Mrs. Haines sat in the chair next to her daughter Emily and watched as she slept peacefully. It was hard to believe that that this was the same eight-year-old girl who, just a few months before, was as healthy as she was happy. Back then she was excited about school, church, and her great passion, gymnastics. She had inherited her athleticism from her father and her exuberance for life from her mother. But that zest for life was being drained hour by hour.
She had lost nearly twenty pounds since entering the hospital four weeks ago. Her skin was so translucent that the veins in her arms could easily be seen. Her hair had fallen out rather quickly once the chemotherapy sessions had started, and now she was completely bald. A large while bandage covered the top of the skull where the doctors had drilled a hole to remove most of the tumor that was destroying part of the brain. Most of the tumor–but not all. Dr. Bruce Fenton, a nationally known expert in this kind of surgery, chose not to probe further into Emily’s brain, fearing it would kill her. Instead, he ordered the chemo sessions, hoping that the rest of the tumor would be destroyed while the damage to the brain would be minimal. And even if it were destroyed, Dr. Fenton had warned Emily’s parents that the trauma of the operation might lead to permanent paralysis or even death. Only time would tell.
Mrs. Haines’ thoughts were interrupted by a knock on the door. A tall man wearing the white jacket of a doctor entered the room.
“Hello, Mrs. Haines. I’m Dr. Angelo Amadio.” He extended his hand and firmly shook hers.
“I don’t know you, Doctor,” Mrs. Haines said.
“That’s understandable, Mrs. Haines. This is my first day here at Memorial Hospital. My specialty is tumors and other brain maladies. I’ll be working with Dr. Fenton, and I feel blessed because he is considered to be the best in this field. Your daughter could not be in better hands.”
“My husband and I are very pleased with his efforts.” She looked down at Emily. “But we are worried because she seems to be getting weaker each day. I’m just about prayed out.”
Dr. Amadeo put his index to his lips and whispered, “Sometimes people sleeping, or even in a coma, can hear what people are saying. You know, my grandfather always said that even if a person is on the point of despair, there is always room for another prayer.”
“You’re a poet, Doctor,” Mrs. Hayes observed.
He looked at her, puzzled.
“It’s a poem,” Mrs. Haines said. ‘Even if a person is on the brink of despair, there is always room for another prayer.’ It rhymes.”
Doctor Angelo smiled. “Why, yes, it does, doesn’t it? Funny. I never thought of it that way.” He turned to Emily. “I’d like to check her status and talk to her briefly. It’s important that I become familiar with all the children on this floor.”
“Well, she sleeps so deeply that it’s often hard to wake her. But I’ll try.”
“There’s no need, Mrs. Haines. She waking up right now.”
Mrs. Haines was shocked when Emily opened her eyes. “Doctor, how did you know she was going to wake up now?”
“I could pretend that I have magical powers,” he said. “But I don’t. I could see her eyes moving behind her eyelids. That’s usually a sign that a person is about to awaken.”
He stood over Emily and took one of her hands. “Hello, Emily,” he said softly. “I’m Doctor Angelo Amadio, and I’m a colleague of Dr. Fenton. How are you feeling today?”
“I’m awfully tired,” she said weakly. “I’m tired all the time.”
“I know. That’s not fun, is it? I want you to lie still for a moment while I examine you. I promise I won’t hurt you.”
“Okay,” Emily whispered.
Mrs. Haines noticed that Doctor Angelo’s lab coat could not hide the fact that he was well-muscled. Clearly he was an athlete.
After a few seconds, Doctor Amadio said, “There. I’m all done for now. I understand that you’re quite a gymnast, Emily. So, we have to get you well so you can be in the Olympics in a few years. There’s a gold medal out there with your name on it.”
For the first time in days, Mrs. Haines saw Emily break into a smile.
“Doctor, were you a gymnast?” Emily asked.
Doctor Amadio laughed. “No. Not me. Martial arts are my thing. You know. Karate and stuff like that. It keeps me in shape.”
Well, that explains the physique, Mrs. Haines thought to herself.
“Okay, I guess I’m done here, but I’ll stop by tomorrow, Emily,” he said as he tenderly kissed her bald head. He nodded to Mrs. Haines and then left the room.
