by Fr Richard Heilman | April 1, 2017 2:29 PM
Through social media, many may recall when we all witnessed an incredible supernatural miracle in and around Holy Week of 2014. It was three years ago, on this Saturday before the Fifth Sunday of Lent, that I had read from the Gospel the very same words I had spoken to my sister the night before.
Please allow me to share the highlight’s of this incredible “miracle story.”
My nephew, Jon, went into the ER on Sunday March 23rd, 2014 because he was starting to have trouble breathing after a couple of days of just not feeling good, cough and on and off fever. They admitted him to the hospital with a diagnosis of influenza and secondary pneumonia. They started him on antibiotics and were monitoring his oxygen levels closely.
Through the course of the first night, they were concerned with the oxygen levels in his blood…they were too low. Monday they put him on a CPAP machine and continued to monitor him. Monday night, they were not happy with the way his oxygen levels remained low, despite measures being done to help him with that. It was recommended at that time that he be put on a ventilator to assist him in getting oxygen throughout his whole lungs. The influenza virus had attacked his lungs and caused a lot of inflammation to the lung tissues along with collecting fluid in the lungs that was blocking air from getting where it needed to go.
He was put on the vent and moved to the TLC unit at UW Hospital by Tuesday morning. He continued to degenerate until, finally, a decision was made to put Jon on ECMO. ECMO stands for Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation. It draws deoxygenated blood from the right aorta, pumps it out of the body through a machine that oxygenates it, then pumps it back into the right ventricle for the heart to then pump it out to the body. The purpose of this is to give Jon’s lungs a chance to rest and heal, letting the ECMO do the work his lungs would do for him. It would cleanse the retained carbon dioxide and give him oxygenated blood to pump through his body. I was later told that the ECMO is a very extreme measure, and the mortality rate is quite high for those who reach this point.
Our family spent many hours together in the waiting room during that period of time, and my sister, Mary (Jon’s mom), never left him. I was asking close friends to pray for him. On Thursday, April 3, an article appeared in a Catholic newspaper that was about a priest with ALS (Fr. Benjamin Reese) who was promoting the canonization of Pope Pius XII. Fr. Reese also had a great devotion to St. Joseph, so we chose to pray the Memorare to St. Joseph.
Also, Jon was given a very rare and incredibly beautiful image of Divine Mercy that Thursday. It was recently discovered in an Adoration Chapel at St. Mary’s in Burlington, Wisconsin. It turns out it is a third of now three original images painted before the ban in 1959. It was painted here, in Wisconsin, in the 1950s, by a very talented artist, Sr. Mary Luciana Kolasiski. Only three copies had been made from the original, and Jon received one to hang in his room. The medical staff commented that it is the most beautiful image of Jesus they have ever seen.
The day we almost lost Jon was on a Friday, April 4 (with Holy Week nearing, the family dubbed this, “Bad Friday”). The doctors explained to his mom and dad that they needed to take him off of blood thinners to stop very bad internal bleeding. They said that would clog the ECMO and his lungs would not be able to oxygenate his blood, and he would very likely pass. It was a lose-lose situation – if they did not take him off of the blood thinners, he would bleed to death, if they did take him off of the blood thinners, the ECMO machine would clog. My sister later shared that the doctors gave him a .5% chance of survival, only because they never want to say, “never.”
I was in the waiting room when my sister and her family returned, in tears, from that meeting with doctors. Once I heard this very grim prognosis, I took off from there and went to the trauma center and stood at Jon’s door praying 15 decades of the rosary and the Divine Mercy Chaplet, with the intercession of Venerable Pope Pius XII. I looked up and saw it was the three o’clock hour on Friday. Just then, I received a very vivid image, in my mind’s eye, that the Blessed Mother received this petition, and placed it on a golden platter, and brought it to the throne of God. A confidence – trust – came over me, and I returned to my sister to tell her “this would not end in death.” She looked up at me, as if to say, “What do you know?”
We quickly asked everyone to pray the Memorare to St. Joseph, with the intercession of Venerable Pius XII. Thanks to social media, thousands around the world were praying this way for Jon!!
The next morning, I received no reports about Jon before heading over to early morning Mass. After Mass, I finally took some time to try to prepare a weekend homily. I was astounded to read that the Gospel was the Raising of Lazarus!! And then I read the passage where Jesus said, “This illness will not end in death, but will give glory to God” … almost the very words I spoke to my sister the day before, when things were looking their worst. At that exact moment, I started receiving messages from ecstatic family members who said Jon did a 180 during the night, and the ECMO machine was not clogging as anticipated.
Jon continued to make steady gains as they weened him off of the ECMO. They finally removed it on Wednesday of Holy Week. His lungs, miraculously, began to far exceed the best doctor’s anticipations. Dr. Love (a renowned expert of the ECMO) told my sister, “You have a 100% supernatural miracle on your hands … we not only took him off blood thinners, but added coagulants … there is no explaining why that machine did not clog, or why Jon’s lungs began to heal so quickly.”
My nephew, Jon, was able to speak for the first time today. He said, “What happened?” He had to be trained to swallow, so no solid food just yet. So, immediately following Holy Thursday Mass, I brought the Precious Blood of Jesus to Jon in an eye dropper. The first bit of nourishment to cross his lips after this amazing miracle was THE PRECIOUS BLOOD OF JESUS ON HOLY THURSDAY! I told him that it was Mary who brought our prayers to the throne of God at that three o’clock hour on that amazing miraculous Friday. I said to him, “Jon, behold your mother!”
Jon began to speak even more. Jon asked, “What are my goals today.” After they told him, he said, “I’ll exceed them!” That’s right, on Good Friday, Jon faced his Calvary with resolve and courage!! The night before, I was with him, around 9:30 PM (after Holy Thursday Mass), and they let me give him a few drops of the Precious Blood of Christ. I told him he was “out” for a while, and I told him how amazingly strong he is! (and we know that is supernatural strength he’s wielding). It truly WAS a Good Friday!!
Jon continued to make AWESOME strides in his recovery. He was determined to get better and go home. Jon’s #1 phrase was …”what’s next?” He repeatedly asked what was the next step in getting him better. He said, “I’ll do anything to get out of here!” This, on the day we commemorate Christ in his tomb … WOW!!
Easter Sunday – new life, a time of 2nd chances. That’s exactly what we continued to witness in Jon’s recovery. And if that’s not enough, that day we witnessed his rising! After my Easter Sunday Masses, I walked into the Trauma Center to look for Jon, and the entire staff looked up at me with huge smiles and said, “He is not here!” (Matthew 28:6). Literally…on Easter morning … he rose to the 5th floor, Acute Medical/Progressive Care Unit. Jon has moved UP to a step-DOWN unit.
Thank you, God! Thank you, Blessed Mother! Thank you, St. Joseph! Thank you, Pope Pius XII! And, thanks to all the wonderful prayer warriors!!
Ad majorem Dei gloriam!
P.S. Jon is fully recovered and is living a normal life today, completely healed.
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