“Kirsten’s Challenge,” Ensign, Mar. 2006, 66–67
Kirsten, our second child, was born about 30 years ago after a difficult pregnancy. Immediately after her birth the doctors discovered a serious cardiac defect. Kirsten was quickly transferred to the intensive care unit of the children’s hospital. Laying his hands on her tiny body in the incubator, my husband gave her the first priesthood blessing of her life—a welcome gift for her arrival on this earth.
During the following days I often stood in front of the glass window looking into intensive care and watched as this little girl struggled for her life. We were not even allowed to touch her, and we did not know what to wish for her.
When I was discharged from the hospital without my baby, my husband and I had the desire to go to the temple. We could do nothing physically for our little Kirsten. We had to trust the Lord and the physicians. At that time the nearest temple was in Switzerland, far from our home in Hamburg, but we felt we had to gather strength there for the unknown future. We applied all of our faith in behalf of our daughter.
In the meantime the doctors diagnosed a rare cardiac defect they were not able to operate on at that time. The life expectancy of patients with this condition was very limited. But five weeks later we were able to take our little Kirsten home. While her body may have been suffering, her spirit was cheerful and willing to learn, and we could tell that she enjoyed living in our family and loved her older brother very much.
When Kirsten was four her condition deteriorated, and she became weaker and weaker. After praying, fasting, and visiting the temple, we decided upon surgery in a cardiac center in Munich, where doctors had recently repaired a complicated condition like Kirsten’s. Doctors actually had to change everything in the heart—make the ventricles smaller, close holes, and repair both valves. It was a genuine work of art. We were very worried about Kirsten, and our whole ward joined us in praying for her.
The doctors operated on Kirsten on May 21, 1980, and when she had gotten over the worst and was transferred from intensive care to another unit, we were full of confidence. Then a terrible thing happened. A tiny blood clot loosened from a repaired heart valve, settled in the brain, and within a few minutes caused a complete paralysis of her right side and a loss of speech. Kirsten’s eyes were full of fear and sadness. This was very difficult for us. I still see my husband and me standing in a phone booth in Munich, desperately calling our bishop. Within the next few days we received comforting letters from many ward members. Fasting also gave us renewed strength to encourage Kirsten and accept this affliction.
The following years were filled with therapies, and we rejoiced in every little bit of progress. When it was time for Kirsten to start school, her health was sufficient for her to attend a regular elementary school. She developed fabulous coping strategies with her left, usable hand. Her right leg became stronger, and she learned how to swim, bike, and ride horses. She rejoiced in her life. If a child laughed at her somewhat peculiar walk, I simply showed him or her pictures of Kirsten’s life, and the laughter turned into admiration.
Kirsten received much love from her grandparents and other relatives, and the ward fellowshipped her. In turn, she showed her joy in the gospel to everyone she met and has been the one in our family who has brought the most friends into the Church.
After graduating from high school Kirsten diligently completed training to be an industry saleswoman and also obtained her driver’s license. With her slightly converted car she could be more self-reliant, and she was able to participate in young single adult conferences and fulfill stake callings. In 1999 she took a year off to serve a Church-service mission in the Frankfurt temple.
Kirsten loves children and finds a special closeness to them. Her niece, nephew, and Primary children love her very much. She is an example for us, showing that one does not have to become bitter because of severe adversity, but that one can radiate cheerfulness.
In 2003 a very loving young man came into Kirsten’s life and became more and more important to her. He is a returned missionary who grew up in a faithful Latter-day Saint family. In August 2004 he and Kirsten were sealed in the Frankfurt temple. They are now mastering life’s challenges together.
Two of our children have physical impairments. You do not wish it, but if it happens, you have to accept it wholeheartedly, learn, and fight through the difficulties. You develop a keen ear for the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Our Father in Heaven knows which afflictions we need here on earth if we are to grow. I have often comforted my children with the words, “You will have these physical impairments only while you live on this earth, and mortality is very short compared to eternity.”