Beauty in Brokenness
A Local Family Embraces God’s Many Miracles
Writer / Christy Heitger-Ewing
It was Father’s Day 2016 when Kathy made a simple request to her husband, Mike. She asked him to move a boxed 4-drawer dresser up a flight of stairs so that they could assemble it. Mike got the dolly from the garage and tied the box onto it, then began the slow ascent up the steps.
Mike had just made it to the top step when his hand slipped. Instinctively, he reached out and his arm got caught in the dolly’s handle. He did a somersault and was thrown forward, landing at the bottom of the stairs.
Kathy heard the crash and came tearing down the steps to find her husband bleeding but still conscious.
“Don’t move a muscle,” she commanded.
“But I need to move my head,” Mike insisted as he raised his right hand to reposition his tilted head.
“No!” Kathy reiterated, pushing his arm down. “Stay still.”
A CT scan revealed news that was both unsettling and shocking.
“Your husband’s C1 and C2 vertebrae at the base of his skull are shattered into powder,” the doctor reported. “How his spinal cord is intact, we have no clue.”
Had Mike moved his head even a quarter of an inch, he could have died because the spinal cord at the C1/C2 level controls breathing.
As it was, his back was broken in three places. He’d also sustained a broken clavicle, a cracked sternum and five broken ribs. Doctors vacuumed out the powder bone, replacing the shattered vertebrae with cadaver bones. They also screwed two rods and a plate into his skull to keep his neck stable. Miraculously, Mike was back to work just two months later.
“I’m a few inches shorter now and have a limited range of motion, but I can’t complain,” says Mike, recognizing his good fortune.
Kathy says Mike’s accident is a reminder to not get hung up on making plans.
“Sometimes God has other plans that we need to be open to,” Kathy says. She knows because they’ve been through it twice before.
In 2003, Kathy went to China. While there, she visited an orphanage and was overwhelmed by how many children needed love, guidance and care. When she returned home, Mike said, “Why don’t we adopt one of them?”
Kathy’s eyes widened.
“Are you nuts?” she said. “We already have three children.” (Their kids—Rachel, Eddie, and Cheryl — were grown with children of their own.)
Mike broached the subject several more times but finally dropped it after facing repeated resistance from his wife. Then one day Kathy felt the Holy Spirit speak to her as she was driving to work.
That’s when she started arguing with the Lord — listing all the reasons why adopting wasn’t feasible.
“We don’t have the money. And what would people say? We’re old!” (Kathy was 48 at the time. Mike was 50.)
The voice said softly, “Whatever you do for one of the least of these, you’re doing for me.”
When Kathy came home from work that night, she told Mike about what had happened. He didn’t seem surprised in the least. Instead, he replied, “I’ve been praying that God would soften your heart on this matter. So, what do you think?”
“I think we have to do this,” Kathy said, shocked to hear the words fall from her lips.
In July 2003, they began the long process of filling out adoption paperwork. The following July, they brought home their 20-month-old daughter Elizabeth.
“Elizabeth adjusted beautifully to our family,” Kathy says.
In 2010, the Perry’s hearts were moved again after seeing a photo of a 3-year-old special needs girl with spina bifida. God then proceeded to send clear signs to nudge the Perry’s toward action. For instance, Kathy, unsure as to whether they should dive into another adoption in their mid-50s, turned on the radio to the Steven Curtis Chapman song “Dive.” (Chapman has also adopted children from China.)
The next day a friend asked Kathy about her hesitation.
“I’m waiting to seek God’s direction,” Kathy said.
“Do you really think God’s going to tell you no?” the friend inquired. “He tells us to take care of widows and orphans.”
That sealed the deal. The Perry’s submitted their letter of intent and nine months later, in February 2011, they brought home Kimi. This time around, the acclimation process was much rougher.
“I’d never seen such terrible neglect,” Kathy says. Kimi was almost four years old and still in a crib being fed baby formula through bottles. As a result, she didn’t know how to eat or talk, and her mouth was full of cavities. She was also unable to walk and suffered multiple developmental delays. But their biggest concern involved her inability to connect with people.
“I wanted to bond with my little girl,” says Kathy, who recruited the help of speech, occupational, feeding and language therapists.
Now, Kimi, 10, can talk, walk, eat and even play basketball. Enrolled in a special co-ed basketball league for kids in wheelchairs, she travels around to different tournaments.
“The first time she saw this team in action, she was hooked,” Mike says. “She liked seeing that there were other kids her age in wheelchairs.”
Reiterating the need to resist making plans, Kathy says she can now see the ways that God was preparing her all along for what was to be.
“Life is a tapestry,” Kathy says. “You don’t know what the end picture is going to look like. And if you think you know, you’re wrong.”