“He’s really nice, Mom,” Emily said, her voice suddenly stronger. She hesitated for a moment and then added, “His kiss was really warm.”
“Why Emily Haines!” her mother teased. “I think you have a crush on the young doctor! First he gets you to smile, and now your voice is stronger. Sounds like a crush to me.””
Emily blushed. “Oh, Mom. I just think he’s nice.”
“I know, Honey. I’m just joking.”
Mrs. Haines slept on the cot next to Emily that night while Mr. Haines watched the twins at home.
When Mrs. Haines awoke in the morning, she expected to see Emily still sleeping. Instead, she was sitting up and eating pancakes. This was the first time since the operation that she looked almost normal and was actually eating something substantial.
“Emily!” he mother exclaimed. “Look at you! You’re actually sitting up and eating breakfast. That’s wonderful!”
“It’s no big deal, Mom. I woke up and just felt really hungry. I called the kitchen and they sent me breakfast. The pancakes are super good.”
For a moment, Mrs. Haines could only stare in disbelief, shaking her head. Eventually she asked, “How long have you been up, Honey?”
As Emily poured more syrup on the pancakes, she said, “I’m not sure. Maybe a couple of hours.”
Mrs. Haines looked at her watch. “It’s almost eight o’clock. You’ve been up since six? Aren’t you tired?”
Emily shrugged. “Nope. Not at all. You know, Mom, I’m not sure which I like best–the pancakes or the waffles.”
“Waffles? What waffles?”
“I had waffles first. I was still hungry, so Nurse Julie said I could order something else. So, I have the pancakes now.”
“Do I smell pancakes?” a voice in the door said.
Emily and her mother turned to see Dr. Amadio enter the room.
“Well, Miss Emily, this is a big change from last night,” he said. “What in the world has gotten into you?”
Emily smiled broadly. “I don’t know, Doctor. I just woke up feeling great and really, really hungry. It feels good to eat again.”
“I bet it does, and you look much better than you did last night. This is very encouraging.”
Mrs. Haines interrupted and said, “You two chat for a while. I’m going to step out into the hall and call Emily’s father. He is going to be so excited when he hears how Emily is doing.”
After Mrs. Haines left the room, Doctor Amadio said, “Emily, I need to ask you an unusual question. It has nothing to do with your physical status. Is that okay with you?”
“I guess so. Go ahead.”
“Well, today is Christmas Eve. If you could have one wish, what would it be. Now think about this a little before you answer.”
“Oh, I don’t need time to think about it. I know I’m very sick, but my parents have told me that many children on this floor are worse off than I am. So my wish is that those children might feel good enough to get home for Christmas.”
Dr. Amadio shook his head and smiled. “Emily Haines, you have one beautiful soul. How good of you to think of others first. You know, the Bible says that the prayers of a good person can accomplish many good things. Don’t stop praying for those children, okay? Who knows? It might just help those kids a little.”
“I won’t stop, Doctor. I promise.”
“I know you won’t, Emily. Now, since it’s Christmas Eve, I have many things to do before tomorrow. So, I must get going.”
“Doctor,” Emily said, “do you have any children?”
“No, but I have a huge family. I’ll spend Christmas at my father’s house. Now no more questions, Miss Emily. I really must go.” Again he leaned forward and kissed her on the head. “Dr. Fenton will be in later. Good-bye.”
Later in the day, Mr. Haines came to the hospital and, like Mrs. Haines, was thrilled to see the change in Emily. For the first time in several weeks, they finally had a good reason to hope. Father Finelli, their parish priest, also dropped by to see Emily, and he, too, marveled at her improved status.
While the four of them talked and laughed and shared memories of past Christmases, the hallway outside of Emily’s room was suddenly filled with excited shouting.
“I wonder what’s going on?” Mr. Haines asked.
Just then Nurse Julie entered the room. She obviously wanted to say something, but she had to catch her breath first.
“What’s happening?” Mrs. Haines asked.
The nurse took a deep breath. “They’re all better! I mean really better!”
“Who’s better?” Emily asked.
