24: Marcela’s Vision

24: Marcela’s Vision

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Dreams and the Unexplainable

Marcela’s Vision

Where there is hope, there is faith. Where there is faith, miracles happen.

~Author Unknown

Foggy from the drugs, I prepared to kiss my husband, Greg, goodbye. The coma came with risks, and death was one. We’d discussed it at length. But it was my only chance at having a life worth living. I struggled through the pain to stroke his scruffy face. Covered in ulcers, I weighed a paltry eighty-five pounds. He touched me like I was made of tissue paper.

“I’ll see you in five days,” he said. His voice was steady, confident. But his eyes were terrified.

I nodded and pointed at him. Then I placed my hand over my heart and mouthed the words, “Right here.”

Gently, Greg kissed me. I wondered if it would be my last.

“Are you ready?” Dr. Cantu asked.

I nodded again as they began the drip.

Then the world went dark.

* * *

For seven years, I suffered from Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD). The hallmark symptom is excruciating, unrelenting pain that starts with an injury. Mine was a nerve tumor. At first, we were relieved to learn the tumor was benign. But strange symptoms emerged once the tumor was removed.

I constantly felt like I’d been doused in gasoline and lit on fire. My weak, spastic muscles betrayed my legs. Embarrassed by my awkward gait, I began using a cane. Eventually, my arm no longer supported my weight. I switched to a wheelchair. Neuropathic ulcers engulfed my right arm.

American doctors gave us little hope.

“She’s not going to make it two more years. She’ll die from infection if she doesn’t kill herself first.”

“Her arm needs to be amputated. The risk of sepsis is too high.”

“Put her in permanent care.”

We’d heard it all, but we refused to accept it.

In Germany and Mexico, comas were being induced with ketamine, an anesthetic, to reboot the brains of RSD patients. The preliminary results were promising, but the treatment was risky, experimental, and expensive.

We felt we had no other choice.

On April 12, 2007, Greg and I flew to Monterrey, Mexico, in search of a miracle.

* * *

I don’t remember those first five days of the coma. Greg has had to fill in the blanks for me. How I struggled to free myself from the tubes that were keeping me alive. How he helped the nurses restrain me as I fought hallucinations. How my breathing tube was to be removed on day five.

And then how everything went wrong.

Greg kept friends and family apprised through web posts and was about to start his daily entry when he saw Dr. Cantu rush toward him, gesturing to a room that nobody wanted to enter.

It was the “bad news room.”

I had been extubated according to schedule. But then it happened.

“Shannon’s had a seizure. We had no choice but to reintubate her. We’ve ordered some tests to try and determine the cause.”

“Will she be okay?”

Dr. Cantu weighed his words carefully. “Right now, we don’t know the answers.”

Back in the waiting room, Greg opened his laptop. He put his head in his hands and cried.

“Qué pasa, amigo?” Greg hadn’t noticed the man now sitting next to him, arm draped over his shoulder. Smile lines crinkled the corners of the stranger’s tired eyes.

“My wife . . .” Greg’s chin jutted toward my room. “Mi esposa está . . . sick . . . enferma?” The man nodded, beckoning a group of people from the other side of the room.

“Mi nombre es Javier.”

The crowd grew as Greg explained our situation in broken Spanish. But it was one woman, Marcela, who would change our perspective — and our lives — forever.

“Puedo rezar por tu esposa?” Marcela asked, searching for the words in English. “I . . . pray . . . for her? Tonight?” she asked.

Greg nodded, tears blurring his vision. “Si,” he said. “Por favor.”

The family went home. Greg shuffled back to my room and hit Play on the iPod. Olivia Newton-John, my favorite singer from childhood, crooned as he watched my heart rate and blood pressure rise and drop. Machines beeped and buzzed around my still body. Eventually, a nurse tapped Greg’s shoulder. About ten hours had passed. He hadn’t left my side.

“Mr. Stocker? You have a guest in the waiting room. You must sign her in.”

As he approached Marcela, she embraced him.

“A poem,” she said. “I write it. In English.”

“You wrote a poem for her? Today?”

“Yes. A letter. I read to her. Also, this.” Marcela pulled a small glass bottle from her purse. “The mother of my mother give this holy water to me. It was . . . blessed? Yes, blessed. In Rome, by the Pope. She say, ‘You know, Marcela. You know when right time use this.’ ”

Greg nodded.

“I know,” she said. “I use now.”

Marcela knelt beside me, whispering into my ear. She prayed and sprinkled holy water around my body. Nearly three hours passed before she emerged from my room.

“Greg?”

“Si.”

“You maybe think I am . . . crazy . . . ,” she began, obviously reluctant to share her thoughts.

“No,” Greg implored. “Please.”

Marcela nodded. “God speak to me. He say Shannon be okay. She have baby girl next year.”

Greg didn’t want to embarrass her, but he knew better. I’d been sick for so long with this horrible disease. I hadn’t had a period in over two years. He hadn’t been able to hug me for months. Not to mention the fact that I was thirty-seven years old, had just been induced into a coma, and didn’t appear to be waking up anytime soon.

“You ’stand me?” she asked.

Greg nodded. He understood that this sweet, wonderful woman might be just a little crazy.

But that night, I improved drastically. My vitals stabilized. It took two more days, but I finally opened my eyes.

“Blink slowly if you know who I am,” Greg said.

I closed my eyes.

When I opened them, Greg was crying. Somehow, I just knew.

The nightmare was over.

* * *

I was heartbroken to say goodbye to Marcela and her family. But by mid-May, I was home and pain-free.

As Christmas and my thirty-eighth birthday approached, Greg and I decided to try to start a family. Greg thought it would take months, but I never doubted what would happen.

My very first pregnancy test came back positive.

It was early December when we called Marcela for the first time since returning home.

“Hola?” The voice was young.

“Andrea? Is that you? Is your mother there?”

“Greg? Shannon? My mother just told me! She just told me you’re pregnant!”

“Wait, what?”

“She just told us! Congratulations!”

Greg and I stared at each other, jaws slack. We hadn’t told anyone yet.

The miracle was sinking in.

At my twenty-week appointment, we shared our story with the ultrasound technician. She promised to stay as long as it took to determine the sex of the baby. She smiled as we mentioned Monterrey.

“My family is from there,” she said. “And . . . it’s a girl!”

As the tech headed for the door, I called to her.

“Wait! I’m keeping a journal for my baby. I forgot to ask, what’s your name?”

I’ll never forget the warmth of her smile.

“Marcela,” she said.

Marcela.

Of course.

~Shannon Stocker

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