Angela was a nursing student at the university. She was pretty, athletic and smart. She was on a presidential scholarship. She and her boyfriend were involved in Campus Crusade for Christ and excited about their future.
In September of her senior year, Angela began to feel discomfort in her abdomen. She went to the student clinic.
“Tell us about your sex life,” they asked.
“I don’t have any. I’m a virgin.”
“No, really, you can tell us. This looks like Pelvic Inflammatory Disease.”
Angela protested that she could not have an STD because, as a Christian, she practiced chastity. Not believing her, they called in a counselor to pressure Angela to tell the truth.
“You can tell us about your sexual activity,” said the counselor. “We won’t tell your parents.”
The university was selected as the top party campus in America that year by Playboy magazine. In the student union building, they had given away a giant fishbowl filled with hundreds of colored condoms. Hilariously, my son had won the drawing.
The counselor told Angela, “You have PID. By the way, don’t tell anyone you have fever,” they joked. “Someone might think you have a ruptured appendix.”
Angela’s discomfort grew worse. Ashen and weak, she was taken to a gynecologist, a friend of our family, a fellow Christian. Taking one look at Angela, he suspected toxic shock. “Call an ambulance,” he told his nurse.
She was rushed directly from his office into surgery. They found a ruptured appendix with severe toxemia.
The medical staff worked heroically to save her. She remained in critical condition in intensive care. They couldn’t stop the infection. Her abdomen was kept open, flushing toxins out. Experimental drugs were flown in. She was sedated and paralyzed, respirator-dependent, feverish. As a volunteer hospital chaplain, I had access to keep watch.
Her anxious parents drove into town. Students held prayer vigils in the chapel. Churches rallied intercessors. The long watch had begun. The news was never good.
Days turned into weeks. A critical care specialist told me her chances of recovery were one in three. A tracheotomy was done. The oxygen level of her blood was monitored. They worried her kidneys might fail. Her bloated body was barely recognizable. Tubes trailed out everywhere. Then one lung collapsed. Her O2 blood-gas level declined. Her lungs began to lose capacity to transfer gasses. The respirator was inadequate. The nurses began hand-bagging her.
Death seemed imminent. They called larger hospitals, urgently seeking a better equipped institution to take her. Statistically, she now had one chance in a hundred to live.
A regional trauma center in a neighboring state agreed to accept her. An air ambulance touched down at three in the morning. The flight crew was authorized to decline transport if they thought she couldn’t survive the trip. I watched them quickly whisk her away through the night, just as thick fog was closing in.
Later, we learned the new hospital took her by mistake. They thought she was a pediatric case. Fortunately, they stabilized her in their intensive care.
Time dragged on. Then pneumonia set in. Optimism evaporated. Thirteen weeks and a million dollars later, the doctors offered no hope for Angela to live.
I kept meeting with Angela’s mom and dad to pray together. In the intensive care unit, her days had become weeks, then months. I admired her parent’s love for their daughter. Being Roman Catholic, they welcomed everyone’s prayers. They knew their girl needed more than what medical skill could do. Angela’s college friends kept praying.
Medically, everything that could be done, had been done. Her body was exhausted. But it seemed like neither medicine nor prayer had worked. I remembered a verse from Mark 9:23. “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.”
I knew God had power. With him, all things are possible. I also knew I couldn’t dictate to God. What was his will, in this case? Nor would I make presumptuous promises to Angela’s parents. Yet I knew — the God who raised Jesus from the grave could do anything. We were asking for something big, a miracle. Either our prayers were not being heard or our faith was not enough. What was missing? Was there something else we could do?
Then I had an idea. It was something I had not done before. I knew God’s word has power. God spoke and created the universe. The word of God, when mixed with faith, opens the door to miracles. I had witnessed wonders by the Holy Spirit. I sat down with my Bible and recorded a cassette tape with verses about healing. I produced it to be played continuously, thirty minutes on a side.
I met her dad at the hospital 70 miles away. We walked into her room where she lay unconscious. We put the tape recording into Angela’s player beside her bed and prayed. We asked the nurses to keep it going. They had already been keeping Christian worship music playing softly in her room.
The first scripture on the tape was the words of Jesus, “The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” (John 6:63 ESV) My premise was that God’s word has God’s life in it. I believed Angela’s spirit could hear God’s voice, even if her mind was sedated and her body was paralyzed. We added the spoken word of God to our prayers and then expectantly waited.
A few days later, my daughter came back from visiting Angela at the hospital. She told me Angela had taken a sudden turn for the better. Within four days, Angela came down from the highest level of critical care to the lowest. Soon she was off the respirator. All the negative news was replaced with positive reports.
The next week when I walked into her room, she was sitting up in a chair beside her bed.
“Good morning, Angela!” I said.
She looked up with a big smile. “Do I know you?” My voice was familiar although she had never seen me. Tears of joy ran down my face.
Three weeks later she was released to go home. She began a long regimen of therapy to regain weight and strength. The university gave a reception in her honor and paid all her medical bills. She resumed her last year of nursing school, once again on a scholarship.
One of her doctor’s in the intensive care unit said to me, “You can’t be in this business long without seeing the power of prayer.” We had won the battle, thanks be to God!
I shared this story with her local Campus Crusade for Christ director. I found out that he was biased against miracles.
He replied, “You don’t think there was some cause and affect here, do you?”
I was stunned by his prejudice. If he truly felt that way, why had he bothered praying?
“Perhaps you’re right. Maybe it was only a coincidence.”