Faith, miracles and Epiphany in pediatric ICU

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Yes, faith can move mountains…Eileen’s late-night vision in the pediatric intensive care unit is shared by Johanna in a dream and an Epiphany miracle takes place… Life on Purpose by Eileen Benthal

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If you drive up Herricks Lane in Jamesport, you will find that indeed the Christmas lights and the trees are still up at my house. It’s not because we are lazy and disorganized, it’s because we choose to celebrate 12 days of Christmas all the way through to the Feast of Epiphany, or what is often referred to as Little Christmas.

In some cultures, Little Christmas is the main gift giving feast, honoring the visit of the Magi, who brought gifts to the newborn King at Bethlehem. At our house, Little Christmas is a fun morning to share small gifts and have our final celebration with a big family meal. The stockings are filled with post-Christmas sale chocolate, a favorite of mine before I begin my new year cleanse! The statues of the three Kings have been making a journey across the shelves and will land at the manger with at least one verse of “We Three Kings,” possibly more if Johanna has her way!

While we have celebrated this tradition for most our married life, since Johanna was born, it has meant much more. As I shared before, we have spent many holidays in the hospital since Johanna’s first brain surgery at three months old. When hospitalized during Christmas, we set our sights on being released in time to celebrate Little Christmas. Rather than feeling deprived, I believe our children felt special because of the multiple visits of Santa to the pediatric intensive care unit, culminating in a lovely Little Christmas at home, with all the fanfare and trimmings of Christmas morning.

One Christmas we were home with Johanna, but feeling a little apprehensive about her condition. She was a little over four years old at the time, when she began falling a lot and her eyes were not working together well. While these issues are present at her baseline, Johanna seemed to be getting worse. By New Year’s Eve, it was clear that she was losing her ability to swallow and speak and her condition was worsening. An MRI showed a new hemorrhaging cavernoma in the pons, the deepest part of the brain. Quite often a bleed in this area causes death. We were sent to specialists in NYC and she was immediately admitted to PICU. They hooked her up to monitors and inserted a nasal feeding tube, because of Johanna’s inability to swallow. Conversations with neurosurgeons around the country began and there was some talk of airlifting Johanna to Phoenix to Barrows Neurological Institute. She became despondent and uncommunicative and was neurologically declining before my very eyes.

It was a very scary time for us and since our other children were young, it was difficult to have them visit us in the city. As Steve prayed, he got a clear sense from God in these words of scripture from Matthew 17:20-21:

Jesus replied. “I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you. But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”

We felt that God was going to heal and resolve this bleed in Johanna but that we needed extra prayer, faith and fasting to move this mountain. We sent word to friends and family far and wide.

I tucked Johanna in bed, with monitors beeping and the rhythmic sound of the nasal feeding tube pumping nutrition into her depleting body. As the sun set on the Eve of Epiphany, I sat wondering what the next few hours, days and weeks would bring.

I settled in my sleeper chair to pray and read the account of the visit of the three kings. Christmas at home was a distant memory and any thoughts of celebrating Epiphany slipped away with the drone of medical equipment humming in the background. I didn’t even tell Johanna it was the Eve of Little Christmas because neither of us had any thoughts of celebrating and she would not have remembered that feast day on her own.

As I read about the visit of the three kings, I researched the word epiphany. The word epiphany means “a manifestation or a revelation of God.” As I watched Johanna’s fitful sleep, I told the Lord that we really needed a manifestation of God right about now.
Now, while I am not accustomed to having prayers answered instantly (actually long suffering seems to be the course of my life), I am familiar with God giving me wisdom and direction in prayer. But this lonely night, as I drifted off to sleep, I sensed a profound presence of God literally enter the room. I sat back up in my chair and opened my eyes to a vision; a parade of angels and Mary leading the way to Johanna’s bedside. As this visage gathered next to Johanna to pray over her, I saw Jesus walk into the room and lay his hands on my sleeping child. The word; “Epiphany” was emblazoned in my mind and I knew that I was witnessing a manifestation of God. In the peace of that vision, I drifted back off to sleep. I knew for certain that an epiphany had occurred and I was content to sleep in peace.

Early the next morning, Johanna called to me and asked for me to take her to the bathroom. This was the first words she had uttered in days. Startled, I rang for the nurse to help. When the nurse arrived, we were both shocked to see Johanna sitting up in bed talking and the nasal tube lying next to her in bed. It was entirely possible the tube had pulled out from her stomach, via her nose. But the change in Johanna’s status was nothing short of miraculous. She was laughing and talking, alert and happy.

As the nurse helped Johanna back to bed, she questioned the wisdom of putting the feeding tube back in place, noting the sudden upswing of Johanna’s condition. Instead, she recommended ordering a soft diet and seeing how well Johanna’s swallowing reflexes responded, while calling for the doctor to see her as soon as possible. We drifted back to sleep, with Johanna chatting away, eagerly anticipating some real food for breakfast.

In the morning the doctor was amazed at the turnaround and suspected, as we had, that the follow up MRI would show the bleeding beginning to resolve and the swelling in the pons nearly gone. He confirmed the order to begin feeding Johanna slowly, suspecting that her swallowing ability had improved with the rest of her neurological status.

Excited to share the news with my husband, I called him and put Johanna on the phone. He was shocked as she chatted and told him she was eating breakfast! When I got back on the phone, I told him about the doctor’s reports, the amazing change and then I shared the vision I had the night before. With that, Johanna locked into my conversation and wide-eyed exclaimed:

“Mommy, I had the same dream! Only in my dream, after Jesus blessed me, the three kings came to see me too! They prayed for me to get better!”

Tears streamed down my face, and as I heard my husband sobbing on the phone, I knew he had heard Johanna’s remarkable testimony. And so it was, on the Feast of Epiphany, a true manifestation of God occurred.

I invite you, whether or not you have put the Christmas decorations away, to look for your Epiphany today. Wise men and women still seek Him and find Him near.

2017-01-08T20:42:48-05:00 January 6th, 2013|Categories: Caregiver, Life on Purpose|0 Comments

About the Author:

Eileen Benthal is a writer, speaker and wellness coach with a B.A. in Theology from Franciscan University. She and her husband Steve live in Jamesport and have four young adult children. Their youngest, Johanna, is a teenager with special needs. Eileen can be reached at

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