Niles ‘miracle baby’ turns 50 years old

Published 5:41 pm Monday, June 21, 2004

By Staff
NILES -- This year Kathryn Kane Vensland turned 50 years old, not usually a great feat considering how many people turn 50 every day.
However, considering the fact that Kathryn was not supposed to live to be 5 years old, her survival is nothing short of remarkable.
On May 15, 1954 at Pawating Hospital in Niles (now Lakeland Hospital, Niles), Kathryn was born with a condition in which a portion of her intestines had formed outside her body.
The problem is caused when the muscles and tissues that make up the abdominal wall don't form correctly, causing parts of the bowel and sometimes the liver and spleen to protrude into the umbilical cord or through the abdomen, usually to the right of the belly button.
Even today, not many infants born with this condition survive to see the age of one.
As is common in children with this defect, Kathryn's heart and tongue were also enlarged.
Kathryn was rushed immediately into surgery to repair her intestines.
Upon completion of the surgery, she was put into isolation and even her mother was not allowed to touch her for a week after her birth.
Though the surgery was successful, doctors predicted that she would not live to see the age of one.
In spite of the dire predictions, Kathryn persevered. When she was five years old, a heart specialist announced that she was now functioning as a normal five-year-old should.
Since then, Kathryn has lived a full life. She now lives in Washington state with her husband, Carroll, whom she married in 1990.
She has four children, eight grandchildren, and two dogs, Spanky and Snickerdoodles.
And not only has Kathryn turned 50, this May she also graduated from Wentworth College in Spokane, Wash., with a bachelor's degree in Organizational Management.
As one of the first babies to survive such a dangerous and complicated condition, Kathryn helped Pawating Hospital make history.
Congratulations to Kathryn on her achievements and our thanks for helping Lakeland be a part of history.