Miracle Saves a Little girl’s leg: A story

28 05 2014

 Miracle Saves a Little girl's leg: A story

Bombilla de Petare is one of these poor neighbourhoods in the city of Caracas. This is where Rosa C. lives. She is a young black woman, married and the mother of four children: Tito, Juan, Grecia and Roomel. She works in the surgery of Dr Luis M. in the colonial zone of Petare.
The story centres on little Grecia, who was four years old at the time. On Saturday 8th February 1992, at eleven o’clock in the morning, she was being carried on the rack of a bicycle ridden by one of her brothers. By accident, one wheel went into a manhole which had been left half open. The heavy cover toppled right over onto the little girl’s left foot, which started to bleed copiously. Her brother lifted her up and carried her straight home, where their mother held the foot under a running tap. After a while, as it did not stop bleeding, she wrapped her daughter’s foot in a towel, and with a neighbour’s help, took her to a nearby medical clinic for poor people.
On Saturdays the number of people going to such clinics always increases greatly. Not surprisingly, when Rosa arrived with her little girl, she found the place crowded out. When their turn came, the staff just cleaned the child’s wound and sutured it, considering it to be of little importance. At her parents’ insistence, they took an X-ray that showed a fracture of the first phalanges of the second and third toe of the left foot. They prescribed anti-inflammatories and antipyretics, and the girl was then taken back home.
On the following day, 9th February, the front part of Grecia’s foot was badly inflamed. Her mother saw a yellowish discharge from the foot, and took her back to the clinic they had gone to the day before. The staff prescribed her some antibiotics, but by the evening the child had a temperature of 39 C.
On 10th February, seeing that the child was no better, her mother decided to take her to Dr Luis M’s surgery. It was one-thirty p.m. The doctor examined the patient, and saw that Grecia’s whole foot was swollen, purple-coloured and in a generally bad condition, she had a temperature of 40C. “The foot was very swollen,” the doctor writes, “and blackish in colour, looking very bad … The mother also brought me the X-ray … It looked dreadful, like gangrene; I said to her mother: Rosa, this looks very bad to me, I hope they don’t have to amputate her toe’, although inwardly I was hoping it would not be her foot they would have to amputate.”
The doctor proceeded to give intra-muscular injections of antibiotics and anti-inflammatories, and he himself took the child to the J.J. de los Rios Children’s Hospital in Caracas, where she was given minor surgery to drain the blister and take a sample of its contents. The hospital decided to admit her immediately, having made a preliminary diagnosis of a fracture of the first phalanx of two toes and bullous or blistering cellulitis on the back of her left foot. Antibiotics were administered intravenously.
Naturally, Rosa did not leave her daughter’s bedside. The day after she was admitted, the doctors announced that the only remedy was to amputate the two affected toes, because she had gaseous gangrene and it was resistant to the antibiotic treatment. The longer the delay in carrying out the operation, the greater the danger of the gangrene spreading
Her mother takes up the story: “On Tuesday morning Dr O., who was resident houseman for the ward, called me aside. He asked me whether I was alone and I said I was; he told me they were going to have to operate on the child to remove two of her toes because she had a gaseous gangrene, and I should call my husband … Dr Mary Carmen, who was the one who spoke to me most, and another doctor, said the same thing.”
Grecia’s parents, who were extremely distressed, could not decide whether to give their consent for the operation. It was only when Dr Luis M., whom they trusted completely, arrived that they signed the authorisation form. By then it was too late to carry out the surgery that day, so they decided to do it next day.
The gangrene disappears
For a long time Rosa had had devotion to Monsignor Josemaría Escrivá, and she had even encouraged other people to have recourse to his intercession in times of difficulty. That day, seeing her distress, a friend encouraged her to place the child under the protection of the Founder of Opus Dei. “The day before she had given me a prayer card of Monsignor Escrivá. That Tuesday, in the evening, Tere said to me: Rosa, pray to Monsignor Escrivá and you will see how he helps you.’ I then turned the prayer card head down and I told him that I was putting him like that, as though I was punishing him, because (people said) he helped the whites and people with plenty of money, but that he must take action and help me with my daughter, because I worked for Dr M. who has great devotion to him, and I had gone for several years to his Masses on the day of his anniversary in the church of the Chiquinquirá.”
After praying like this, Rosa laid the prayer card on the child’s foot and left it there all night. Then she recited the prayer for private devotion several times over.
The reference to Mgr Escrivá helping “the whites and people with plenty of money” was the echo of some unfounded criticism that had come out in the press during those days. It was the result of a campaign that a small number of people had organised with the intention of preventing the beatification of the Founder of Opus Dei, which had been announced for May of that year. Rosa thought the cure of her little daughter would refute this falsehood.
