Thursday, December 16, 2010

A True Christmas Miracle 2010

The phone call came in at 6:00 a.m. or rather phone tag, as family called and their lines were busy when we tried to call them back.  My husband grabbed my shoulder as I shook, imagining what could make this ruddy Irishman turn stark white.
Then he said they’d been shot; Patty, his beloved sister, my sister-in-law whom I insisted wear fuschia satin to my wedding, and her husband, who not only provided the gorgeous town car for our wedding, but chauffeured as well and gave us the reception hall as a wedding gift.  Their lives passed before my eyes like watching my favorite movies again.  Then Paul said Deirdre, their daughter, my niece, had been shot as well but she was still breathing. My God, if ever there was a time I prayed, this was it.
Somehow I managed to delay my grief and focus on my niece.  DeeDee had a chance.  The first twenty four hours were critical for swelling and brain damage.  I emailed everyone I knew asking for prayer, and prayer from their friends and their friend’s friends.  Our large family met in the crowded hallway at the ICU in one of the Boston hospitals. 
“What’s the word?” we asked as we blew in from the cold and moved through the throngs of people waiting, crying, grieving.
Twenty four hours. 
After that, she’d be pronounced brain dead and life support would be removed.  A “no resuscitation” order was already in place.   I had to see her.
I lost Paul in the crowd and found myself in the middle of an ICU room surrounded by beeping machines, two priests, DeeDee’s boyfriend,, her brother and two friends.  As I looked at DeeDee, as difficult as it was to see her hooked into every medical unit in the world, I knew she’d make it.  I claimed she’d make it.  I don’t think I allowed myself to think otherwise.  I wasn’t giving up.  Nor was anyone else.

DeeDee in the pink earrings and friend

She looked beautiful, even in her hospital fashion and Martian things sticking out of her head.  I touched her forehead and her feet and she pressed on my hand.  The nurse said that was merely reflex, brain stem activity - primal.  They have to say that – I knew it was more.  The brain scan showed damage to both sides of the brain.  If she lived, it might not be a good thing as her quality of life would be severely compromised.  Still I said no in my heart.  My DeeDee would make it.  She would live and this would change.  They said not to get out hopes up.  Too late, mine were soaring.
The following day they gave her another twenty four hours because she hadn’t improved but she hadn’t gotten any worse.  Others cried.  But some of us figured we had more time for a miracle.
The days blurred together trying to piece together what happened, to making sure we ate and slept because we were all in hyper-drive pulling for her.  Notes poured in from all over the world that friends were praying for DeeDee, too, and sending healing thoughts her way.  We took them all, holding onto them like they were deeds to a house we were making sure the bank gave us. One asked for a Christmas Miracle, I think it was Charlie Volneks’s.  And I thought, yes, that is what we need!
The one thing ringing through my heart was God made DeeDee, he could very well re-make her if he had to.  Others prepared me for the worst as I prepared them for the best.
And then it came.
Our Christmas Miracle.
The original ct scan showed so much damage, we had been called in that first day to say goodbye to her.  The second ct scan showed none of the shrapnel or bone shards had touched her frontal lobe where all regular voluntary life functions come from.  Would she be able to speak?  Yes.  Would she be able to walk?  Yes.  Would she be able to have a normal life?  Of course. It will be awhile, but she will recover completely - the term “complete reversal” was used.  And, of course - Miracle.
When I visited her she woke up and looked at me straight in the eyes.  Her face screwed up and tears came down her face as she tried to speak through the tubes in her mouth.  I knew she was telling me the story and rubbed her arm and told her to rest.  There will be time enough for talking.  She blinked and relaxed, focusing on my eyes.  DeeDee, I said, You can do this.  Every day when you wake up you will feel awful and they will give you pain meds for that but every day is one step closer to feeling better.  She blinked again and seemed to nod.  I prayed for the trauma to break off her and leave in it’s wake a feeling of security.  While her world has been upended in the worst way, love has come from everywhere to fill the gap for her.  Reminding me that often in extreme darkness is when we see light shine the brightest. 
Yesterday she grabbed her uncle’s hand and tried to talk to him as well.  Today I’ll visit her and rub her feet again and feel that first familiar press against my palm.  DeeDee is there, she is awake and aware even if she can’t always say so and she is way beyond primal functionality. 
Whatever men may say, even the best, most educated and experienced, none compare with the one who Christmas is all about, the Great Physician, the Miracle Worker. 
Today we will say goodbye to her parents at their funerals until we see them again in Heaven and Hello to our DeeDee who, along with her brother, give us the spitting images of them.  While we’ve lost Patty and Billy temporarily in this life, we find them again in the hearts and smiles of their children.  That is a double Christmas Miracle.
God bless you all who’ve prayed in any way that you have and please continue to do so.  Life is what Christmas is all about.  Please spend a moment or two hugging someone in honor of DeeDee who is fighting so valiantly to stay with us.  There are many kinds of miracles.  While this one is quite dramatic, I wish you the miracles you need this Christmas Season.
With love and blessings, Merry Christmas!

Photo credits: and Facebook folder


Karen McGrath said...

We are in the wakes today and funerals tomorrow. Thank you all so much for praying for the Spada and McGrath families. Much love and many blessings, Karen

Roseanne Dowell said...

As I wipe the tears away from this moving story, I continue to pray for Dee Dee and your family. The sorrow you are experiencing from the loss of Dee Dee's parents must be overwhelming. Thank God for sparing Dee Dee and giving you all something to hang on to. I believe in Miracles. Our family experienced one about 20 years ago with my brother who also hung onto death after being in an explosion. We were called to the hospital several times to say goodbye. Like you, I knew in my heart, God would give him back to us. I will continue to pray for your family. Please keep us updated on Dee Dee's progress.

