Kinsey: The Girl Thousands Prayed For

by Allison Hurtado, staff writer

Kinsey Capaldo, a normal 13-year-old girl, played with her best friend Ella at the dinner table at Grille 26, whispering and making bracelets out of the cloth napkins. Grille 26 is the Capaldo family’s favorite restaurant. Her mother, Kari, said no matter what you get to eat, it’s going to be good. Kinsey nodded in agreement. I smiled as I watched the girls, remembering when I was 13, and how I’d play with cloth napkins, folding them into different shapes. It wasn’t long ago that we didn’t know if Kinsey would even live – let alone play with Ella. I had come to visit the Capaldos and record Kinsey’s story.

It began in October 2015, volleyball season for Kinsey. Before she went to bed one night, she felt something weird on her tongue. When she got up for the school the next day, she found her entire face swollen. Kari took her to the doctor, who prescribed antibiotics, but the swelling didn’t subside. That night Kinsey began vomiting. Kinsey wound up at the doctor again, and eventually in the emergency room. The medical staff decided to X-Ray her, in case there was something they couldn’t see. The technician randomly chose to X-Ray her lungs. Results revealed fluid in the lungs. After several days and many tests, Kinsey was diagnosed with mycoplasma pneumonia, commonly known as walking pneumonia, and admitted to the hospital.

Kinsey’s youngest brother, Cole, was playing in a championship football game the next day. With mixed emotions of great concern for his daughter, and great joy for his son, Jim, their father and Converge Heartland’s newly elected executive minister, took Cole to the game. They chose not to tell Cole, or her older brother Caiden, what was going on with their sister yet. Kinsey went from being diagnosed with pneumonia to being intubated. Her lungs weren’t working to oxygenate her blood. They collapsed. That night Kinsey was on life support.

“When we were told Kinsey would be on life support, Jim and I stepped aside alone and cried out to God,” Kari said. “Our heart’s cry is that even while Kinsey is sedated, she would experience Jesus walking with her in ways that we who are coherent never will.”

Without oxygen in her blood, she wouldn’t survive. There was one option left to save her life: an ECMO machine.

ECMO is a process done through a machine that takes blood outside the body, oxygenates it and returns it to the bloodstream. It’s a dangerous procedure. The doctors have to be precise, because the blood is taken from the patient’s jugular. One false move and ECMO will no longer be a life-giving procedure. The hospital’s ECMO program was due to launch in six months, and they didn’t have the staff or equipment in place for the long-term necessary care for the duration of the ECMO. The seven doctors and surgeons present prepared to do whatever they had to in order to save Kinsey’s life. Jim and Kari knew the risks were high, but they also knew this procedure was the final option to save their daughter.

Before signing the papers for the procedure, Jim and Kari told the doctors they were going to pray. Jim prayed over the doctors, the procedure and Kinsey. Their trust was in God.

“Consciously surrendering anxiety and choosing to trust that God is directing the hands of surgeons, whom we have prayed for countless times, before during and after, is a worshipful act,” Jim and Kari wrote on their Facebook page. “God, we thought, we had given Kinsey to you, because of her passion for you, her love of people and her heart for the nations. She is our daughter, but she is your 12-year-old missionary servant. We surrender, trust and whisper that you are worthy to be trusted with our daughter.”

The surgeon and the head of pediatrics took the risk. They started with Kinsey’s lungs, by taking blood from her jugular and returning it into her left leg. It was successful. But when they moved her to the gurney, she went into cardiac arrest.

Three times Kinsey died on the gurney.

The only thing they could do was to reroute the ECMO to her right side, into her right leg. Unfortunately, the team had only one catheter that might work and it was larger than needed, posing a risk to her leg. As Kari put it, it was risk her leg or risk her life. So they risked her leg. The team knew her leg would be starved for oxygen, but it was either that or lose her heart function. 

Jim and Kari watched the entire procedure in Kinsey’s room-turned-into-an-operating room. It happened so quickly the doctors couldn’t move her. The Capaldos prayed and wept. Kari recalls the looks of desperation on the nurse’s faces. They were losing Kinsey. But Jim and Kari trusted God.

While the Sioux Falls team worked to get Kinsey stable on the ECMO machines, a team from a hospital in Minneapolis, Minnesota, was already on a jet to pick up Kinsey and Life Flight her back to a hospital that could provide the specialized, long-term treatment she needed. The team monitored the ECMO and Kinsey during the flight. The Capaldos later found out the profusionist, or ECMO tech, was a strong believer who prayed for Kinsey throughout the entire flight.

Meanwhile, Jim and Kari climbed into the car and drove the four hours across state lines. While they cried, prayed and drove, both of them felt an unusual peace.

“It was odd. It was unnerving. We had unexplainable peace when everything came unglued,” Jim said.

