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'A Medical Miracle'

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By Marc Massery

In the late 1950s, almost two years after getting married, Mary Chandler went to the doctor in Portland, Maine, thinking and hoping she was pregnant.

Mary and her husband, George, moved to Boston where they both worked for New England Telephone. A couple months later, abdominal difficulties brought her to another doctor, Robert Fallon, who initially scolded her for not seeking prior medical attention. He didn't realize she had already seen a doctor and softened when she tearfully stated that she had. He said that he would need to operate soon to save Mary's life, but emphasized her baby would not survive.

Of course, Mary desperately wanted to save her child, even if it meant the child's life over hers. So, to give the baby a better chance, Mary demanded they wait as long as they could to operate. The doctor agreed to wait a little longer, hoping the baby might push and reposition the tumor for a safer surgery. But when she returned, Mary found out the tumor hadn't moved at all and had actually increased substantially in size. So Dr. Fallon insisted on operating if he were to save anyone's life.

Meanwhile, the doctor also tried to convince Mary to have the operation at a larger, more advanced hospital. But despite being promised better medical care elsewhere, Mary insisted she stay at St. Margaret's Hospital in Dorchester, Massachusetts, because it was Catholic. She wanted to remain in a faith-filled environment, especially if the procedure turned out badly. Furthermore, she refused to go to a hospital that performed abortions. Mary put her faith before all else. Doctor Fallon didn't fully understand, but he reluctantly agreed to let her stay on account of her persistence.

After the surgery, a team of doctors came in to say that the operation had gone well and that the child in the womb had inexplicably survived. However, they told Mary they did not believe the child would live much
longer. As more time passed, the doctor told Mary, "I can't explain this, but the baby is still alive."

Once again, he begged Mary to seek treatment at another hospital, but once again she insisted on staying at St. Margaret's because of her faith. Meanwhile, Mary, her family, and her Irish parish back home were praying to St. Anne, the mother of the Blessed Virgin Mary, for the child's health and survival.

Toward the end of Mary's pregnancy, Dr. Fallon said that if the child survived, which he doubted, the child would likely have severe disabilities. As soon as Mary heard this, she and her family doubled their prayers.

Finally, on May 5, 1959, Mary gave birth to a healthy baby girl with no physical disabilities whatsoever. She named her "Ann Marie" in honor of St. Anne. "I was considered a medical miracle," Ann Marie said decades later.

A few years after Ann Marie was born, on one of her earliest birthdays, she remembers picking up the telephone when it rang and handing it off to her mother. "I remember thinking, 'This is an odd phone call.' The man on the phone seemed familiar and almost a little emotional," Ann Marie said. "I got my mother, and she came to the phone. She was laughing and talking and being very familiar. I remember thinking, 'This is so strange. It's not my father. It's not my uncle.'"

Afterward, her mother told her that on her birthday Dr. Fallon — the doctor whom Mary convinced to allow her to stay in a small Catholic hospital despite the complications of her situation — called to talk. He did this every year until Ann Marie was a teenager.

"He said that my mother's faith changed his practice," Ann Marie said. "He just saw the power of her being in a Catholic hospital in that environment and listening to a calling greater than the wonders of science — and that he was wrong and God was right."

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Grandma - Feb 3, 2020

Beautiful faith, beautiful miracle. I, too, recently had to choose between a local Catholic hospital or Yale Smilow, for cancer surgery. With my rosaries, Holy water, Crucifix, Divine Mercy image to place on wall in my room, I chose Yale and put my name on list to receive Holy Communion, which I did. After surgery, a young resident came in to check on me. He said he had assisted during surgery and asked me what was the book on the bed that I was reading. I said the Bible. He reached over and touched it and said, “Good choice. Keep it near always.” Would the local Catholic hospital still be my preferred hospital? Oh, yes, but I know that God is with us, in our midst always and everywhere. He will never abandon us. Jesus, I trust in You!