Killarney said...

Truely a miracle. Still praying.

Vivian Zabel said...

God be with you all. May He wrap your family in His love and comfort you. May He touch Dee Dee and heal her completely.

Margaret Fieland said...

My thoughts and prayers are with you and your faamily. God bless you and yours.

Unknown said...

As I type through tears, I find unimaginable joy in this post...especially after I've just posted such a depressing one on my blog. You're renewed my hope that miracles will continue to happen, and that not only your family, but others can be made whole again.

Love you girl, and I continue to pray that God gives your strength to be the instrument that brings DeeDee back to her original self. Everyone should have a "Karen" in their life. That's a blessing for sure.

M. L. Archer said...

I have tears in my eyes reading your story. Thank God Dee Dee will make it. Thank God.

I continue to pray for you and your family.

Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry to hear about this, but thrilled that your niece will be all right. Blessings on all of you as you go through this time.

Sara Durham Writer ~ Author said...


Your titanium faith, and willingness to share this story while it
is still so fresh amazes me! The miracle of it can't be denied. Prayers to you, as you see your loved ones off to a peaceful place, and continued prayers for DeeDee for a complete recovery!


Charlie said...

Karen, DeeDee and family,

What a touching narration of your miraculous story. God can do anything! My heart aches for your loss but my emotions burst into streamers of joy for DeeDee's marvelous turnabout. We may never understand God's 'big' picture of why things happen the way they do, but I do know He must have a very special mission for DeeDee and the rest of your family. And you've already done a great part of that praying, believing, and sharing God's wonder. May He bring you comfort as you lay your two beloved to rest. I'm sure they are skipping the lights fantastic as Heaven readies to celebrate our Lord's birthday. What a grand party that will be!
God Bless you all! Thanks for sharing your Christmas Miracle!
C.K. Volnek

Anonymous said...

Karen,I'm so sorry for everything the family is having to go through right now. Please know that I am praying for DeeDee to make a full recovery, and for the rest of the family as you all go through the grieving of lost loved ones.

Rosalie Skinner said...

Karen, Dee Dee and Family,
Your words bring tears of joy and sorrow. Miracles do happen. They bring strength and faith and love to those who are a part of them. Like Roseanne I know they are possible. They come with their pain and grief but they are the silver lining of the darkest clouds. Every day with my precious granddaughter is proof. She lights up our lives as Dee Dee will yours.
We continue to pray for you.

ChrisChat said...


Unknown said...

Everything's been said that I would have stated. We've added DeeDee and your family to our evening PS on the dinner grace (our own tradition). May God continue to Bless you all and speed DeeDee's healing, heart and head. She has a long road to walk.

MuseItUp Publishing said...

May the prayers continue to guide and heal Dee Dee. She will continue to be in our thoughts, and thank you for sharing her progress.

Pat Dale said...

God's blessings on you, Karen, and your family too. Your steadfast absolute will to remain a believer in God's healing power has buoyed you through this ordeal. And, your remarkable telling of the story has also buoyed those of us who also believe. Maybe some who've been skeptical or even non-believers.
We continue to pray for your niece and the whole family for a time of gentle healing from this awful trial. Miracles do come true!
Pat Dale

Anne Duguid Knol said...

A truly heartwarming Christmas miracle and testimony to the power and strength of faith and your faith Karen in particular.
Still praying that you and all your family will continue the recovery from such a terrible tragedy.
My heart and mind is with you and DeeDee daily.

Anonymous said...

Karen - thanking you for sharing your miracle. It is a heart-rendering story of faith, love, and family. This has definitely touched my heart and I will continue to send you healing energy and prayer. Bless you and your families.

Heather Haven said...

Karen, you have shared a bitter-sweet, humbling and life-changing experience. I thank you for that. When I lost my brother to a gun-shot wound, I thought I would never recover. It doesn't ever get good but it does get better. Love, family and time.

Christine London said...

Dearest Karen,
May the power of the love of your brother and sister in law flow through DeeDee's healing process. She is their legacy with much more to give. Prayers and hugs to you and all who grieve.

Unknown said...

This post touched my heart and brought the tears. I am deeply sorry for the loss of DeeDee's parents. I know that doesn't begin to make a difference. My prayers are for DeeDee and the progress she will be making in the future. Please know that your entire family is being held up in prayer.


Karen McGrath said...

Everyone, thank you so much for sharing your hearts here. Thursday we did the wakes at St. Mary's in Dedham, because any funeral hall would be too small. Over 1500 people showed up in the freezing temps. Some waited in lines for hours.

Yesterday we buried Patty and Billy after a beautiful Mass for them. The graveside was truly beautiful and the reception afterwards was lovely.

Today we begin to rebuild. And best news of all, DeeDee is out of the coma! They are keeping her in a drug induced one as necessary but she's awake, everyone. No longer on a breathing tube, now only a traech, thank God.

Wishing you all Christmas blessings! Many, many thanks for your prayers, support, well wishes and healing energy. We feel it all and are so comforted by your care and concern.

J.Q. Rose said...

Deepest sympathy to you and your family on the loss of your loved ones. I know the love and good memories will be a great comfort to you all. I am happy to read that DeeDee is doing well and to know that she has such great cheerleaders on her side. Your strong faith is a light-filled example for all of us. God bless you.

Lori Stanley Roeleveld said...

God bless, Karen. Miracle indeed.