Tales of the Unexplained, Number 2

In December 1987, just as I was entering the Church, a friend of mine (a very close friend) was working in the burn unit of Harborview in Seattle. Harborview has the finest burn ward in the Northwest and gets patients from the four surrounding states. They had brought in an 18 month old girl who had third degree burns over 90% of her body. It looked like child abuse (she’d been put in boiling water and the burns were from the head down.) The doctors were struggling to keep her alive, but could not stem the infections and were not able to do skin grafts. Her immune system was collapsing and the nurses were saying she’d be dead by the weekend (it was about midweek or so). My friend, who has remarkable charisms of intercession and discernment, called to say that she had a strong sense that we should pray for her and that this was not the end of the story.

So we did. We had masses said. I decided to try the very practical experiment of prayer to the saints (for me, still a novelty and something rather nervous-making). I specifically asked St. Bartholomew (who was martyred by being flayed alive) and the Blessed Virgin (since, if this was child abuse, the girl obviously needed a mother) to pray.

My friend returned to work a few days later and went to the girl’s room to pray. She was gone. My friend, assuming she’d died, checked with the head nurse to find out when it had happened. She wasn’t dead, the nurse replied. She’s downstairs playing. All her skin had regenerated without a single graft.

Sold me on prayer to the saints. Of course, it could be that the finest burn ward in four states had made an egregious mistake and misdiagnosed first degree burns as third degree burns. A naturalist dogmatist has to say this. I’m open to the possibility, however, of a miracle.