An Unexpected Miracle
About the Guest
Kate Clark, author of "Where I End," looks back on the freak playground accident that doctors said would leave her in a wheelchair permanently. But Kate refused to give up and asked God for a miracle. To everyone's amazement, Kate began to slowly improve in the months following her injury, and she eventually walked on her own. While her recovery was stunning, Kate tells how she wrestled with a deep grief, and shares how her injury still affects her to this day.
Katherine Elizabeth ClarkKatherine Elizabeth Clark is wife to a gifted theologian and a mom to two bright kids, all of whom bring merriment and humor to her days. A native of Detroit, Kate has had the privilege of living in several great cities, including Toronto, Grand Rapids, and Chicago. Kate studied at the University of Michigan, Wayne State University, and Dallas Theological Seminary. With a background in psychology, she has spent much of the last twenty years working and writing for a nationwide Christian radio an...more
Kate Clark looks back on the freak playground accident that doctors said would leave her in a wheelchair permanently. Kate tells how she wrestled with a deep grief, and shares how her injury still affects her to this day.
An Unexpected Miracle
Bob: When Kate Clark was diagnosed with an injury to her spine, her doctor described it as a Christopher Reeve-level injury—an injury that would leave her as a quadriplegic for the rest of her life. That led Kate and her husband to some hard conversations with their children.
Kate: My four-year-old, at that time, you know, came to her daddy and she asked him, “Is it okay that I pray that Mom will walk?” She had, literally, heard from the doctor that “Your mom is not going to walk again.” I think he even told her, “She’s not going to get out of bed on her own.” So she is asking those hard questions: “Is God really capable? Is He really able?” and “Do we trust Him, in the moment, to ask the hard things and hope for the hard things?”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, December 21st. Our host is Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.
How would God answer Kate Clark’s daughter’s prayer? We’re going to hear the rest of Kate’s story today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. You know, there are moments in life we look back on and just think: “If it had been a two-second differential…” “If I had just stayed at the stop light five more seconds…” “If I had been looking to the left instead of to the right…” You know the moments I’m talking about—where life is altered—and you go back and go, “This didn’t have to happen if things had just been different.”
That’s where we have to go, “There’s a God, who’s in control; and even when hard things happen, it’s not because He turned His head, and looked back and went, “Oh, man; I should have been paying more attention.”
Dennis: Our guest on FamilyLife Today knows that all too well, Bob. Kate Clark joins us, again, on FamilyLife Today; Kate, welcome back.
Kate: Thanks for having me.
Dennis: She’s written a book—it’s called A Story of Tragedy, Truth, and Rebellious Hope—and the name of the book is Where I End—E-N-D.
Bob: We’ve already heard, this week, about your playground moment, where—if it had been two seconds sooner or later—
Dennis: —playground, as a parent.
Bob: Yes; you were running around with the kids on the playground. A young boy jumped off of a high spot and—he’s playing the game, and he thinks he’s going to tackle you—but his tennis shoes hit your neck. You heard a snap; right?
Kate: I did; I felt a crack.
Bob: And you collapsed to the ground. You went to the hospital, the MRI was done, and the surgeon came in and told you—you had a Christopher Reeve-type injury. He was telling you:
“Get ready for life to be very different,” and “You’re a quadriplegic, and you’re going to be in a wheelchair from here on out.”
Kate: It’s a pretty grim diagnosis.
Bob: It was a grim diagnosis and a life-altering moment, not just for you, but as we’ve already said, for your husband/for your whole family.
Kate: Yes; yes.
Dennis: I want to read you a quote from your book. I don’t know why this attracted me; but it was like, “What an incredible picture.” You were talking about what it felt like to be a quadriplegic, coming out of that surgery, although you did come out of it alive, obviously. You needed help in breathing; you couldn’t breathe for yourself. You write in this chapter—you say: “I was completely helpless in my caged body.”
Dennis: I never thought of the body being a cage. How did you experience that?
