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(Front row, from left) Dan Ellard with his wife Stephanie, holding Addison; our sons Christopher and Patrick (holding Keegan) and Patrick’s wife, Leanne; and (back row) Pat and Mary Ellard.
After Brutal Stabbing Along Came a Feast
As we prepare for Divine Mercy Sunday on April 12, we are pleased to share a story sent in to us in January from a Friend of Mercy attesting to the graces the Lord promises us on this special feast day (see Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, 699).
By Mary Ellard
It's every parent's nightmare. We received a phone call just before midnight on March 3, 2002. It was from the hospital. Our son Dan, 17, was in the emergency room. We were told to come right away.
We learned he had been stabbed. He had been attempting to break up a fight, and he was struck down with knife wounds to the chest and back. Surgery to stop the bleeding didn't succeed. He remained in critical condition as he underwent further surgeries.
In the meantime, four days after the attack, we were introduced to the Chaplet of Divine Mercy through Fr. Edward McDonough, who has a well-known healing ministry based at the Basilica of Our Mother of Perpetual Help Mission Church in Boston, Massachusetts.
When reciting the chaplet with him that day, the most difficult part for me was when Fr. McDonough shared the promises Jesus made through St. Faustina to those who pray the chaplet — specifically, when Jesus says, "Through the chaplet you will obtain everything, if what you ask for is compatible with My will" (Diary, 1731).
As we all stood around Dan's bed, my thought was, "Oh God, I hope we are on the same page!"
We prayed the chaplet and many other prayers every day for the intention of Dan and his full recovery. As his life teetered, our son remained in intensive care for five weeks, all the while undergoing surgeries and fighting off infections. Many times the doctors would tell us "We've done all we can, and now we must wait." We knew his survival was in the hands of a God.
On the week leading up to Palm Sunday, we spent much time with the doctors and nurses discussing Dan's condition and the direction of his future care. He was not emerging with full consciousness from the coma. They were not confident he would be able to breathe on his own. We were resigning ourselves to the fact the next step may be a tracheotomy and the continued use of a breathing tube. With a tracheotomy, it would entail adding yet another tube into our son's body.
We attended the 9 a.m. Mass on Sunday, March 17, and prayed for the strength to get through all this. It was two weeks after the attack. He had turned 18-years-old while in a medically induced coma. When we arrived home after Mass, the phone rang. It was Dan's nurse. She informed us that at 10:01 that morning, the doctors, nurses, and respiratory therapist successfully removed the breathing tube, and Dan was breathing on his own! Thank God.
The next week was difficult. We could not fully ascertain Dan's cognitive abilities due to the withdrawal of the coma-inducing medication. Dan was transferred briefly from the intensive care unit on Holy Thursday, March 28. He remained weak. We stayed with him every night. The next few days were rough. He didn't have complete control of his left side. He was drooling. He could barely lift his head. He couldn't raise his left foot.
Easter Sunday, March 31, he was back in intensive care due to infection. April 3, they transferred him to the surgical floor. He was very weak, but his cognition was strong. On April 7, we finally knew our son was going to be OK, mentally. All infections were cleared up. As for his physical condition, we agreed we would manage one day at a time.
It would be months before Dan would be released from the hospital. All the while we were praying the chaplet. I bought St. Faustina's Diary to better understand the origin of this power prayer and was halfway through it when realized that April 7 had been Divine Mercy Sunday, a feast our Lord requested through St. Faustina and in which He promised to "pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the fount of My mercy (Diary, 699).
I realized that it was on that very day that our Lord answered our prayers. It was that day in which we realized Dan was no longer plagued with infections; his mental status was OK; and he would be coming home soon!
Though our family was familiar with many prayers before this tragedy began, we were not familiar with the chaplet. We are all so grateful to God for all His blessings.
Over the next few years, Dan had several surgeries to put him back together. We are happy to say he is doing well today. We don't know why our family had to endure this painful experience, but what I do know is that many people were brought closer to God and back to daily prayer as a result of it. We know that we are to publicly acknowledge this grace we received and to spread the Good News of the Lord.
Mary Ellard and her family live in Dedham, Massachusetts.
Learn all about Divine Mercy Sunday by visiting thedivinemercy.org/celebrate.