Last week I told you about the heart surgery that was scheduled for Georgette. Thanks to the prayers from an army of Christians, the surgery was successful and she is slowly recovering. The surgery was performed at St. Mary’s Hospital in Rochester, Minnesota, by Dr. Hartzell Schaff, a heart surgeon who is considered by many to be the top surgeon in the world for the type of heart surgery Georgette needed to have.
We didn’t realize how serious Georgette’s heart condition was until December of 2008. At that time, she went in for a routine follow-up echocardiogram (“echo”) at Heartcare Midwest in Peoria. A day after the echo was performed, a nurse called and told Georgette that her cardiologist, Dr. David Best, wanted to talk to us as soon as possible. We talked to Dr. Best on the telephone. He was direct and to the point. The thickness of Georgette’s heart muscle had increased dramatically and he advised us to immediately consult with a specialist in Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (“HCM”). He said that the closest medical facility that offered specialized services for HCM was Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. I asked Dr. Best if he would refer Georgette to the Mayo Clinic and he said he would immediately contact the clinic.
A month later (January, 2009), Georgette went through testing at Mayo Clinic. The cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic recommended that Georgette undergo heart surgery as soon as possible. We were both in a state of shock after being told she needed surgery. I wanted to immediately schedule the surgery, but she wanted to wait, so we went home without scheduling the surgery.
On the way home, Georgette asked me if I would be willing to wait on scheduling the surgery and pray for a miracle instead. I told her yes. After that, she also asked a few close relatives to pray for a miracle. At that time, I couldn’t help but think back to September of 1972 when I was a sophomore in high school. My mom had just given birth to her 15th child, Kathryn Mary. Kathryn was born with Down syndrome and a serious heart defect. Because her condition was so fragile, her doctor told my parents that she would not be able to make it through a surgery to repair her heart. My parents asked all of their children to pray for a miracle. Unfortunately, the miracle we were praying for never came and Kathryn died when she was 13 months old.
For both my younger sister, and later my wife, the miracles we prayed for never materialized. All devout Christians believe that our Lord hears and responds to all of our prayers (one way or another). In response to our prayers for a miraculous cure for Georgette’s heart, instead of granting our specific request, our Lord chose a different course of action – one that has (so far) touched thousands of His faithful followers (rather than just one person and her family). Here’s what happened as a result of our Lord’s decision to deny our request for a miraculous cure:
• About a month ago, my 18 year old daughter, Mary Rose, told me and Georgette that she started a prayer group on Facebook. The name of the group is, Prayer Makes A Difference. The way she set up the prayer group is that each Saturday any member of the group can post the name of a person who is in need of prayers along with the reason prayers are needed. The rest of the group will then pray for that person. Of course, the first person who was listed as needing prayers was Georgette. The last I heard, there were 247 members in the group (both Catholic and non-Catholic) who are praying for Georgette. If Mary sticks with it, I believe that the group will continue to grow and could potentially benefit tens of thousands of people in the future (Georgette and I always encourage our children to think BIG).
• Last week, in my weekly Adoration Letter, I wrote about Georgette’s condition and requested prayers for her. As a result of the article, we were inundated with messages from people we know (as well as people we don’t know), who said they were praying for Georgette. Several of the people who read my article are members of church prayer groups and each one of them added Georgette’s name to their church prayer group lists.
• Since Georgette and I both have large extended families, news about her upcoming surgery spread like fire and hundreds of relatives sent messages to us that they were praying for her. Her parents were advised that there were people from Lebanon and Australia who were praying for Georgette.
• One of Georgette’s friends sent an email to her contact list requesting that they all attend Mass together at Sacred Heart Church in downtown Peoria on the day of Georgette’s surgery, and then stay after Mass to pray a Rosary for her. The morning that Georgette’s surgery was scheduled, the start time for the surgery was delayed because the surgical team had to wait for the anesthesiologist to finish up another surgery. Georgette’s surgeon ended up making the incision to open up Georgette’s chest at 12:25 p.m., the same time that the consecration of the Eucharist was taking place at Sacred Heart Church.
• Not all of the prayer commitments came from Catholics. There were several non-Catholic (Christian) church prayer groups I heard about that committed to praying for Georgette.
• Georgette and I were alone (and away from our family) on our 30th wedding anniversary, which gave us an opportunity to reflect on the gifts God blessed us with during the first 30 years of our marriage. We also had the opportunity to discuss, with great hope and anticipation, our future together.
• A couple of weeks ago I told you about how Fr. Clair Bourdereaux taught me and Georgette about “the two greatest desires.” He said that every man has one desire that stands far ahead all other desires – the desire to be respected; and he said that every woman has one desire that stands far ahead all other desires – the desire to love and to be loved. This particular medical crisis that we’ve been going through has given me the opportunity to show Georgette, through my thoughts, words and actions, how much I love her. It has given her the opportunity to show, through her thoughts, words and actions, that she admires and respects me. Any time there is a crisis that confronts a married couple, regardless of the nature of the crisis – medical, financial, family conflict, death of a loved one – there is an opportunity for the man to again show his wife, by his thoughts, words and actions, how much he loves her; and there is a similar opportunity for the woman to again show her husband, by her thoughts, words and actions, how much she respects and admires him. (Unfortunately, for many couples, the exact opposite occurs when they are confronted with a crisis.)
My best estimate is that there were over 2000 people praying for Georgette prior to and at the time of her surgery. To me, this was truly a miracle – not the one we prayed for, but a hidden miracle that God Almighty gifted to the both of us. The original miracle we prayed for would have cured Georgette’s heart and directly benefited her and her family. The hidden miracle that we ended up with not only benefited Georgette and her family, but also directly benefited each of the people who reached out to her with their thoughts and prayers. It is impossible to reach out to another person in Christian charity without being rewarded by God in multiples. Such an act incorporates the two great commandments given to each of us by our Savior – to love God with your heart, mind, soul and body and to love your neighbor as yourself.
There were several times over the past week that tears welled up in Georgette’s eyes, not because of sadness or fear, but because of the gratitude she felt as a result of all of the people who cared enough to send her their thoughts and prayers. There is no way we can ever express our appreciation to all of the people who reached out to her with their hearts. We want to thank each one of you from the bottom of our hearts for your encouragement and support.
This past week we got a taste of Heaven (even though there was some pain and suffering that came along with it). We are more determined than ever to follow God’s plan for us so that we can someday enjoy eternity in Heaven with all of the people who helped us get through this crisis.
Thank you for your love and support.