Kate: I came out of surgery—not only could I not move, I couldn’t see; because they had taken my contacts out, and I have horrible vision.
Again, I couldn’t breathe, either; because I had the tubes down my throat to help me breathe. In that moment, I remember feeling pretty terrified: “I can’t move. I can’t breathe. I can’t see.”
Dennis: And you couldn’t speak, because of the ventilator.
Kate: Exactly. I can’t cry out for help; so yes.
Dennis: Right; right.
Kate: It’s interesting that you mention the caged body, because I really just recently even had someone say to me: “We all have cages in some way or another. You experienced this in a very specific and horrifying way; but sometimes, people feel like they’re in a cage in their marriage; sometimes, they do with their wayward child; a situation that just seems despairing or hopeless.” I’ve had people who have read the book and said, “This story is not the same, and yet the story is the same,” in the sense of “I could resonate with so many of the things that you wrote about, just going through my own personal pain.”
Bob: We’ve all seen the inspiring stories of the person, who has a neck fracture—the doctors say, “You’re going to be paralyzed,” and they go, “I’m going to walk again.” They fight their way through physical therapy, and we see them taking maybe a halting step here or there. Christopher Reeve, for years, said: “I’m going to beat this thing. I’m going to get up out of this wheelchair someday and walk.”
Kate: Yes; yes.
Bob: Did you have that mindset/that fighter mindset that said, “I am going to gut it out and do whatever I can to get out of this wheelchair”?—or did you think: “I guess I’m in a wheelchair for the rest of my life,” and “I just need to adapt to the new normal”?
Kate: In some respects, neither. I didn’t accept that I was just in a wheelchair and that was my destiny; but I also didn’t think, necessarily, “I’m going to gut this out.” I knew it was beyond me.
I knew that in order for something to happen, it was going to have to be miraculous. I was just remembering how my pastor said very recently, “God does everything, and we do something.” I needed Him to do everything, and I was going to do the something that He called me to do.
I did begin the very hard work of therapy, which is basically my life—physical therapy, occupational therapy, recreational therapy, pool therapy, speech therapy. I entered into the very hard work that I was called to do, but I knew that I needed the Lord to move.
Bob: And in the middle of that therapy, one of your kids prayed a prayer.
Kate: Yes; a very brave prayer. My four-year-old, at that time, you know, came to her daddy and she asked him, “Is it okay that I pray that Mom will walk?”
She had, literally, heard from the doctor that “Your mom is not going to walk again.” I think he even told her, “She’s not going to get out of bed on her own.” She is asking those hard questions that adults ask themselves—you know: “Is God really capable? Is He really able?” and “Do we trust Him in the moment to ask the hard things and hope for the hard things?”
It was a real parenting moment for my husband, where, again, he had to say: “What do we know about the Lord?” and “Can we even entrust this little one’s heart to Him—this little four-year-old’s heart to Him?” He told her, “Yes; pray that Mom will walk again.”
Bob: I’m imagining myself, as a dad, with a child who wants to pray a prayer that everybody in the world is saying, “This isn’t going to happen,”; doctors are saying, “It’s not going to happen.”
I would want to calibrate my child’s expectations.
Kate: —to couch it, maybe a little. [Laughter]
Bob: I wouldn’t want the child to come back and say, “Well, why isn’t God answering my prayer?” and to have to doubt God in that moment.
Bob: So yes; I would try to find some weasel words in how I prayed.
Kate: Yes; yes.
Bob: But your daughter wanted to pray that Mommy would walk again. Your husband said, “Yes; we can pray that”; right?
Kate: Absolutely. I don’t think there was any weaseling in the moment—he said, “Pray that.” That is the struggle: where we don’t want to be disappointed by God, so we don’t want to put ourselves out there. We don’t want to hope when people tell us there’s no hope. We don’t want to look like the fool who believed what wasn’t believable. We don’t want to be that person who trusted in the Easter bunny and finds out later, “Oh, that was a sham.”
But no; in that very faithful—I think Holy Spirit-led moment—he told her to pray, and she did.
Dennis: I thought of you in that time of rehab. You said you were in rehab for 40 days.
Dennis: I thought about Jesus in the wilderness.
Kate: Right; yes; it’s biblical.
Dennis: Yes; you started out that process, one day at a time. What would the average day look like for you?
Kate: I would be awakened quite early. I would be, sometimes, ushered in to have a shower and, you know, a nurse would literally do all of that for me. I was, at that time, being moved from my bed to the wheelchair. They would use a power crane to pick me up and move me over. Then I would travel on to other types of therapy. I would, you know, start the hard work of physical therapy.
In the beginning, I was just thinking, “This all seems very absurd,”—you know—“You tell me to squeeze this, and I’m just looking at you and nothing is happening.”
But yes, the days were just a full onslaught of different types of therapy. And then, at that time, I had started to show signs of progress. Then, I was sent home; and I would come back five days a week for the next year and have therapy.
Bob: What was the first sign of progress that you saw?
Kate: The first thing that happened was my left foot—I could move it just a little bit, and I clung to that. I pretty much wanted to move it constantly. [Laughter] The doctors were pretty much: “Whoa. Don’t get too excited about that.” They were not seeing a moving foot and thinking: “Whoa! We have something amazing happening!” They were pretty much still like: “I think you just hold back on this. You haven’t seen what we’ve seen, kind of internally, what that looked like in your spinal column.”
Dennis: So, when did you begin to realize that that was more than just a twitch, that you were really seeing something happen here that’s very significant?
Kate: Well, even though they told me, “This isn’t much to hold/put your hopes in,” I was still thinking: “This is wonderful! This is amazing! I’m thankful. We’re praising God.” So, we began to praise God for every small, big—any type of thing that we thought was progress or that looked like progress to us—we just rejoiced in. I was like a little kid. I was just like, “Look at this new thing I can do today.” It was amazing, and wonderful, and beautiful and also humiliating, horrible, and impossible.
Bob: Were you thinking in the midst of this, “I may walk again”?
Kate: I was absolutely thinking, “These are signs.” Again, even if I don’t have a “Pick up your mat and walk”-moment, which I did not, I was definitely thinking, “This could be one of those miracles.”
Bob: Christopher Reeve injury—
Bob: —but you’re thinking—you have a hope. And let’s remind ourselves of what hope is.
Hope is, in the face of what does not look like it ought to happen—it’s believing this still could. You were starting to see signs that maybe there was more here than just: “I can wiggle my foot,” “I might be able to walk again.”
Kate: And I would have to say that some of therapists were Christians, too, and some of the nursing staff were Christians. I literally had this tremendous community—strangers, people from the school, people from church—and then I had this army of believers, as well, in the hospital. I knew that they were all praying, and hoping, and all trusting that something might happen in their midst that was glorious.
Dennis: When was the first day you stood up?—where someone would stand alongside you, maybe on both sides?
Kate: Yes; yes.
Bob: Yes; how long after the accident did that happen?
Kate: I’m not exactly sure the exact day; but it was within the first 40 days, because it happened at the rehabilitation hospital. That was a moment that a lot of people would tell me—that were in that room—remember. My occupational therapist was working—
Bob: Well, duh! I mean, Kate, come on! [Laughter]
Kate: She was actually working with another patient, and then the room just went quiet. Everyone was focused on me, standing. Yes; I had two therapists on both sides of me, kind of giving me instructions about—because nothing even made sense when they would say, “Try to do this with your body.” But yes; it was probably within those first 40 days, at least.
Dennis: So, did you cry when you’re standing there? I mean, I would think that would be a milestone moment.
Kate: I didn’t cry in that moment—I think I was so focused on the hard work of it; maybe, that I was in a little bit of shock; and maybe, even in my head, thinking:
“This could happen,”—you know, like—“The Lord can maybe do this.” And it wasn’t—you know, I started, before we did standing, I had been doing some of the other hard work. You start with things like trying to crawl or things like that, so the standing came a little bit after that.
