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Wichita Falls Living Magazine

The Majesty of Miracles

A mother's story of faith and triumphs over tragedy.

Photographers view the world through their camera lens. This perspective becomes a world within a world—allowing them to see things others miss. Photography is an invitation to remain awake and aware. Trees aren’t dead—just wintering—waiting for new life to appear in Spring. Moving light and clouds aren’t obstacles—they’re opportunities to embrace change. 

“This isn’t what I expected. Still, here it is. 
How can I work with it--not against it?”

Carla Blanchard now knows how to work with her circumstances, not against them. We talked about her son, Kyle, and how her faith guided her throughout his illnesses. “Cameras have a meter in the middle. Right is overexposed. Left is underexposed. And the middle is proper exposure. Photography taught me balance—to keep every circumstance framed with the proper view. Throughout Kyle’s medical struggles, we’ve had to find the right balance of taking care of him, while also giving our other children the time and attention they need. Every situation was different. We made exceptions to rules and choices based on what was best for our family, not on what others told us we should do. It’s not always black and white. There’s gray area in everything.”

 

Carla and her husband, Ronnie, have three children and three granddaughters. The couple owns and operates Ronnie’s Burgers. Blanchard said their successful 34-year partnership is faith centered. “Our faith in God is the foundation of our marriage. We work well together because we’re opposites. We balance each other.” Her book, MiraKYLE: A Mother’s True Story of Courage, Faith, and Miracles was released in March 2021. So how did this photographer and entrepreneur become an author, too? She felt called to share her family’s story. 

When Kyle was born, the Blanchards were already parents to their eldest daughter, Amber. Sadly, the excitement of welcoming a newborn was quickly thwarted with worry. Carla knew something was wrong immediately following Kyle’s birth. “Kyle was sickly and frail. At the hospital, there were five doctors surrounding him. He was diagnosed with a heart murmur. We took him to a pediatrician who assured us that everything was fine. Later, Kyle became sick with pneumonia so, we returned to the pediatrician. She said Kyle had an enlarged heart, but again assured us all was fine. I was a young, 24-year-old mother and I trusted the doctor’s word.”

“When we returned with some of Kyle’s ordered scans, our regular pediatrician was out that day. Kyle was examined by a different doctor. Within 30 minutes she noted he was under weight, under height, and had a blue line across his lips. They couldn’t find Kyle’s pulse in his groin or ankle area. Then, a chest echo found a coarctation aorta.” Blanchard explained a coarctation aorta is a serious heart defect. “It’s a narrowing of the aorta. Imagine your heart is a piece of paper. If someone pokes a hole in that piece of paper with a needle, your heart can’t properly pump blood through a hole that narrow.”

At age two, Kyle had heart surgery. Carla was overwhelmed with relief and guilt. “I was grateful my son was alive, but I struggled with guilt. I’d always sensed something was wrong. He wasn’t sitting up, walking, or gaining weight. I’d see him in his walker, then immediately walk out of the room crying.”

 

In those early days before his first surgery, Blanchard wished she’d trusted her instincts and pushed to get second opinions. “I was sheltered and naïve. I blindly trusted the pediatrician—denied that voice inside whispering, ‘Something isn’t right.’ Deep down, you want it to be okay. So, every time that first pediatrician said she couldn’t hear anything wrong when she listened to Kyle’s heart, I was relieved.”

After Kyle’s heart surgery, Carla wrote his former pediatrician a detailed letter about the issues she missed diagnosing and sent pictures of his treatment. “I was angry and confused. How could she have overlooked all that?” Kyle recovered well from that initial surgery, but continued to struggle. “He was frail. Couldn’t tie his shoes—didn’t have as much energy as other children.” The Blanchards took Kyle to a pediatric cardiologist for regular checkups. At age 12, Kyle blossomed and was given the “all clear” by his cardiologist. 

 

“From that time until Kyle was 23, our family lead a pretty normal life. We served at our church. Our kids worked at Ronnie’s Burgers with us. Then, in 2015, things took a turn when he developed a cough.” Carla said Kyle and their youngest son, Ryan, were extremely bonded. “The boys are almost like twins. Ryan noticed something was off  with Kyle. He said, ‘Mom, we took a walk and Kyle stopped because he couldn’t breathe. Sometimes I go in his room at night to check on him and make sure he’s breathing.” 

They became increasingly distressed as the cough persisted. “It was loud and just didn’t stop! Kyle lost all interest in doing anything. He didn’t want to work or get out of bed. He kept saying, ‘I can’t. I’m sick.’ But other than that cough—he appeared to be physically okay. Our family doctor examined him and sent him to the ER. They said, ‘Everything on the outside appears normal. But on the inside, this kid is really sick.” 
In the ER, Kyle was administered medication that cleared his chest. 

“Mom, the pressure on my chest is gone!”

She responded, “I didn’t know you had chest pressure.”

“I didn’t either  until they gave me that medicine.”

Blanchard said, “That broke my heart. He’d been suffering in silence for years thinking that pressure was normal.” Additional tests were run. The Blanchards were flooded with new information, each piece more terrifying than the last. Kyle’s heart had been operating at 15% capacity. He’d developed pulmonary hypertension. He needed a heart transplant and a double lung transplant.  

“We were stunned. Guilt and fear rushed back. After years of normalcy, we thought Kyle was okay. But between his heart and his lungs, he easily could’ve died in his sleep. It was a miracle he’d survived.”

The possibility of losing Kyle shook Carla to her core. She recalled a night in the hospital when she wept in despair. “My faith was tested, for sure. We’re at UT Southwestern and I’m crying nonstop, ‘It’s not fair.’ Then Ronnie asked, ‘When did we start talking like that? God never promised fair.’ My husband reminded me that God is just and all things work together for good. I had to let go and trust.” Carla has let go and trusted ever since. She said God faithfully revealed a multitude of miracles. “Kyle’s had heart and double lung transplants. No fevers. No organ rejections. I had the flu once, but Kyle didn’t get sick. Then COVID-19 hit and he survived that too. When I think of miracles, I think of Kyle—the impossible made possible.”

 

Another miracle? New, life-saving information Carla could share with others. “When we found out about Kyle’s pulmonary hypertension, we asked the doctors if there’s a correlation between that and his coarctation aorta he had at age 2. Initially, they said there was no link. Later, they came back with new research linking the two conditions! The doctors were learning right alongside us. I knew more people needed to know that coughs and heart conditions can be related.”

Blanchard hopes her story will help parents follow their intuition, advocate for their child’s health, and hold onto hope when obstacles arise. “I love Corrie Ten Boom’s quote, ‘No pit is too deep that our God is not deeper still.’ Those words uplift me. We must trust God with the lives of our family. God loves them even more than we do. Trusting God to meet Kyle’s needs kept me going.”

Much like looking through her camera lens, Kyle’s near-death experiences gave her a fresh perspective on life’s true meaning. “Death isn’t the end, but the beginning of eternal life with God. This life is hard. Trials and tribulations come. But God will carry me through it all.”
“I’ve learned to float and rest in God’s promises. If you throw someone who can’t swim into a pool, they’ll panic, flail, and drown. But if they relax, hold their breath, and lay on their back, they float. God is the water holding me up—keeping me afloat.” †

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: Carla Blanchard’s book, MiraKYLE: A Mother’s True Story of Courage, Faith, and Miracles, is available for purchase on Amazon.com. 


Written by Kayla Weinkauf
Photos provided by Carla Blanchard



Summer 2021 Issue
Weekly Digital Issue