Recently, medical miracles were the topic of a conference at my hospital. People shared case studies of patients who made recoveries so miraculous they could not be attributed to science alone. It got me to thinking about all the medical miracles I've seen in my own practice. One especially comes to mind.
At a hospital where I worked long ago, I had to take care of a patient who was a Jehovah's Witness. She had a blood disorder which made her prone to bleeding more heavily than the average person. She was undergoing major spine surgery which could involve a heavy blood loss. In fact, only the first part of the surgery could be completed because of the bleeding and the second part had to be postponed until the patient's condition was stable.
The surgeon who did the first part of the surgery was going to be out of the country, so another surgeon was going to have to do the posterior portion. The patient's spine was unstable and the nurses were unable to get her out of bed, so it was important that the second part of the surgery take place as soon as possible. The second surgeon did not have the compassion or the empathy of the first surgeon, and he bluntly told the patient that if she didn't consent to getting blood, he would not perform the surgery and, as an added charm, informed her it would probably result in her death. While pneumonia was a very real threat, I didn't think it was necessary to speak so harshly to her.
The patient, against the wishes of her community, agreed to a transfusion but only as a last resort. On the morning of her surgery, I had to interview her and make sure her consent and paperwork were in order. I noticed she was teary-eyed and when I asked her what was wrong, she said her mother was going to disown her if she accepted a blood transfusion, and that she was going to die if she didn't because the doctor refused to do her surgery otherwise. The nurse I was paired with that day called me aside, telling me she had a bad feeling about the case and felt we shouldn't do it.
The patient continued to talk about how her mother was going to disown her. Not knowing what else to do, I called the representative from the bloodless care program and asked him if he could speak to the mother. He was very nice and came right away. Meanwhile, the surgeon was steaming because we were holding him up as we tried to resolve the situation. The representative came to me and told me that the mother understood that her daughter could die if she needed blood and refused and that she had no intention of disowning her daughter, whom she loved very much. I asked him if he could bring the mother to pre-op to talk to her daughter and he was happy to oblige.
We brought the mother to her adult daughter's side and I listened as her mother assured her that she was free to do what had to be done, and that it would not change anything if she had to accept blood. There were a lot of tears, probably none so much as from the nurse I was working with that day!
Once again, we left it that the patient would get blood if necessary and only if her life truly depended on it. Before we went back to the OR, I prayed in earnest to St. Therese to intercede on behalf of this poor woman who was so sick and so consumed with doing the right thing by her faith and her mother. My partner in the OR was still insistent we shouldn't go ahead with the surgery, that all of this was an "omen."
"I don't believe in omens", I told her. I continued to pray silently to St. Therese. I'm sure you can guess the outcome of this surgery.
Not only did the patient not need blood, but she hardly bled at all. The loss of blood was so minimal as to be nearly immeasurable and there wasn't a person involved in the case who wasn't astounded, except me.
I understood that nothing is impossible with God, even when it comes to non-Catholics.