Driving through the night, they didn’t know if they would find their daughter stable, alive or dead when they arrived in the Twin Cities. Kari says you can worry or worship, and they chose to worship God – in the good, bad, unexplained and the unimaginable. Instead of pleading for a miracle, they believed in one. They prayed for God’s will in Kinsey’s life.

“We’ve always sang to our kids,” Kari said. “While Kinsey was in the hospital, we sang and sang. Whenever her blood pressure would go up, the nurse would call us and we would sing to Kinsey.”

They sang with Kinsey on operating tables and through multiple procedures and surgeries. The hospital staff noticed. While Kinsey was sedated on the ECMO machines, an optometrist was called in to check her eyes. Kari said they didn’t know the extent of the damage Kinsey’s body had suffered through the trauma, so it was routine for several specialists to visit. The next day a nurse noticed Kinsey’s eyes were dilated – a sign of bleeding on the brain. They had been dilated for at least 24 hours.

The medical team conducted a CT scan of Kinsey’s brain. This didn’t come without risk – with a tube in her jugular, one small mistake could lead to an instant death. The machines were keeping Kinsey alive. Any disruption would be catastrophic.

Twenty people moved Kinsey down the hallway into the elevator, each responsible for keeping one machine stable. A doctor told Jim and Kari that if there was bleeding on Kinsey’s brain, there was nothing they could do. Kinsey’s fight would be over. 

“I wasn’t afraid. I wasn’t scared,” Kari said. “I told the doctor I’ll be very sad. But if she dies or lives, she wins because she knows Jesus.” 

The 45-minute trek to the CT scan was successful. The skill of the medical team kept Kinsey stable. Kari and Jim sang in the room; the staff worked. Again, the Capaldos chose to worship. The room was silent, except for the worship. When the scan was completed, Jim and Kari held Kinsey’s hand and continued to sing. The staff all moved into the corner of the room and cried. A nurse later told Jim that when he and Kari began singing, she felt a presence in the room – covered in peace.  

Next were the results. The doctor who delivered the news was sobbing, as were the staff. She told Kari, “There is nothing. We may have found a small stroke, but it may not even be related, and it is already healed. We found absolutely nothing.”

The only consensus: God healed her.

The Capaldos believe God used Kinsey to bring people into his presence during that time, and many times after. Jim and Kari can’t remember all of the procedures and events, but one thing is certain: God showed up. It’s been over a year, and Kinsey, the girl we all prayed for, is making a remarkable recovery.

An appointment in early August provided to be difficult for Kinsey. She was told that if the nerves in her right leg didn’t heal on their own, there was a chance she may need another surgery. It takes one month for one inch of nerves to come back. Kinsey has about two feet of nerve damage. Upon hearing that, Kinsey sobbed. She didn’t want to talk to Jim or Kari. She went to bed that night without dinner. In the morning, Kari asked her what she did all night in her room.

“Kinsey told me, ‘I got out my Bible and so many verses told me to wait on the Lord. I feel that if we decide to do surgery too quickly, we aren’t giving God the opportunity to show us his power. And I want to give him a chance to show me instead of going in for surgery right away,’” Kari said. “I told her we will take her conviction into consideration with the doctor’s wisdom. But I was blown away.”

Her leg, which was starved of oxygen since the crisis, incurred a lot of nerve damage.

In order to determine if another surgery was necessary, the Capaldos made a trip to Minneapolis, where an EMG was performed to test the function of her nerves. Kari recalls asking Kinsey, "You know that even if God doesn’t answer the prayer to heal your leg, he’s still big enough to handle your heart and give you all that you need." Kinsey replied, “Mom, I know there isn’t a reason to get upset. What will be, will be, and God has it.’”

Kinsey currently walks with a limp, but her nerves are slowly awakening. The doctors have seen improvement. As of today, no surgery is needed. Every three months she will see a doctor to monitor healing. As Jim says, it’s a grieving process for Kinsey and the whole family. They cry when they need to cry. They celebrate each day that Kinsey can ride a bike, go to the mall and play with her brothers. Kari says the one of the biggest things she’s noticed is Kinsey’s belief about who God is has been refined, and she has allowed the Lord to mature her in her faith.

Kinsey continues to trust in the Lord, and with the help of her family, now has an active role in her recovery. So what’s next for the Capaldo family?

A two-week trip to New Zealand; a gift from the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Kari says they can’t wait to relax and revel in all God has done in and through Kinsey. She is truly what her name means: King’s victory. 

Jim and Kari have a message for you, “We want to express a deep gratitude to the Converge family, to all who have labored in prayer, rejoiced and wept and supported us during the past year. The Lord has done great things, and we are glad!”

    Point - September 2018

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