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January 2011

A Few Moments With ... Kit Wilkinson

There’s never a good time for tragedy to strike. It’s not something you scribble on your calendar or jot in your planner. Often, it’s sudden, harsh, and the last thing anyone wants to deal with.

But tragedy is part of life. We live in a fallen, cursed world where hearts are broken, lives are altered, and the most carefully made plans must sometimes be disregarded. While tragedy is seldom ignored, when the dust settles usually something is learned from it.

Unfortunately, for some, it’s that life is cruel and God is distant.

For others, though, those who know the truth, tragedy is an opportunity to deepen faith, to learn invaluable lessons about ones self and God, to draw closer to the Father, and to allow His strength to carry us when we can’t walk on our own.

Kit Wilkinson knows the truth.

Screeching halt
Two years ago she lay in a hospital bed, unable to move, unable to eat, smile, even blink. Her muscles had gone into complete shutdown bringing on a slew of other complications: low potassium, low iron, high blood pressure, respiratory failure. The brakes had been applied and her life had come to a painful stop.

The first symptoms showed up on August 8, 2008. Wilkinson, who was then 40, said it started with tingling in her hands and feet. The tingling progressed to numbness and severe pain in her spinal region.

I didn’t realize I was becoming paralyzed.

Then came the falling, at first occasional then more frequent. “The first few days I thought it was weakness and crippling pain making me fall down,” Wilkinson said. “I didn’t realize I was becoming paralyzed.”

Eventually, she lost use of her legs, then her arms, then her face. At times, the pain was unbearable.

Doctor’s scrambled to determine the cause of her sudden paralysis. A series of MRIs, lots of blood work, and two spinal taps later gave her condition a name: Guillian-Barre Syndrome (GBS).

Struggle caused more pain
GBS is an auto-immune disorder that affects the peripheral nervous system. It’s triggered by an infection the body mis-targets. Instead of attacking the foreign antigens, the body attacks its own nerve tissue. The syndrome is rare, affecting only two people in every 100,000. Fortunately it is seldom fatal and is almost always temporary.

For Wilkinson, the most painful part wasn’t the paralysis, it was watching her loved ones struggle with her. But they tethered her to reality. “My husband and I have a lot of close family in the area,” she said. “They really pulled together to help out.”

Wilkinson’s parents would sit with her in the ICU during the day and her husband every night. He took two months off work to care for Kit and their two children. Family took turns watching the children and keeping the little ones’ minds off mommy in the hospital.

I know there were moments when they felt they had nothing left to give.

Though her family rose to the occasion and never complained, Kit said she knows it took a toll on them. “Everyone was great but it was taxing on them, especially on my husband and my mother. I know there were moments when they felt they had nothing left to give.”

The hardest part for Wilkinson was letting go of control and letting others care for her. But even with the difficulties, there were moments of humor. During one visit, when she had regained her ability to swallow, her father fed her soup and some of it dribbled down her chin. When she couldn’t lift her hand to wipe her face, “We both laughed and said that soon enough I’d be feeding him and wiping his face.”

All part of God’s plan
For Wilkinson, GBS couldn’t have struck at a worse time. Her writing career was on the verge of blooming. She had just signed with an agent, had recently won the RWA Golden Heart for Best Inspirational Romance, and had the manuscript for her first novel in the hands of an editor.

But God’s ways are not our ways and His timing is perfect. God has ways of bringing life to a halt so we have to rely on Him, Wilkinson said. “God can really get your attention when you can’t move. There is literally nowhere to go. He is in control and let me know it in a big way.”

Though her disease put Kit in the hospital for six weeks, God was still at work behind the scenes. Soon after she got home from the hospital she received her first contract with Steeple Hill Love Inspired Suspense. Protector’s Honor released in September of 2009 and her next novel, Sabotage, in 2010.

Tragedy focused her
GBS kept Wilkinson from writing for months. Her recovery and rehabilitation was long and intense. When she did start writing again it came in increments and she took almost two years to finish another novel.

Sabotage is up for a 2010 Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice Award and her third novel, Mom in the Making (Steeple Hill Love Inspired), will release in July, 2011.

Tragedy is a harsh schoolmaster—but an effective one. It has a way of focusing us, of singling out the things in life that matter. For Wilkinson, that was the brevity of life. “Life is short,” she said. “We shouldn’t wait until tomorrow to share what’s on our hearts today.”

Learn more about Wilkinson and her books.

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