“I have friends who are atheists who have called me and said, ‘I am going back to church’”

That’s the quote of the day from a mother whose son was about to be taken off life support — but then made an astonishing recovery.


Sam Schmid, an Arizona college student believed to be brain dead and poised to be an organ donor, miraculously recovered just hours before doctors were considering taking him off life support.

Schmid, a junior and business major at the University of Arizona, was critically wounded in an Oct. 19 five-car accident in Tucson.

The 21-year-old’s brain injuries were so severe that the local hospital could not treat him. He was airlifted to the Barrow Neurological Institute at St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Phoenix, where specialists performed surgery for a life-threatening aneurysm.

As hospital officials began palliative care and broached the subject of organ donation with his family, Schmid began to respond, holding up two fingers on command. Today he is walking with the aid of a walker, and his speech, although slow, has improved.

Doctors say he will likely have a complete recovery. He even hopes to get a day pass from the hospital to celebrate the holidays with his large extended family.

“Nobody could ever give me a better Christmas present than this — ever, ever, ever,” said his mother, Susan Regan, who is vice-president of the insurance company Lovitt-Touche.

“I tell everyone, if they want to call it a modern-day miracle, this is a miracle,” said Regan, 59, and a Catholic. “I have friends who are atheists who have called me and said, ‘I am going back to church.’”

Schmid’s doctor, renowned neurosurgeon Dr. Robert Spetzler, agreed that his recovery was miraculous.

“I am dumb-founded with his incredible recovery in such a short time,” said Spetzler. “His recovery was really remarkable considering the extent of his lethal injuries.”

Read the rest.


  1. That is amazing, miraculous and very inspiring! Thank you for sharing this! Amen!

  2. Did this kid or his family pray to a Blessed or Venerable person? If so they should collect all the medical evidence and send this to the Causes of Saints and get whomever it is raised to a Canonization status!!!

  3. Elizabeth Scalia says:

    I was wondering the same question. Great story for Christmas, thanks!

  4. pagansister says:

    Wasn’t his time—and glad it wasn’t. He was too young to leave this mortal coil.

  5. Wow!
    This article was posted yesterday, December 21st, exactly a year to the day after Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted announced during a news conference in Phoenix that St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix can no longer identify itself as “Catholic.”

  6. Although I would personally call this a miracle of modern medicine, but if their faith helps people like these out during rough times, then call it an act of god – it’s the least we can do to help.

  7. Amazing! Here is another miraculous story:

  8. Jack B. Nimble says:

    Not to be the Grinch that stole Christmas or a reincarnation of Ebenezer Scrooge, but let’s look at the full picture. Top notch surgeon, intensive excellent medical care, involved, supportive family (affluent and insured I’d note) and young athletic paitient. I’d be very careful before any of you cry “Miracle”. Read the full story, particularly the surgeon’s comments about the undamaged portion of his paitient’s brain.

    Inspiring yes, but let us not create a capricious God who lets 10 year old cancer kids die while strapping jock college men live. That’s not my version of Christianity.

  9. It is terribly convenient and presumptuous to label any good outcome against long odds a “miracle.” Viewed that way, any recovery from any TBI would have to be considered a miracle. It’s an area of medicine which is still far and away one of the least understood. Doctors can make an educated guess based on symtoms and signs to be able to say if a case looks bad or really bad or “seems hopeless.”

    For all that, they don’t really know what’s going on at the cellular and molecular level in that brain. The brain is remarkably resilient and remarkably delicate at the same time. Some people come out of vegetative states and comas after years or pull out of what looked to be a cerebral death spiral as did this young man.

    We don’t know why, but we sure haven’t exhausted the mundane possibilities well enough to throw up our hands and presume a supernatural cause. For every “miracle” recovery, we have other cases where young healthy people go the other way – brain dead after some freak reaction to a drug or momentary electrolyte imbalance or who undergo radical and destructive personality and cognitive changes after what seemed to be modest injuries or strep throat or a series of mild concussions. If we assign the personal intervention of God or saints to the happy outcomes of these long-shot cases, we must also consider them to be negligent on the job when they “let” the easy cases go sour.

    If it’s true that family atheist friends are going back to church on account of Mr. Schmid’s recovery, can we expect them to revert back to atheism, and to bring some devout Catholics with them if he later suffers an equally impressive setback?

    Prayers or spell work, which both lie on the same spectrum of practice, are fine tools to employ in healing, but they are awfully temperamental material on which to build the foundations of one’s religion or faith upon.

  10. I think you’re correct in some ways. My “logical” son for instance believes that many times are bodies if blessed with a good immune system or other things, corrects itself and modern medicine just doesn’t understand it all. I do believe though, that cases like the nun who was cured of Parkinsons in the John Paul ll cause for sainthood was powerful because of the time frame involved. I believe God gives us gifts to help our faith.
    Sometimes though, it’s confusing. I remember Mother Angelica…she walked without braces after years of using them,, danced, everyone was happy,muscles were strong, she said it was for “us”, but then she still had asthma and then later had multiple strokes and is now silent but still very holy, in her convent having to be wheeled around. What to make of that?

  11. My take-away from this beautiful story is that we should not be so quick to declare that someone is “brain-dead”. To me, the real miracle is that this young man regained consciousness before the doctors could convince his parents to remove life support and donate his organs (which is done before physical death). The surgeon was looking for signs “that would predict no chance for a useful life.” The hospital staff was talking to the parents “subtly about end of life issues”. This young man’s life is a sign that we should not give up so easily.

  12. Reading the whole story I think more this. His recovery does seem physically explainable, or plausibly so, but does give a sense on how people may give up too fast in other cases.

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