Again the nurse took a deep breath. “All the children on this floor. They’re eating and talking. They want to get out of bed and move around. The doctors don’t know what to think of it. Why, look at you, Emily! You look so much better. I’m not a doctor, but all the children look cured to me. All twenty-two of them. The doctors are going to test them thoroughly, but if this isn’t a miracle, then I don’t know what one is. I’ve been a nurse for thirty years. I’ve never seen anything like it!”
She started to leave the room but stopped abruptly. “Oh, I almost forgot. Dr. Fenton will check out Emily in just a few minutes.”
She turned again and almost ran from the room.
“Father, I guess I believe in miracles, but I’ve never seen one,” Mr. Haines said. “What if it’s true? What if they’re all cured? This may be the greatest miracle of all time.”
Father Finelli smiled. “I’ve seen a few miracles in my day, mostly very sick people who suddenly were cured. But a miracle on this scale? No, it will be a new experience for me. Of course, I can’t think of a better time than on Christmas Eve.”
The excitement in the hall was growing as Dr. Fenton entered Emily’s room. “Now before all of you starting asking me questions, let me just say that, from a medical and scientific point of view, I have no explanation. We’ve completed CAT scans and blood work on twelve patients, and whether they had brain cancer or tumors, the results are clear. They appear to be completely cured. Some of my colleagues are still skeptical and refuse to accept the possibility of miracles. Well, I tend to be rather skeptical myself, and I’m not declaring it a miracle, but something truly extraordinary is going on.”
He then looked at Emily. “Well, well, Miss Emily. There will be a gurney here soon to take you down for your CAT scan, but just by looking at you, I’m pretty sure that you, too, have been cured. But we want to make sure. So, what do you think, young lady?
“Oh, Doctor Fenton, Dr. Amadio said that if I kept praying for all the children on this floor, something good might happen. And now it has. I am so happy.”
Dr. Fenton looked puzzled. “Dr. who?”
“Doctor Amadio,” Emily replied. “You know, your new colleague.”
“I met him myself,” Mrs. Haines said. “He seems like a very nice man, and I know he made a big impression on Emily.”
Emily tried not to blush, but the slight red tint on her cheeks gave her away.
Dr. Fenton looked puzzled. Do you mean Dr. Amanti? I work with him. I assure you there is no Dr. Amadio in this hospital.” He removed his cell phone from his belt and punched some numbers on it. While he apparently waited for someone to answer on the other end, he said, “I’m calling Security to report an imposter.”
Suddenly Fr. Finelli clapped his hands and stood up. “Emily, tell me again the full name of this mysterious doctor,” he said.
“Dr. Angelo Amadio,” she replied. She looked at her mother. “Mom, that is his name, right?”
Father Finelli started laughing. He looked up and said, “Thank you, Father! Thank you!”
“What’s going on, Father?” Mr. Haines asked.
Father Finelli said, “Dr. Fenton, I suggest you hang up. The call is unnecessary.”
Dr. Fenton hesitated for a moment but then did as Father Finelli suggested, but he was clearly becoming agitated. “Would you please explain to me what is going on here?”
“Very well,” Father Finelli said. “This ‘unknown’ doctor’s first name is Angelo, which, in the Italian language, means Angel. The last name, Amadio, means God’s love.” He stopped for a moment to see if everyone was following his train of thought. “Don’t you see it?” he continued. “What has happened at this hospital today can only be explained as a direct intervention of God. Emily, Mrs. Haines, you were face-to-face with an angel of God’s love.” He walked over to Emily’s bed and put his hand on her arm. “And you, young lady, with your selfless prayer for all the children, was the instrument God used to bring about this wonderful miracle. How blessed you are and how blessed are your parents.”
Mr. and Mrs. Haines let tears flow freely, and Dr. Fenton did not know what to say. Two orderlies entered the room with a gurney. One of them said, “Miss Emily Haines, your carriage has arrived. Hop on, and we will take you for a CAT scan, but we are sure that, like all the other kids we’ve taken for a scan, you are going to be tumor free and home in a couple of hours.”
They helped Emily onto the gurney and wheeled her away.
Three hours later, Emily Haines, under her own power, walked into her house and began to celebrate the best Christmas ever.