In a hospital ward filled with tubes, needles, X-rays and white coats, miracles don't happen. They don't break fevers. They don't cure cancers. They don't lift children out of comas.
In a ward filled with the best that science and medicine and human skill can provide, miracles don't happen. So please, don't pray for one.
Unless you're Suzanne Kiner.
Suzanne is the woman who spent every night of the past two months sleeping near her daughter's room in the intensive-care unit at Children's Hospital and Medical Center. She is the woman who rejected doctors' warnings that the 10-year-old girl would die, just as three other children had died in the E. coli epidemic.
On at least one occasion, doctors gently suggested that Brianne Kiner should not be resuscitated if her young heart stopped. And in a not-so-gentle roar, Suzanne Kiner refused.
She knew something of the spirit resting inside the tiny figure, behind the big eyes that stayed closed for 40 days and nights. Brianne was inquisitive, social, rambunctious. Questions spilled from her like a cloudburst.
"She was very talkative," says Suzanne. "And her feet never stopped moving."
So, when the Redmond girl became ill in early January after eating a contaminated hamburger from Jack in the Box, her mother knew Brianne would fight back with her usual zeal - even as the girl slipped more deeply into a coma that doctors didn't think she would survive, despite every effort to make sure she did.
"Expect a Miracle."
A SIGN OF HOPE
The family posted that sign over Brianne's hospital bed. It brought snickers from some, pity from others - pity the poor family that can't accept the certain loss of their precious child.
Suzanne Kiner roared. The sign stayed. The child recovered.
To the amazement of doctors and other staff, the girl emerged from her coma early this month.
"I have to say there were many times when people thought she might die," said Dr. Sandy Watkins, "but never a time when people gave up."
Brianne regained consciousness, she blinked, she nodded to doctors and visitors who stared in amazement.
"I'm thirsty," she croaked from a throat raw from the ventilator that had been thrust down it for two months.
She was brought water in very small doses. It was placed on a tray next to stuffed animals and other gifts that friends and strangers had sent.
SURROUNDED BY GIFTS
Gifts also filled the nearby waiting area where Suzanne Kiner slept night after night. Folding a chair into a bed, she rested amid the care packages, heart-shaped balloons, letters, books, flowers, troll dolls, teddy bears and a case of Cup O Noodles.
On most nights, Rex Kiner stayed home with the couple's two teenage daughters. Suzanne stayed, unwilling to leave until her youngest daughter revived.
Against all odds, the girl did.
This week, Brianne was moved from intensive care and into a room with a view. As her tiny body leans into big pillows, her dazed eyes look out on the trees that were barren when she arrived and are now in full bloom.
She is holding a hairbrush tightly in one hand, her bandaged thumb shaking. Her jaw shakes, too, a steady tremor beneath her unsmiling mouth. She looks shocked by what life has become, nothing short of a painful miracle.
Her grandmother is gently pulling Brianne's dark hair, trying to remove knots. Brianne absently reaches upward with a frown. It hurts. Her protests are mild.
Will she be able to comb her own hair, or talk in full sentences or bend down and tie her shoes? The hospital is hopeful.
"She continues to do things we didn't believe she could do," said hospital spokesman Dean Forbes. "She does have enough brain power to breathe. We thought that had been destroyed."
It's too early to tell what the long-term neurological outlook will be for the girl. She won't be a vegetable. She might need a kidney transplant. She will survive.
That knowledge brings a smile to Suzanne Kiner. She has known it all along.
"I never gave up hope, even when the doctors said she had a 95 percent chance of dying," she said. "I knew all she needed was a 1 percent chance to live and Brianne carved that out - she took it for herself. I can tell you there were miracles at work."
Just yesterday morning, Brianne was in wretched pain. "A drug called Fentanyl, which is much stronger than morphine, didn't cover her pain," said Suzanne. "The only thing I could think to do was to quickly say the Lord's Prayer. I finished and went out to get a nurse, and when I came back in, my daughter was in peace."
On an earlier occasion, Brianne's heart stopped beating, but a doctor was in the room and revived her by pressing on her chest.
That was, says Suzanne, "God's hand on her heart."
There were other close calls in the past two months. The worst came early this month, when the predictions were dire. Suzanne said doctors suggested the girl be allowed to slip away, but the family firmly disagreed. An hour and a half later, Brianne awoke from her coma.
Suzanne Kiner feels no anger toward the doctors.
"I think their assessments were very, very honest," she said.
Like her, they had seen the other children die from E. coli. Unlike her, they thought it would happen again.
"After she came out of her coma," said Suzanne, "one doctor looked at me and said, `I'm still trying to explain this medically.' I looked at him and said, `You won't find it there. It was a miracle. There's no other reason why this child survived.' "