“Jesus taught me the true meaning of beauty”
A young actress finds hope after suffering a massive stroke
Katherine Wolf sat propped in a wheelchair, her arms aching to hold her 8-month-old son. She watched, brokenhearted, as someone else played with baby James. Katherine longed to feel his soft skin, cradle him close or bounce him as he giggled with delight. But now she could barely say his name or wipe away her own tears. Caught in a no-man’sland between life and death, Katherine felt abandoned by God. Overcome by sorrow, she could only silently wonder, What did I do to deserve this?
CHANGED IN SECONDS
It had been a sunny California day, and as 4-month-old James snoozed in his crib, Katherine had been making lasagna before an audition. “Out of the blue, I started feeling weird,” she recalls. “My hands and feet
Katherine Wolf had it all: a loving husband, a new baby boy and a blossoming career as a model…until a massive stroke changed everything. Unable to walk or speak, she was filled with despair, but then
God opened her eyes to real loveliness
swelled up and I felt dizzy—then I collapsed on the floor and everything went black.” Luckily, her husband, Jay, had just come home. He’d called 9-1-1, then buckled James into his car seat and raced behind the ambulance to the hospital.
Katherine’s diagnosis: a massive brain-stem stroke.
Her only chance had been 8 hours of micro brain surgery—but doctors had warned Jay that her chances weren’t good. As 8 hours had stretched into 12, Jay knelt in the hospital chapel, pouring his heart out to God, while their friends and family members had spread the news and asked for prayers through email, phone and Facebook.
Before long, a network of people from all over the world were praying for Katherine’s life.
Finally, the doctor emerged with miraculous news: The surgery had been a success. As Katherine was wheeled into the intensive care unit, Jay had wept tears of relief…and terror for what was to come.
For more than two months, Katherine blinked in and out of consciousness. “My first thought when I finally woke up was, Where’s my baby? I need to nurse him!” she recalls. She didn’t know that she’d missed months of James’s life; he was no longer breast-feeding but happily drinking from a bottle.
Katherine was shown her face in a mirror and her life changed forever. “I just stared at myself in shock thinking, Why won’t my face move on the right side?” she says. “I didn’t recognize myself. I was devastated.” That heartbreak was just the beginning— Katherine was about to face the hardest challenge of her life.
DEPTHS OF DESPAIR
Instead of living the charmed life she’d expected, Katherine lived at the hospital, enduring endless tests and procedures and re-learning to stand, speak and swallow. “My acting and modeling career was over,” Katherine says, “but when you can’t walk or talk, you don’t even think about beauty.”
Six months after the stroke, Katherine failed her ninth swallowing test. “It was the darkest time of my life,” she recalls. “I wondered what I could’ve done to invoke God’s anger—it seemed like a cruel curse out of the pit of hell. I couldn’t walk or eat or hold my head up. I felt stranded in a broken body. Watching Jay’s sister play with
James that day, I had this overwhelming thought: God had made a mistake. I should’ve died. If I were gone, Jay could remarry and James would have a new mommy who could hold him.”
In that dark moment, Katherine suddenly felt God’s presence. “It was this sense of deep peace, this bizarre joy that had nothing to do with what was going on,” she describes. “But I felt so happy.” From out of nowhere, the words of Psalm 139 entered her heart:
I am fearfully and wonderfully made. “In that moment, I knew beyond a doubt that God was speaking to me, encouraging me, directing my life,” she says. “Showing me that even now, I was wonderfully made!”
Filled with God’s love and a fresh hope, Katherine found the strength to carry on. There were months of pain, 11 surgeries and even a broken leg. “There’s no quota on suffering—you don’t go through one challenge and check that box to be done with it. I checked those boxes again and again!” she laughs. “But it was in that suffering that God worked in me. The Lord taught me that He alone is enough. After all, the Bible says His power is made perfect in our weakness.”
Through it all, Katherine and Jay’s family and friends—and their virtual community of thousands— were with them, lifting them up in prayer. Their story had inspired so many that felt called to start a ministry dubbed Hope Heals.
Today Katherine and Jay have another gift of hope: their baby boy, John, who arrived in June of 2015. “Jesus called me to redefine what it means to be healed,” she says. “My life was shattered, but God picked up the pieces and showed me how to make it truly beautiful.”
Katherine was a sought-after actress and model before a stroke set her on a new path
“There’s no quota on suffering… but it was in that suffering that God
worked in me.”
Katherine, Jay and their two sons, James (now 8) and John (born in July 2015)
“God was speaking to me, encouraging
me, showing me that even now, I was wonderfully made.” Read more of Katherine’s story in her new book, Hope Heals (Zondervan, 2016; Hardcover $23, Kindle & Nook $10) or visit HopeHeals.com