Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Jeremy Hand: Miraculous Recovery from "Brain Death" After Anointing With Holy Oil?

Back on 20 March 2006, I requested urgent prayer on this blog, for Jeremy Hand, the son of a friend of mine, Catholic webmaster and social activist Stephen Hand. To my utter delight, I discovered today (through a notice on Mark Shea's blog), that Jeremy has remarkably improved, which has "amazed" his doctors and nurses.

Four neurologists had counseled his parents to not even use a feeding tube to preserve his life, which they felt would be cognitively meaningless. But the Hands heroically persevered and followed their conscience in adherence with the life-affirming teachings of the Catholic faith in this regard. Had they not done so, Jeremy would have been dead.

Jeremy Hand: What the Grace of God Through Prayer and Holy Oil and Relics Can Do

Instead, he is showing new signs of recovery almost every day (you can read the astonishing testimonies and see the pictures). Praise God! These types of things need to be proclaimed far and wide. Hopefully this blog post can contribute to that end. Spread the news on your own blogs and websites! Here is a summary written by Stephen Hand:

But some time between midnight and 1 PM the next day, Jeremy, who was sleeping on his back, vomited into his lungs, causing oxygen deprivation to the cerebral cortex of his brain. He was pulverized: had a heart attack, renal failure, pneumonia and was all but dead when he arrived by ambulance at the hospital. The word was coma. ER doctors spoke to us sensitively as if he were already dead, "we are so sorry to tell you that this is gravely serious . . ." In time brain scans and other tests showed grave damage to his cerebral cortex (cognition /thinking, language, memory part of the brain) and doctors told us it was effectively all over, irreversible. That a feeding tube would only needlessly prolong Jeremy's agony. We reached out via the Internet for moral advice. A feeding tube, against the advice of doctors with the best intentions, was implanted in his stomach. We were told he would either never come back or return as a vegetable or worse, "something horrific," by which we understood in anguish that perhaps only some piece of his mind would return. Read from bottom of page up for recent chronology. Then we prayed for the intercession of John Paul II, and the sisters from Bavaria sent us Holy Oil from the relics of St. Walburga (a saint we never heard of) with which we anointed him in prayer. From that day forward, after the anointing, we can only say that a miracle has been occurring which has astonished doctors, nurses and all who have been involved. How it has bolstered our love for the communion of the saints, so neglected by the modern world!
This illustrates, too, the importance of the intercession of the saints. It so happens that I will be talking about that very subject on Catholic Answers Live on Monday, the 26th of June (7-8 PM EST). We are not alone. We're surrounded by a "cloud of witnesses" (Hebrews 12:1).

Tragically, as the Hands were rejoicing in this seeming miracle, they received other devastating news:

Now more pain. Please pray for my godson, Matt, 19, whose cancer has returned viciously and is extremely critical at present. Why life at one end and such extremity at the other . . . such rejoicing and such awful sadness at once. It is a terrible mystery, too deep for our intellects. We can only submit, for we are certainly not in control. We must be ready to live or die every moment. If you have a prayer request you would like published at TCR do not hesitate to send it.
Please include the Hand family and Matt in your prayers. We can all rejoice - during the good times and the bad - that God is in control and that He answers prayers, if they be in His will. We should all be encouraged to trust Him all the more, after witnessing what has transpired in this instance. This doesn't mean that God heals every time someone has enough faith to pray for healing (as some false teachers assert, causing untold misery to many thousands), but it does mean that He is able to heal if He so chooses, and that we are privileged by the grace of God to have the joyful experience of being involved in the process through prayer, penance, and works of charity. Our prayers have great importance; our sufferings themselves also have a very high importance (as penance). It's not meaningless. Let's offer our sorrows and trials to God for the sake of others.

