Day 26 - Katherine Wolfe
At the age of 26, Katherine Wolf had it all: a loving husband, Jay, a six-month-old son, and dreams of being a model. Then without warning in 2008, Katherine’s life changed forever. Her hands, arms, and legs went numb and Katherine fell to the floor, as her son slept peacefully in the next room. Jay happened to come home that afternoon and found Katherine curled up on the floor and quickly dialed 911. Katherine was rushed to the hospital, where her husband learned that she’d suffered a massive brainstem stroke.
To save her life, doctors performed a 16-hour surgery where they removed over half of her cerebellum — the part of the brain that controls motor functions — and many vital brain nerves. Katherine then spent 40 days in intensive care, about four months at UCLA’s Medical Center, and additional time in a rehabilitation center where she re-learned to eat, talk, and walk.
Katherine, now years later, continues to experience severe double vision, partial facial paralysis, partial deafness, and lack of right-hand coordination. But she also possesses an incredible amount of optimism and hope. She and her husband founded Hope Heals, a nonprofit ministry that advocates for people with disabilities. The couple also authored a book titled Hope Heals: A True Story of Overwhelming Loss and an Overcoming Love, which has been optioned by Sony for a film.
“After the surgeries, my biggest fear was that my life would only be defined by a stroke and disabilities,” Katherine says. “But there were multiple moments when I was able to see clearly what was happening: This was not a mistake. God doesn’t make mistakes, and I came to understand that it was a unique opportunity to look at life differently.”
In the midst of her recovery, Katherine and Jay also welcomed another son. “Truly a picture of hope was getting to have a second biological child after my life was turned completely upside down,” Katherine says.
In 2017, she and Jay launched the Hope Heals Camp, a free week of fun and fellowship for families affected by disabilities. More than 450 campers and volunteers attended last year, and registration numbers for this year’s summer camp have already surpassed that number.
Despite all she’s been through, Katherine’s story of never losing hope is one many can be inspired by, according to Jay. “To see her still be able to smile and say 'hey, life can be good even if it doesn’t look like anything we thought,' and to share her strength with the world has been an honor,” he says.