It Meant the World to Matthew

[I have had this in my draft folder for a very long time. I've updated it a bit, but if it doesn't seem current, well, it's because it was written last summer. :)]

Let me tell you an amazing story.  You might want to prepare for this... grab some coffee, a snack, go to the bathroom.  This will take a few minutes. :)

I may have mentioned *ahem* that working at the hospital around here (before working in the schools) was hard for me on many levels.  Even though there was a lot of hard... there was a lot of good.  I have some great memories from that place!  Funny moments, awesome patients, learning new things, etc.  I am going to share one of the good memories with you now.

Way back around Easter 2013, I had a patient, Matthew, who was admitted because he had an unfortunate accident on a boat, where the hatch door slammed down on his toe... slicing the top of it off!  Now, Matthew was in FL from Illinois for a competitive national swim meet, but decided to take some time to spend with his grandparents... but then he had to be in the hospital!
Matthew's mother had died when he was 6 years old.  He lives with his dad and his brother in Illinois.  He has poured his life, heart and soul into swimming.  His devotion to his swim career is amazing.*
The night that I took care of him, he had already had his surgery (to put the piece of sliced toe back on) and was told that he would not be able to swim in his meet.  That was bummer number one.

Bummer number two: the doctors were not sure he would be able to get home in time for his Confirmation.  The piece of toe wasn't taking, so the foot surgeon thought he might need surgery again.  That was the hardest thing for Matthew to hear.  He could handle missing the swim meet, as he knew he would be swimming again in no time!  But, to miss being Confirmed with his friends was, in a word, heartbreaking for him.

I knew a little bit about this before I actually met him, so I was very intrigued.  I mean, how many 13-year old star athletes do you know who are also really excited about confirmation and would be super bummed if they missed it?  Not many, I'm sure.

When I walked in, one of the first things I noticed was his little statue of St. Patrick.  I asked him about it, and he told me St. Patrick was his Confirmation Saint.  Awesome.  I told him mine (St. Therese), and from there, engaged in a wonderful conversation about all things Catholicism, God, living in this world, etc.  Matthew asked me question after question after question.  His grandmother would add stories and her thoughts to mine when he asked some of the bigger questions.

It was truly incredible.  I had to make myself leave on several occasions because, well, I was working and did have other patients to care for. :)
The Grotto
July 2007

At some point, I was telling him he needed to go visit Rome and do some serious traveling.  I recounted my pilgrimage to France, specifically Lourdes, to him and his grandmother.
The Grotto at night.
July 2007
I talked a bit about St. Bernadette, seeing Mary's apparition and the amazing miracles that have taken place since then from the spring, that still continues to flow.  There are stories upon stories upon stories about the healing that the Lourdes water has brought to people.  Heck, pilgrims from all over the world make their way to Lourdes, just to bathe in the water and ask for healing from physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual ailments!

Before I left Lourdes, I was able to fill water bottles (yup, regular ol' water bottles) with the precious Lourdes water.  I didn't have a plan for the water, but knew it was important to bring some home.  Who knows when, if ever, I would be back there!

I told Matthew that I was going to look for my bottles of the water.  If I found it, I would bring it back for him.  I was telling this story to Martha before heading home, and she was able to pull her bottle out really quick!  And even had a small, glass bottle (think souvenir holy water bottle) that she gave to me to give to him.  I knew exactly where my water was, but I didn't have anything to put it in, so Mart saved me some time and energy (thank you!!), which was great b/c I was supposed to go to work that night, and needed to get this to him ASAP.

It was a quick exchange when I brought the water to Matthew.  I could tell by he and his grandmother's face that they were surprised I was back!  But, since I told him I would bring back, I had to bring it back.  I didn't stay long, I wished him well, and that I would continue to pray for him and his future.  That he would continue to learn about the Lord and grow in his faith.

And then... I was called off that night, and never got to see them again b/c they were discharged!  I had often wondered if he ever made it home in time for Confirmation and how his toe was doing!  But, such is life when you work in the hospital.  You don't always know the outcome.

I couldn't believe it!
This time it's different.  About a month before I left the hospital, I was honored to receive the Daisy Award, thanks to the most touching and incredible letter/nomination from Matthew's grandmother.  I was completely shocked.  In the wonderful letter, I got to hear how Matthew was doing and what happened after he left the hospital!!
Matthew immediately called his swim coach to tell her about the small bottle of water from Lourdes that he had just received from his nurse. He then called his dad to share the news. He was so touched and so happy. This was a heartwarming experience for all of us, amidst our pain and struggles with Matthew's situation. His surgeon, Dr. Adams, had told us "no water" on his wounded toe for 6 weeks. But, Matthew asked Dr. Adams to apply the water to his injured toe when she came that day to visit him. Dr. Adams granted Matthew his request, dabbling a small amount of the water at the base of his toe far away from the wound.
It meant the world to Matthew.
I had no idea that happened!  It was beautiful to hear.  I was maybe crying justalittlebit when the letter was being read out loud the day I received my award.