* * *

An agnostic, Ed Babinski, thoughtfully replied in my comments section:

I read the website you linked to. The story of his recovery is impressive. Surely being surrounded by loved ones, being exposed to their speech, touch and presence, has a remarkable power, as has been shown, I think, in some other cases of coma recovery as well. As for what doctors predicted and what actually happened, I don't think doctors know everything about the brain's restorative powers, and individual cases can be difficult to judge, i.e., rather than making sweeping statements based on generalizations. It's good he didn't stay in the coma a long while, because percentage-wise the odds keep going down of coming out of a deep coma after a long while.

As for prayer changing things, well, people will believe what they want to believe. And you can't stop people from praying, and who would want to? I don't. But percentage-wise, again, prayers don't seem to preserve people's lives that much, and there's been lots of studies. Neither do Catholics hold the patent on miraculous healings. Sir Jason Winters was diagnosed as terminally ill, with an inoperable cancerous tumor in his neck, but he believed in a concoction of healing herbs that he collected and had it fed to him teaspoonfuls at a time as a tea, and recovered miraculously. While Norman Cousins is convinced that he cured himself of chronic near fatal heart disease via laughter therapy, and adds he was cured of polio by the disreputable "water therapy" when he was a kid.

Let's just hope and pray that we ALL have people who love us and continue to make contact with us in our times of deepest need.
I responded:

If indeed, science is too uninformed to make a fairly definitive judgment of prediction with regard to the brain and prognosis for brain-damage cases, then we have to wonder why four neurologists acted quite certain that they did know what the future was almost certainly to be (to the extent of counseling a removal of a feeding tube, which would have led to death).

This raises a huge problem, alluded to by Stephen Hand. They either truly don't know the future well enough to be so "sure" about procedures such as removing feeding tubes (because they don't know enough about the brain) or not. If they do (or did) know, then either they were incompetent or a miracle has occurred. I would think the latter is true, both as a matter of rational determination of the options here and in charity towards the doctors involved.

If they don't have enough scientific information to reasonably know the future prognosis in cases like these, then it is far worse, because there is presumption and atrocious ethics (since they recommended a course of action which leads to inevitable death, when in fact they truly didn't know if recovery would occur or not).

Scientists (though usually good, well-meaning men and women) tend both to over-dogmatize about the state of knowledge that they possess, and to dismiss other forms of non-scientific knowledge; not to mention the possibility of the miraculous.

Many scientists and doctors wisely take a respectful, soft-spoken, agnostic approach to miracles, but others want to be dogmatic and declare them impossible. Very well, then; I would love to hear explanations from 100 agnostic or atheist, materialist doctors and scientists of this case.

Again, if they appeal to ignorance, then the suggestion of removal of the feeding tube was (I think) clearly unethical, even by secular, scientific ethical norms (not even getting to what the Church teaches about such scenarios). If they claim that their judgments were based on sound science and reasonable educated guesses, then they have to explain why they were spectacularly wrong.

Whatever the truth is, the Hands followed Catholic life-affirming teaching, and because they did so, they have a functioning son today, whereas they would not have a living son if they had heeded the informed judgments of medical science. That much is undeniable. And I think it again raises very serious questions about current medical practice and judgments in such cases.

This joyful outcome with very troubling implications ought to give everyone pause: Christians, agnostics, atheists, doctors, scientists alike. We can all agree that there are factors here which are unexplainable by conventional science. We Christians suggest that a miracle may very well have taken place. That can be smirked at and doubted as much as certain folks want (mostly because of hostile predispositions and presuppositions), but they can offer no better explanation. So a bit of "intellectual humility" may be quite appropriate in this instance.

Meanwhile, everyone can be very happy for Jeremy Hand and his family. Christians among us who accept the possibility of miracles and their continuing reality in this world, also rejoice and thank God for mercifully performing one in this initially very tragic situation. We should continue to pray for as much more recovery as possible, particularly for Jeremy's legs and future ability to be able to walk again. God may choose to do that or not,or else natural processes may enable that desired outcome. We can't always know or understand God's purposes or will.

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