To the Office of Postulation for the Causes of Saints,
Order of Friars Minor
First, as a Secular Carmelite, I would like to congratulate you on the canonizations of Sts. Louis and Zelie Martin, who have significance to both our Orders. I don’t know how these proceedings work, but I would like to report a potential miracle for the cause of Bl. John Duns Scotus.
I have had a lifelong battle with the Marfan syndrome, a genetic disorder of the connective tissues. I grew up with a dilated aortic root which went aneurysmal and was replaced-with a “St. Jude” valve in June 1996, when I was 19 years old (http://www.discovery.org/a/514). Approximately 10 years later, my descending thoracic aorta began dilating. In October 2008, I suffered a spontaneous pneumothorax. That same year, I was diagnosed with a tortuous carotid artery and a brain aneurysm (it’s complicated, but does not need surgery although it causes some neurological deficits). On January 1, 2011, at approximately 1 AM, I suffered an aortic dissection from the middle of my aortic arch to iliac arteries. The blood flow to my right leg was cut off for 24 hours. The only surgery they did at the time was a “femoral-femoral” bypass.
I have a wife and four children, and, though I have always waivered between accepting my cross and praying for healing, I prayed in early 2011 for guidance on which Blessed to pray to for healing, that he or she might be canonized. I have a BA in philosophy, and I have long been fascinated with the figure of Bl. Scotus, particularly given his defense of the Immaculate Conception. In my own speculations, I had considered Bl. Scotus or one of several Carmelite venerables and beati, or a few others, and after praying about it, I felt Our Lord wanted me to devote my prayers for healing to Bl. Scotus.
Surgery on the descending aorta is a high-risk procedure for anyone. For someone with Marfan syndrome who has already had a previous aortic graft and a dissection, it is especially risky: putting various mortality studies and statistics together told me that I’d have a less than 10% chance of surviving the surgery and not having permanent organ damage or paralysis. I have read many stories of people with Marfan syndrome undergoing post-dissection aorta repairs and ending up in comas, having their lungs fill up with fluid, etc.
I was told in May 2012 that I wouldn’t survive the summer without surgery, but I wanted to wait for the right doctor. I prayed about it. In December 2012, I made my final profession as a secular Carmelite and then found the name of a highly ranked vascular surgeon, Dr. John “Jeb” Hallett at Roper-St. Francis Hospital (a Bon Secours hospital that merged with a Protestant nonprofit hospital) in Charleston, SC, 3 hours from where I live. Dr. Hallett and the then-head of cardiothoracic surgery at Roper, Dr. David Peterseim, performed the surgery on March 27, 2013. On March 20, they performed a bypass of my left subclavian artery to my left carotid to prevent a stroke. I was permitted to come home for my daughter’s Confirmation. Then I went back for the main surgery. Though it had been scheduled for that day for months, the doctors told my family that the widest part of my aorta was larger than 6 cm, and that it was so weak that I should have already had a fatal dissection and likely would have if the surgery had been a few days later.
The surgery went relatively smoothly, but there were complications. I ended up in the hospital for 3 months, spending 3 weeks anaesthetized. I had to have surgery to repair a tear in my thoracic duct, a drainage tube for a chyle leak, a trachyostomy, and insertion of a J-peg feeding tube. I was fed intravenously and by feeding tube for 2 months. My stomach was paralyzed, though some of its function has returned. The only long-term complication was a paralyzed vocal cord. Every day until I was well on the road to recovery, my wife posted a prayer to Bl. John Duns Scotus on her and my Facebook pages, asking people to pray for his intercession.
Almost every doctor I’ve talked to has said my survival and recovery are miraculous. Few surgeons would have put the care and dedication into my survival that the people at Roper did, and most patients in my situation would have had their respirators and feeding tubes pulled. I know as postulators you know what does and does not count as miraculous, but I’ve heard of cases being used in canonizations that were far more medically explicable than my own. While it’s easy to say, “You just had the right doctors,” even finding those doctors at the right time was an answer to prayer.
I hope my story will help to get the champion of the Immaculata the canonization he well deserves.