But the best news:
All 3 doctors agreed to let Matthew fly home on Friday. He was Confirmed with his class. The small bottle of healing water is next to Matthew's bed in his room at home. It will remain with him the rest of his life.
 And this is not the end, folks.

And THEN, I received another email from Matthew's grandmother.  This is where things get good. Really good.

[To give you a better understanding and context of what is happening with Matthew's toe at this time in the story, let me explain.  The doctor's here in FL were all in agreement that the sliced off part of the toe would not last, and there was an option to remove it, amputate his toe further down to have enough skin to cover the toe and that would be it. But, they decided to leave the "dead" toe in place to promote natural healing of the healthy toe over time. When he finally got home and met with doctor's there, they agreed.  The dead part was not taking, the toe would not grow back, but wanted to keep the dead part there to help with healing. And that is where we are at.]

Matthew had to be very careful with the care of his toe.  Nurses changed the bandages twice a week.  There could be no infection, because then other problems could arise.
At the end of May, I had to leave and was out-of -town for 3 weeks. Matthew's mother is deceased so Matthew's father took over total care of Matthew's toe. While I was away Matthew called with excitement to tell me that his Dad was applying the water from Lourdes over his toe. 
Oh, water was to be on his toe and of course, concern about bacteria in the water.  Oh well, ....I just had to let it go and give it to God.  
When I arrived home three weeks later .....and here comes the good news.....the dead part of the toe (the dark scab) was gone.  Completely gone!  Matthew's toe had grown back!...completely, nail and all. 
Can you believe it?!  I do not no if this is what the natural progression of things would have been, or if this is all due to the Lourdes water.  Perhaps it made the whole process quicker.  Or less painful.  Or even just bearable.  But, that is not the point.  Our Lady of Lourdes, St. Bernadette and our Lord were working here.  They brought healing to this young man's foot, one of the most important parts of the body needed for swimming.  He has been swimming, creating and breaking records all year since then.  Something that no one was absolutely sure was even possible!

But it has.  Our Lady has made it happen.  Matthew's faith has been ignited (I hope!) by this incredible journey.  Not many people have something as concrete as Matthew has, something that marks the beginning of his faith life.  It's a gift.  A true gift.

I am honored and humbled that I could be involved in a small way in Matthew's journey.  He and his story are an inspiration to me... and I hope to you, as well!

Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us!
St. Bernadette, pray for us!

*all italicized portions of this post are from the letter Matthew's grandmother wrote and emails I received from her.  I have asked and received her permission to share them.  I also asked and received permission from Matthew to share his story.

**This was also posted on Cherishing Everyday Beauty! Thanks for sharing, Sarah!**


  1. This is beautiful, Nej!
    St. Bernadette is my mom's patron saint, and she -and Our Lady- have done wonderful things for our family, too.
    Country Girl's Daybook: Jesus, Fashion, & Food

  2. Jen, this is awesome! May I repost it for the Saints Series on my blog, emphasizing St Bernadette's intercession?

  3. I love that you tell us to grab a snack/coffee...and then proceed to talk about a "piece of toe" ;)

    But seriously: OH MY GOSH. That is amazing, Jen! Thank you for sharing! I can just imagine the grandma's reaction when hearing that Dad's putting the water on his toe! Ha! But that's what our Lady's water does! AMAZING!

    You've made a huge impact in Matthew's life! Who knows what he'll do in the future that was influenced by your acts of kindness!

  4. I love this. It's so great that his Faith was so great at just 13. I agree with Morgan, you made a huge impact on his life which is amazing in and of itself.

  5. Jen,
    Wow! What an amazing story...for so many reasons! I love that Matthew was so excited for his Confirmation - I to have that enthusiasm about the faith at that age...awesome! And then how the water basically healed his toe?! That's great you were recognized because I'm sure you really made his stay at the hospital that much more pleasant not to mention miraculous! :)

  6. Of course it is awesome to win a Daisy award but then to win it because of a story like Matthew's is just amazing. I can only hope that Lord willing I get the opportunity to touch patients in such a way.


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