Dennis: Well, you ended up, not only standing, but taking a step at a later point. And then your surgeon, who had performed the surgery, got news that you had walked!
Dennis: The guy drove across town—
Kate: He did.
Dennis: —to see this thing. He said, “It can’t be!”
Kate: Yes; so I think news does travel pretty fast when you hear something crazy/insane like this is happening. Somehow, word got to him that I was on my feet. I think he was just incredulous, like, “That’s something I’ll have to see for myself.” So he did; he made the drive to the rehabilitation hospital.
I happened to be in therapy at that time, or happened to be—I was always in therapy—but I was using this high walker. I had a therapist next to me; and I was just kind of ambling, sort of—it wasn’t a beautiful cadence, I would say—but I was on my feet! He saw me, and he was just shocked.
I said—I said to him, “You did good work.” He looked at me and he just shook his head; and he said: “I can take no credit. God did this.”
Dennis: Yes; that’s what I remember—that’s a sweet moment.
Kate: Yes; it was a sweet moment; yes.
Bob: This all happened nine years ago.
Bob: You walk in just like anybody else and say, “Hey guys, I’m here!” [Laughter] I mean—you’re still a quad; right?
Kate: That is correct.
Bob: So, what does that mean?
Kate: To your eyes, I might look like just the average person who can walk, and you can’t tell that there’s something weird about the way that I walk; because I’ve gotten pretty good at it now. It’s taken a few years, but I feel like I’ve gotten some of the quirks worked out.
I am, technically, still a quadriplegic. What that means is the point of the injury is such that everything from my neck down is still impaired. “Quad” means “four.” All four of my limbs still have limitations—still have things that don’t work as they should—both internally, in the sense that I have muscle problems—I have hyper-reflexivity—and then I also have nerve things that go on—buzzing/kind of crazy-angry-bees-type of a sensation throughout my body.
I have those internally; and then, externally, you know, I have problems with holding things; because I can’t actually feel my hands.
They feel numb, almost as if you had maybe just put mittens on and tried to go throughout the day with mittens on your hands.
Bob: You couldn’t open your water bottle, for example.
Kate: Right; right. Anything fine-motor is pretty challenging—so anything that requires your hands or your fingers, you know, can be quite difficult. And yet, I still can do quite a lot, in spite of the diagnosis.
Bob: Yes; you’re nowhere near where Christopher Reeve spent eight years of his life—
Kate: No; no.
Bob: —even though the doctors said that’s where you were headed.
Kate: Yes; it’s true.
Bob: So, you have to be written up in some medical journals somewhere; because this doesn’t happen every day.
Kate: It doesn’t happen every day. This is true. I don’t know that I’ve been written up in any medical journals. I’m sure that—
Dennis: Well, you’ve been written up in a book! [Laughter] It has your name on it!—Where I End.
Kate: Yes; well, you know, the funny thing, too, is—I think that—you know, sometimes, I’ve wondered: “If the journey had been different; and if the Lord did give me, you know, a ‘Pick up your mat and walk’ moment—
—“and I think that if that was the case, I think that everyone would just chalk that up to good medical work and science. They would say, you know, ‘Maybe it just wasn’t as serious that we thought that it was,’ or however they would want to explain it away.”
But because I live with what I do—you know, the pain and the limitations; and because of where I was, and I know what it’s like to, literally, not be able to do anything for yourself—I have very vivid memories of my kids feeding me, people helping me to the bathroom, and things like that—so I am tremendously cognizant of the fact that it could have gone a very different way for me; but because of the Lord, it is a miracle.
Bob: You used the expression that you are “risen and broken” / “raised and broken.” I think that’s a picture of where all of us are, spiritually, if we’re in Christ.
We’ve been raised up, still dealing with our brokenness. One day, your fingers won’t buzz.
Kate: This is right; yes.
Bob: One day, you’ll run through the forest.
Kate: Yes; yes; yes.
