35: Visiting Nurse

35: Visiting Nurse

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Angels and Miracles

Visiting Nurse

Faith is courage; it is creative while despair is always destructive.

~David S. Muzzey

My brother Juan was barely eight years old when he contracted polio. I was five and remember the day so well. The year was 1949 and there was no cure for the crippling disease. Mother noticed Juan’s flushed face and felt his forehead. He was burning up with fever. She repeatedly applied cold compresses and tried home remedies that usually worked, but not this time. Dysentery and vomiting soon followed and Juan complained that he could not feel his legs.

Mother quickly picked him up in her arms and hollered, “Let’s go, Maria. I’m taking your brother to the doctor!”

As we hurried to the bus stop, Mother struggled with Juan’s weight. He was tall and his legs motionless.

Once we arrived at the clinic, doctors examined Juan and gave Mother the bad news: “Your son has polio.”

Mother walked out of the clinic with tears streaming down her face. I cried with her.

“Why Juan, dear God? Why Juan!” she repeated over and over.

Father worked long hours at a brewery and Mother had no one else to turn to.

Two weeks later, Juan had an appointment with a specialist at a distant clinic. With Juan in her arms and me holding onto her dress, we boarded an old bus that would take us to our destination. Mother truly hoped for better news.

During the examination, the specialist extracted fluid from one of Juan’s legs and gave Mother the gloomy diagnosis: “Your son will be a cripple for life. He will eventually lose every bit of strength in his legs and he will never walk again.”

Instead of going straight home, we walked into a cathedral next to the clinic. Mother headed to the altar and placed Juan at the foot of Jesus on the Cross. I knelt next to Mother and watched as she prayed with all her heart and soul.

“Oh dear Jesus,” she said looking up at the cross. “Please heal my son. Help him walk again. Make him well. If not, take him with you. While I’m here on earth, I can take care of him, but what is going to happen when I am no longer here?”

With despair in her voice, she ended her prayer with the words, “Just give me a sign. I’ll do anything to heal him.”

Three days later, Mother stood in front of the house, watering her small garden. Although she had forgotten to water her plants, they still had fresh blooms.

While I played on the front porch with my favorite doll, Juan rocked back and forth in a small rocking chair next to the front door. Mother had wrapped a wide belt around his waist to keep him from falling forward. As Juan rocked, he watched three tiny birds chirping noisily in a nest above us.

Suddenly, from out of nowhere, an elderly woman appeared at the front gate. Mother had not seen her because she had her back turned.

“Good morning. How are you today?” the lady greeted her.

The lady wore a long, black skirt and a white blouse, and she had a black shawl draped over her shoulders. Her hair was rolled into a ball in the back.

“Oh my, you have such beautiful flowers!” the lady remarked in a sweet, angelic voice.

“Thank you,” said Mother. “Would you like some plant cuttings?”

The lady accepted the cuttings and when she turned her head, she spotted Juan in the rocker, swaying back and forth. She smiled at him and he smiled back.

“What’s wrong with your little boy?” she asked.

Mother explained that Juan had contracted polio and doctors had given no hope for a cure.

“May I come in to see your little boy?” the lady asked.

“Of course,” said Mother, quickly unfastening the latch on the gate to let her in.

The lady got on her knees and gently removed the blanket wrapped around Juan’s legs. Mother kept his legs covered because they always felt cold.

While she examined Juan’s legs, she looked up at him with love. Then she proceeded to rub her hands up and down, from his hips to his toes. Afterward, she wrapped him up again.

“Your son will regain the movement of his legs,” she told Mother, “but you must do what I tell you, and you have to do it hour after hour, day after day without fail.”

“I’ll do anything, no matter what it is, to heal him,” said Mother.

The lady then gave her instructions: “First, you get some flannel cloth and cut it into small pieces. Next, you place it into a bucket with warm water. With a soft brush, you massage him from the waist down to his toes. Then, you wrap his legs from his hips to his toes using the wet, flannel cloth.”

“Remember, the water must be kept as warm as possible,” she repeated twice. “If you do exactly as I tell you, your son will get well.”

Mother did not know how to thank the lady. She quickly bent down to pick up the plant cuttings the lady had placed on the ground and when she turned around, the lady had disappeared.

“Do you see her, Maria?” Mother asked me.

“No,” I said, looking down the street. “I don’t see her anywhere.”

Mother inquired with neighbors about the lady, but no one seemed to know her. We never saw her again.

Day after day and night after night, Mother followed the lady’s instructions. She repeatedly rubbed Juan’s legs with a soft brush and then followed up with the soaked flannel cloths.

As a result of continuously soaking her hands in hot water, she developed large sores on her hands and her skin peeled. But she would not give up.

Mother encouraged the mothers of other children who had contracted polio to do as she did but they only criticized her.

“There is no cure for the disease. You’re killing yourself and nothing will be accomplished,” they said.

Mother ignored their remarks and soon proved them wrong. After two months of non-stop therapy, Juan moved one of his big toes. Mother cried tears of happiness. Juan’s progress only gave her more reason to continue the treatment, even if it meant a sacrifice on her part. She barely slept and lost a lot of weight because she skipped meals. Her only goal was to heal my brother.

Two more months passed and Juan began to move his legs by himself. Within three months, he crawled like a baby and by the time school started, he was ready to walk to school with his friends.

Mother and I strolled into church one morning with Juan at our side. We headed to the altar and Juan knelt before Jesus on the Cross.

“Thank you, Jesus, for healing me,” he said.

I truly believe that Mother’s love, faith and persistence played a major role in my brother’s healing. Juan became Mother’s “little miracle.” In high school, he played baseball and football, and after he graduated from college, he became a law enforcement officer.

~Mary Vela

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