Witnessing a miracle can be nearly as amazing as experiencing one. Think about it. Haven’t you been completely blown away when someone who has been given a short time to live rocks on in fairly good shape for five years or more?
A while back, my dear, lively friend Beverly had cancer of the ear – who knew that could happen?! After enduring surgery and very uncomfortable treatment, she decided to simply live her life as she chose from that moment on, and if the disease should reappear, she vowed, it was her time to go. Bev returned to her childhood home in Oklahoma, connected with old friends, traveled extensively in the West, had a ball, and five years later, nearly to the day, the cancer resurfaced. I had the privilege of spending lots of time with her during her last three months until she passed away peacefully.
Maybe you know someone who’s down in the dumps and “out of the blue” a friend calls them and says just the right thing to cheer them up. Or against all odds, someone’s daughter wins a full ride college scholarship when her child’s higher education wasn’t in the budget.
Merely observing those miracles can flat make your day. As can reading about them, the reason that the small-format, inspiring magazine Guideposts, co-founded by Dr. Norman Vincent Peale and his wife, Ruth Stafford Peale in 1945, has experienced such longevity. Its goal of helping people in all walks of life experience their maximum personal and spiritual potential still rings true today. Every story – and none are lengthy – is about a personal uplifting experience or wisdom gained from living life. My sister has gifted Guideposts to me for more than 25 years, and it’s still the only magazine that enters my house I read cover-to-cover.
Back in 1993, I witnessed a miracle that I’ll never forget. A few weeks before Christmas, I had a return of an autoimmune disease called Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS). Ten years prior, I’d spent a couple of weeks in the hospital before a diagnosis became clear.
Briefly, in GBS a person’s immune system attacks the nervous system and eats away the myelin covering the nerves. Any place in the body where that happens becomes paralyzed and stays that way until the myelin regenerates, if it does. Many folks end up on respirators for long periods of time, others may be confined to wheelchairs, while some die from it. I was fortunate and had a mild case that was treated at the time with steroids. Complete recovery, i.e. relearning to walk, the healing of double vision, and returning to my former energy level took nearly a year. All I can say is that the ordeal for me was a much-needed wake-up call. Thank goodness, I listened.
So when GBS returned, I knew what it was and that I just had more to learn from it. The good news was that less than a month before, I’d read about a new treatment for the illness that doctors seemed excited about. A friend drove me to my neurologist’s. Treatment article in hand, I greeted him with, “There’s a treatment now that works!”
His smile was broad. “Yep, I just used it on a 10-year-old boy and it worked like magic. Let’s get you in the hospital.”
The new treatment was a seven-hour infusion for five consecutive days. Supervision was needed the first couple of days to make sure the body didn’t reject the viscous IGG (Immuno- Gamma Globulin). As it was a Friday, I was to check into the ER for the outpatient treatment daily all weekend, then finish the final two days in a regular hospital room.
The fact that a true treatment now existed was but the first of many miracles I personally experienced during this time.
As I was unable to drive, I’d need transportation to and from the hospital daily. Enter miracle number two.
Working quickly, my friend Eleanor set up a “Friends of KB” network. The first day, the aforementioned Beverly drove me to the hospital and checked me in. I settled onto my ER bed, visualized a knight that looked exactly like John Cleese leading Monty Python troops into my vein with the IGG to fight off the evil villains that might prevent it from working. Of course, that handsome hero did a fabulous job, and I slid into slumber to the Native American flute music of Carlos Nakai through my headphones for the rest of those seven hours. Afterwards, a different friend drove me home, had supper ready, tucked me in for a good night’s sleep, spent the night on my couch, fed me breakfast and dropped me off next day at the ER. Then a different friend would do the same. By day three, the treatment was working. I began to feel better, and after day 5, was released to recover at home.
Yet, still my friends provided meals, and spent nights, keeping my focus on laughter, a light heart and pure gratitude, while I regained my strength. For two weeks. I later learned that one friend’s wife had just left him; he said that staying at my house, doing something for someone else, had been a comfort for him during a tough time. (I repaid him later with an intro to wife number two, who was a keeper.) Needless to say, the experience brought all of us closer together.
I was – and remain – one lucky girl!
But finally, back to this column’s beginnings, i.e. witnessing miracles. On day three in the ER, I was privy to a lovely one. As you may know, privacy doesn’t exist in that amazing place, with those remarkable docs and nurses scurrying about, rising to varying heart-stopping occasions from minute-to-minute. That job is certainly a calling.
Late that afternoon, an older woman in great distress was wheeled in to occupy the cubicle next to mine. While a doctor tried to check her over, she was weeping, moaning and thrashing about. Finally, the harried physician said something to the effect that he couldn’t work on her while she was in that state, asked the two attending nurses to please quiet her down, and left to care for another patient. The nurses chatted among themselves, obviously trying everything in their bag of options, but nothing seemed to work, until…one began singing a Christmas carol. I believe it was “Away in a Manger.” Softly at first until the other nurse joined in and their voices lifted. Those wonderful ladies sang sweetly together “The First Noel,” then “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear.” And by that time, the agitated woman became quiet, even peaceful, it would seem.
My heart was filled with the Christmas spirit on the spot. What pure joy it is to witness a miracle. Sure made my day.
If you’d like more info on miracles, check out Dr. Bernie Siegel’s remarkable Love, Medicine and Miracles, a book published in 1986, far ahead of its time in delving into the mind-body connection. It’ll make a believer out of you if you aren’t already.
The holidays are a season of miracles, you know.