Next day, Wednesday 12th February, early in the morning, they took little Grecia to the operating theatre. When the surgeon removed the bandage, he found that the situation had changed considerably; the extensive inflammation that had existed a few hours earlier in the toes and the front half of the left foot, had completely disappeared. The same had happened to the purplish colour of the skin and the discharge. There was no gangrene, and so the operation was cancelled.
Her mother says: “About an hour later they brought the child back from the other block and the lady doctor asked me, Who did your daughter’s dressing yesterday?’ I replied that nobody had touched the dressing. Then she told me they were not going to operate on my daughter because there was no need … When they undid the dressing they asked me again, Are you certain you didn’t put anything on it?’ And I repeated again that no-one had even taken the dressing off.
“What surprised me most,” she continues, “was that the doctor should say that somebody had changed her dressing that night, when I’m certain that nobody changed it, and if anything I was afraid to touch her little foot, because she screamed whenever anyone so much as laid a hand on her foot. I remember too that both on Monday night and Tuesday night she’d cried a lot with the pain, but on the Wednesday morning, before they took her to the other block, she was quite calm, and touched her leg herself.”
At four o’clock in the afternoon that same day, the clinical notes record that Grecia’s temperature was normal. The inflammation in her foot continued to decrease and although it was still bleeding, the dressings did not smell bad. As a precaution, they continued treating her with antibiotics and the doctors decided to dress the foot every two days, until they could operate to set the fractures. Although the danger of gangrene had disappeared, the toes were still fractured and the phalanges were deprived of blood circulation, so that there was a very high risk of necrosis of the bones.
Grecia was kept in hospital until she could recover from the heavy bleeding (which had left her very anaemic) and the fractures could be operated on. However, for various reasons, the operation was not carried out. Sometimes this was because the girl had not been adequately prepared, at other times because the operating theatre was not ready. The fact is that on the 12th March, the little girl was declared completely cured. The fractured toes had mended without any complications and she had totally regained the use of her foot.
Clinical evaluation
Grecia’s bicycle accident had two pathological consequences. One was the infection that started the gangrene; the other, the fracture of two toes. The fractures meant that the bones would normally be deprived of blood circulation, with the consequent danger of necrosis.
In the judgement of the trauma specialist who was consulted by the Postulation, the reversal of the gangrenous process cannot have any exclusively natural explanation, bearing in mind how sudden it was. There are three facts that certify to the presence of a serious form of gangrene. 1) The trauma was a very severe one, as it is not easy to fracture the toes of such a young child, because they are still quite soft and mobile. 2) The clinical manifestations were very serious: high fever, intense pain, anaemic reaction, as well as the physical examination of the wound, which presented the characteristic symptoms of gangrene. 3) The decision to amputate was take by joint agreement of several doctors and was confirmed after consulting the opinion of the plastic surgery department. It was not a hasty decision, but one that was fully justified by the course the infection was taking.
This is the judgement of a specialist after an attentive study of the case: “This serious gangrene was cured clinically (sudden disappearance of the pain, the fever, the signs of inflammation etc.); radiographically (it has left no subsequent radiological deterioration; completely (without amputation of the foot or any substantial loss); without any treatment (apart from the antibiotics, the girl was given no medication on the previous day and the fracture-dislocations had not been reduced); and immediately (on the Tuesday she presented all the symptoms, whilst on Wednesday morning she had only partial loss of function). She was only kept in hospital, in the department of internal medicine, as an obvious precautionary measure, given the intensity of what she had gone through.
“Having considered all these circumstances, I am of the opinion that from the medical point of view Grecia G’s cure is inexplicable, and I can well understand the surprise of my colleagues who observed this cure at close quarters.”
Grecia’s mother cannot contain her joy and gratitude for the great favour. She has seen with her own eyes how God looks after all his children independently of the colour of their skin or their social standing.
“When they told me they were not going to operate on her,” her mother writes, “I thought, God exists, God is great and he has helped me. Straight away I phoned Dr M. and I said to him, Doctor, Monsignor Escrivá has worked the miracle for me!’ … And after he had worked the miracle for me I handed out his little prayer card to everybody in the hospital, telling them how Monsignor had helped me.”


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