Bob: And one day, I won’t sin anymore.
Bob: We’ll throw off the encumbrances that so easily entangle us today. You just have a physical manifestation of that—that makes it, maybe, a little more tangible for you than the rest of us feel as we go through our days.
Kate: Yes; we are certainly all raised from the dead. We are in good company; because we also have a Savior, who was raised/wounded. So yes, I think that any person, who is listening, can really relate to that.
Dennis: Okay; I just want to thank you for the price you paid to come here and to be on the broadcast. I have no idea how God is going to use your courage to be infectious with other men and women/boys and girls, who are listening to these broadcasts.
I want to thank you for writing your book, Where I End, and for sharing your journey with our listeners. I hope that they get the message that life is short. You can’t be in control of what’s going to happen—you need to look to God. As Bob said earlier, you need to build your house, now, on the rock and not start building when the floods come and when the winds blow. Make Jesus Christ the builder of your life, and your marriage, and your family.
Bob: Well, and that is modeled for us in how you have responded to adversity in your life and in the story that you’ve told us here—the story that you tell in your book, Where I End: A Story of Tragedy, Truth, and Rebellious Hope, written by our guest today, Katherine Elizabeth Clark—Kate Clark. Kate, thanks for being on FamilyLife Today.
If our listeners are interested in a copy of the book, they can go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, and order from us online; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to order a copy. Again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com. The book is called Where I End by Katherine Elizabeth Clark. You can also order by calling 1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
Now, things are about to get pretty busy for many of our listeners as we head headlong into the holiday season this week.
Dennis: That’s right. We hope today’s broadcast brought a little perspective to our listeners. You know, I’m thinking, for Barbara and me, when we hear a story like this, we reflect back on storms that have occurred in our lives/our family and also, here, on FamilyLife Today. Ministries like FamilyLife Today face storms too.
They need partners to stand with them, just like Kate had friends that surrounded them. We need you, as a listener—as one who’s benefitted, hopefully, from FamilyLife Today—to come alongside us and say, “Guys, I really like what you’re doing—providing biblical help and hope and calling people to surrender to Jesus Christ to make their marriage and family go the distance.”
Bob: Yes; just as the next ten days are going to be busy for folks, the next ten days are going to be significant for us; because as we hear from listeners, it will set the course for what 2019 looks like and whether we can continue to do what we’ve been doing for the last 27 years or whether we’re going to need to make some cutbacks.
Dennis: And we’ve made a big impact this year. We have touched, literally, tens of millions of lives; but if we’re going to be here next year with the same strength, we need you to stand with us now. I’d just encourage you: “Pick up the phone—call 1-800-FL-TODAY—or go online to FamilyLifeToday.com, and make a generous donation.
The match is going to make a big difference in the amount you give and make a big difference as we start 2019 and look forward to impacting even more lives, marriages, and families.
Bob: The match that you’re talking about is a dollar-for-dollar match, so your donation will be effectively doubled. You give $100; it’s a $200 net value to FamilyLife®. If you’re able to do more than that/less than that—whatever it is—your donation is going to be doubled, up to a total of—it’s now $3 million that’s available in our matching-gift fund. We’re hoping to take full advantage of that.
In addition, if you can help us with a yearend donation, we’d like to send you a gift. We’d like to send you a copy of the DVD of the movie that FamilyLife created earlier this year, a movie called Like Arrows. It’s not available for purchase yet, but we do have a limited supply that we’re making available when you make a yearend donation; so donate, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call 1-800-FLTODAY. Your donation will be doubled and you’ll get the Like Arrows DVD.
It will come with our gratitude for your partnership with us, here, in the ministry of FamilyLife Today. We appreciate you.
And we hope you have a great weekend. I hope you and your family are able to worship together in your local church this weekend. Then, I hope you can join us back on Monday when we’re going to reflect on the reality that Christmas is about God coming near. We’re going to hear a great message from Bryan Loritts that’s all about Christmas, coming up Monday. I hope you can be with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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