On Christmas Eve in our parish, following the 5 pm. Mass, a parishioner, Jeff McGrath, along with his family, stopped to exchange Christmas greetings with me and added that he had had an incredible experience where he knew God was present and at work. I’ve talked to Jeff on many occasions before but I could tell that what he wanted to share with me, while his family waited, was something that had greatly impacted him. Jeff is a Paramedic and after he shared a story with me about God’s presence and power in an all-too-familiar situation in his line of work, I asked him if he would consider writing down his account and share it with us in our parish bulletin.
I would call this a ‘Glory Story’ which is right and fitting before our God because He is the One who has moved in power and let us know through this experience that He is, as Christmas has reminded us, “with us”. We can experience the most incredible things when we get in the habit of asking for His help and guidance, when we step out in faith and simply ask Him to assist us in the everyday situations as well as the major crises.
I have been a Paramedic for a little under 12 years now, so suffice it to say, very little surprises me in the way of “jaw-dropping” situations. Recently, I was called to a car accident where a Ford F150 Truck, T-Boned a vehicle on its passenger side door – where a 12 year old boy was sitting. From the second we pulled up in the ambulance and I had my first look at the young boy, I knew he was in a very bad way. Upon my initial assessment, I realized he had suffered a very significant head injury – and we needed to get him to a trauma centre, and fast! By the time the doors were cut away, allowing us to extricate the boy from the vehicle, things were getting worse and worse. He was unconscious for the first 5 minutes following the accident. When he awoke, he was screaming randomly, could not answer questions or follow simple instructions. When I opened his eyes, to assess his pupils, both were pointing up and to the left with no response to light. Once we had him in our ambulance, I reassessed him again, finding the patient was having a more difficult time staying awake, and he was demonstrating what is referred to as “posturing” – this is when the arms are bent in towards the body and the wrists and fingers are bent and held toward the chest. It is a sign of severe brain damage. Shortly after, this young boy began vomiting continuously.
While all of this was happening – his father was at the head of the stretcher bent down, apologizing to his son, and telling him how much he loves him. It was at this time, that I grabbed the boy’s hands and said the Lord’s Prayer for him. This is nothing new for me – I often say prayers for my patients, but what happened in the minutes after praying was incredible. Within 15 minutes, the screaming stopped, the vomiting ceased, he would open his eyes when I asked him to, and for the first time in approximately 10 – 12 requests, he finally gave me a full-on squeeze of my hands with both of his hands. This sent chills down my back. When I asked him a question he “should” have known, and he didn’t answer me, I gave him what is called a “pain stimulus” (a rub of the sternum) and for the first time, he pushed my hand away and slowly yelled at me “don’t do that again.” The improvement he showed in this short time was like nothing I have ever seen before. All the previous signs had led me to think he wasn’t going to make it.
We rushed him into the Emergency Room at the Hospital for Sick Children – and about an hour later, I went in to see what the results of the CT Scan was – and they told me the scan came back CLEAR! They said worst case scenario, he will have a nice concussion.
I am not sure if the magnitude of the situation was realized by the young boy’s parents – but I know what I saw that day, and the fact that the “turn-around” occurred AFTER my prayer, tells me that what took place was nothing short of a miracle.
I thank Jeff for the privilege of hearing this story which gives due glory to God. Jeff witnessed a great blessing in a young boy’s life of which he and his family may not even have been aware – the gift of life itself. We humans are a strange lot. In some ways we’d prefer to be ‘creeped out’ by some strange phenomena that we can’t fully understand or explain over the wondrous things God does in people’s lives every day. There is a tendency for people who have touched the miraculous to do one of two things; desire to become a celebrity over what has taken place or to say nothing about it to anyone because it is too personal and perhaps no one would believe them.
As a priest I have seen many beautiful healings and the clear evidence of God’s presence and movement in our lives when we but ask for His help. Yet there is no ‘magic formula’ of prayer that will move God to act or not to act. What Jeff prayed in saying the Lord’s Prayer silently and to himself in that ambulance for the sake of this seemingly dire situation over this young boy contained the truths that Jesus wanted us to be aware of when we used the gift of being able to call God, His Father, “Our Father”. The Lord’s Prayer acknowledges the Father of us all who is God, whose name is holy and whose Kingdom will come in its fulfillment according to His plan (not ours). Then we pray for God’s will to be done which is the more challenging part of this prayer to our own sense of our own plans. The Kingdom of God will come and God’s will shall be done anyway, so why should we bother praying for it? It is because God wants us to participate in it. He wants us to be a part of the Kingdom of God we now walk in and experience the fullness of the Kingdom that is yet to come in eternal life. That prayer Jesus taught His disciples to pray was meant to set their sights upon the highest things and to teach them to align their own will with the perfect yet mysterious and unfolding will of God.
To pray the Our Father is to acknowledge God as God and to invite the presence and power of God to our lives and any and every life situation we find ourselves in. Our parishioner Jeff did that very thing and witnessed God’s power in a wonderful healing and restoration of a young accident victim.
And finally, we do what this bulletin article strives to do: to thank Him for His wonderful work among us. (Fr. Charles)