Katherine Arnold and Jay Wolf were both born in the Deep South (Georgia and Alabama, respectively) in the Spring of 1982, just 3 weeks and 200 miles apart.
They grew up in wonderful families, both firstborns with LOTS of younger female siblings, and learned the virtues of leading, listening and loving well, along with a few people-pleasing, Type A, and control-freak issues mixed in to keep them humble.
They both ended up at Samford University (not Stanford, though you can think that if you want) in Birmingham, AL, where they started off as great friends—dancing their way through the highs and lows the college years bring—but ended up in love and decided they wanted to make their life together...
On a gorgeous fall day—November 6, 2004–they were married in Athens, GA with 600 of their closest friends. And though at 22 years old they didn’t fully grasp the reality of what they promised, they offered each other perhaps the sweetest words any human can offer another...for worse, for poorer, in sickness, till death.
Their sights were set on adventures in California, 2,500 miles from home, with dreams of the entertainment industry and law school at Pepperdine University, though Jay didn’t actually get his acceptance letter until they were driving their U-haul through Texas. Impressive faith or youthful stupidity, either way, it worked out OK!
Early years in LA were full of making a life in one of the world’s most vibrant cities, and ironically in a setting far from their Bible Belt roots they found a depth of Christian community and an ownership of their faith they had never experienced before through their church Bel Air Presbyterian.
In the final year of law school and years ahead of their schedule for having a baby—but right on time—James Thompson Wolf was born on October 16, 2007.
On April 21, 2008, just 6 month and 5 days after, Katherine collapsed in her kitchen while baby James slept in the other room and during a 45 minute window while Jay “just happened” to be home before one of his final law school classes. Katherine had suffered a massive brain stem stroke out of the blue, from the rupturing of an AVM, a rare congenital defect she didn’t even know she had.
She was rushed to UCLA Medical Center (who knew the university had a hospital?!) the “Best Hospital in the West”, and one of the world’s best neurosurgeons, Dr. Nestor Gonzalez, “just happened” to be on call. It was the largest AVM he has ever seen, in the worst location. She was not expected to live, but despite the grim prognosis and the lawyer husband, he decided to take the case.
To save her life, over half of her cerebellum was removed and many vital intra-cranial nerves were sacrificed, possibly leaving her “locked in”, paralyzed, or in a vegetative state. After 16 hours of micro-brain surgery, Katherine lived! And then the real story would begin...
You can read the rest of the story in their book Hope Heals or maybe see it on the big screen one day as Sony Pictures recently optioned the rights to make it into a movie!
And lest you think this hard story might not also be a very, very good one, the ending (for now) is that against all odds (but with approval from all her doctors) Katherine had a baby on June 26, 2015 and named him John Nestor Wolf. “John” which means “the Lord has been gracious” and Nestor—for her now three-time-life-saving neuro-surgeon, Dr. Nestor Gonzalez—which “just happens” to mean “wisdom, homecoming, remembrance, and seeker of miracles”.