don’t want to give you their baby when you’ve tried to die." They then turned to surrogacy–but even the idea of harvesting an egg was too dangerous medically. They exhausted options, poured over financial possibilities and came up dry. “We then decided to revisit the idea of me possibly having a child.” And they started praying in a completely new way.
“In a circumstance when someone is saying, ‘You will likely die if you do this’, and you aren't scared by that? Peace in those situations doesn’t come from anyone but the Lord. And I wasn’t afraid.”
They started trying for a child.
Kerry’s family and doctors remained greatly concerned for her health, but Kerry and Kiernon were at peace and overjoyed at the possibility. Shortly after, Kerry got pregnant and her body responded beautifully. Their firstborn son, Ethan, was born healthy and without complication.
Today, they have four beautiful children. "They are the joy of my life. My passion, and my purpose. They truly are the most incredible people I know.”
Kerry stopped for a moment remembering that she had boxes in the basement full of memories from this season of life. She brought them up, each overflowing with letters of encouragement, congratulatory notes and photos. Tucked inside some of the envelopes were hospital bracelets, baby shower invites, ultrasounds and hospital pictures of her as a new mom holding a miracle baby in a striped blanket.
It was an intimate collection of her broken heart beating loudly.
But even with healthy children and uncomplicated pregnancies, Kerry had known that each of her children had a 50/50 chance of carrying the same genetic disease that she did. Very recently, her children were individually tested and they prayerfully rallied friends and family for support as they waited for the results.
Eventually the call came that not a single one carried the gene.
“God did a miracle. I can’t even express how true that is. And not that they are just living and healthy, but that I got to be their mom.”
But Kerry’s story isn’t without its struggles. She still has the heart disease and she understands that it is getting worse. “My children are going to know when they face things in this life, there is an answer. There’s a way to get through it and not be broken apart completely."
Kerry’s voice trembled and caught in her throat.
She paused to regain her composure. "You’re broken, but you’re not lost.”
Looking up, she smiled as two of her children came into the room. They sat down without saying a word. And there it was: a snapshot of how to respond to the gospel; children longing to be near out of thankfulness for ordinary life.