By Marie Romagnano and
Father Kazimierz Chwalek, MIC
Special to The CFP
Barbara Rudzik was 20 years old and engaged to be married in June 2008. She had no history of any unusual diseases or medical conditions, but in February 2008 that all changed.
She developed symptoms of a heavy cold. First she went to her family doctor, who prescribed flu medication. Seeing no improvement, Tomasz Sobolewski, Barbara’s fiancé, took her to the hospital where she was told she had nothing out of the ordinary wrong with her. But her symptoms became more acute. She experienced shortness of breath and severe chest pains. More hospital visits ensued.
On Feb. 24, Tomasz reported: “We went to the emergency room, and at my insistence a chest X-ray was done. I was anxious because the doctors maintained that they could not find any problem, yet my girlfriend was feeling so bad that she was forced to use the hospital wheelchair. She had already lost 11 pounds and looked awful.” The X-rays showed severe pneumonia and dehydration. She was hospitalized at the local Mazurski Health Center, in Elk, Poland.
The following day, she suffered complete respiratory failure and was placed on full life support under the care of Dr. Waldemar Szypulski, the department chief and specialist of the Intensive Care Unit.
Dr. Irena Markowska, a radiologist, reported: “On February 25, 2008 for the first time, I looked over her lung X-rays and examined her in the ICU. The patient had severe difficulty breathing, was pale, and in critical condition. We had to deal with a very serious injury of the lungs that prevented the ventilation of her lungs predominantly. Any work on the patient resulted in the worsening of her condition. The patient was very unstable. No matter what was tried on her, it provoked further instability. We wondered if the patient would survive, and if she survived, in what state. The status of the patient was so serious that she was in a constant state of critical condition…. Despite the lack of improvement in her clinical status, our team did not give up and carried on with the therapeutic protocol for the whole time.”
A multidisciplinary treatment plan was followed for the diagnosis of Adult Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) concurrent with pneumonia. Aggressive treatment of symptoms included multiple antibiotics and mechanical ventilation on a respirator. Still, Barbara’s condition worsened. She went into a coma, developed multiple organ failure and septic shock, and remained in critical condition. By March 19, Barbara was not responding to targeted therapy. She remained in critical condition. Dr. Szypulski recognized that the medical team had exhausted all therapeutic methods. He told the family that he considered her condition desperate and irreversible and (to expect) death in a short time.
Alfreda Rudzik, Barbara’s mother, deeply distraught, went to the parish church where she encountered Anna Mazurek, her catechism teacher and the parish organist. In her efforts to console her, Anna suggested that Barbara’s family pray the Novena to Blessed Stanislaus Papczynski for her healing. Since Alfreda was not aware of these prayers, Anna gave her a novena booklet to guide her. That evening, together with her husband and Barbara’s fiancé, Alfreda began the novena.
On March 22, the fourth day of their novena, Dr. Szypulski noticed a slight improvement in Barbara’s clinical status, including in the levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in her blood. He modified the mechanical ventilation settings and reduced her medications. He stated that “after those days of desperation and lack of hope,” they were “blown away” by her improvement. The chest X-ray taken on March 25 (the seventh day of the novena), shocked the doctors even more as it showed a complete healing of her irreversibly damaged lungs.
On March 27, the final day of the novena, Barbara’s breathing tube was removed and she began to spontaneously breathe on her own.
Seeing her lungs restored — lungs that had been damaged beyond modern medicine’s treatment capabilities — and seeing the overall positive turn in her condition, both Dr. Szypulski and Dr. Markowska were dumbfounded. They admitted that their medical intervention was not responsible for this reversal and healing and that no scientific reason would explain it.
Although her lungs were healed, serious questions remained. Dr. Markowska stated: “We were certain that she would survive, but unable to answer the question ‘how’ she would function after her eventual recovery.”
The doctors wondered, would her brain function normally after such high levels of carbon dioxide in her blood for over four weeks that caused cerebral hypoxia (severe lack of oxygen to the brain)? Would her vital organs, damaged by septic shock and total organ failure, recover? Would resultant quadriplegia be reversed? The physicians had no answers on that day, as they feared permanent brain injury, organ dysfunction, and total body paralysis.
The answers came during her stay at the hospital’s rehabilitation department.
Despite her cerebral hypoxia, she had no cognitive impairment. Her rehabilitation discharge summary stated: “Twenty-year-old patient was admitted for rehabilitation after quadriplegia and cerebral hypoxic respiratory failure. She has achieved a significant improvement in functional status, now ambulating independently on level surfaces, climbing stairs and was discharged home.” She was healed from the permanent damage of cerebral hypoxia and quadriplegia, which is medically unexplainable.
Barbara Rudzik returned to lead a normal life. She married Tomasz on June 21, 2008. They now have two healthy boys.
Dr. Waldemar Szypulski will talk about his treatment of Barbara Rudzik and the miracle that he witnessed — through
St. Stanislaus’ intercession — that saved her life. The Divine Mercy Medicine, Bioethics & Spirituality Conference will be held May 3-4 at the College of the Holy Cross. For more information about the conference, and to register, go to: www.TheDivineMercy.org.
– Marie Romagnano, RN, BSN, CCM, is the founder of Healthcare Professionals for Divine Mercy. Father Kazimierz Chwalek is Provincial Superior, Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception.