Dead nun credited for medical marvel
With all the bad press they’ve been getting recently for harboring child-rapists, continuing their campaign to prevent contraceptive use in AIDS-ridden Africa, and saying generally hateful things about gays, the Vatican is looking for a bit of good news. Their deliverance has taken the form of a disfigured young boy, saved from the clutches of death by medical science and a combative immune system. His parents happened to be Catholics, and the child’s “miraculous” recovery was seen as an opportunity to thank the wrong people for saving their son.
Catholics believe in the ability of dead people to intervene in prayer. Often this is referred to as “intercessory prayer”, a kind of bureaucratic way of talking to God. Because you’re a worthless ant, someone dead but far worthier of God’s love can attempt to compel this capricious entity to be merciful. In the case of Jake Finkbonner (yes, that’s a real last name), this apparently involved him being saved from one of God’s loving flesh eating viruses.
At the trauma unit at Seattle Children’s Hospital, Craig Rubens, a pediatric infectious disease specialist, instantly suspected a flesh-eating bacteria called strep A. It was consuming Jake’s face with terrifying speed.
“It’s like lighting one end of a parchment paper,” he says, “and you just watch it spread from that corner very fast, and you’re stamping it on one side, and it’s flaming up on another.”
Dr. Richard Hopper, chief of plastic surgery at Seattle Children’s, had never seen a case so dire.
“It’s almost as if you could watch it moving in front of your eyes,” he says. “The redness and the swelling — we would mark it and within the hour it would have spread another half-inch.”
While surgeons struggled valiantly to save Jake’s life, his parents busied themselves with superstitious nonsense.
“Donny and I went off to the chapel and just surrendered Jake back to God,” she recalls. “We just said, ‘God, he is yours. Thy will be done, and if it is your will to take him home, then so be it.’ “
Jake is of Native decent, so the local priest instructed his parents to pray through a dead Mohawk nun by the name of Kateri Tekakwitha. Born in 17th century America, Kateria had horrible scars from small pox (brought on by God’s love no doubt), and took an interest in Christianity, fleeing to a convent in Quebec. Her faith took on a masochistic element; she would often perform acts of self mortification such as sleeping on thorns or cutting herself while praying for the salvation of her people. This insane woman, who died at the age of 24, would later become the subject of Leonard Cohen’s second novel, Beautiful Losers.
And guess what? The doctors pull it off, and the kid gets a new lease on life:
Surgeon Richard Hopper says after two weeks and a dozen surgeries, the team of doctors had little hope they could get ahead of the bacteria. And when they realized they did, he says, it was breathtaking.
So where exactly is this fucking miracle, you ask? It seems pretty clear that the surgery worked, and yet purveyors of nonsense are tripping over themselves trying to congratulate a confused and isolated nun who died over 3 centuries ago. Congratulations, guys: you’re all fucking geniuses.
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