Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Friends in High Places

Every March, as part of a group of health care providers from St. Louis, I travel to Catacamas, Honduras, to offer free medical care to those who need it most. We had already dedicated our gastroenterology team to Blessed Father Timothy Giaccardo, SSP, so we are the “Giaccardo GI Group.” Blessed Timothy was among the first Paulines to make his vows in 1921 and later became Blessed James Alberione’s vicar general, his right-hand man. In March 2014, I was especially grateful for Blessed Timothy’s intercession and saw myself why Father Alberione could entrust him with so much.

Jeffrey Mathews, M.D., and Mario Castro, M.D.
Early in the week of our trip, Dr. Mario Castro (a pulmonologist) saw a cachectic* man who was thought to have lung cancer. He had a cough, weakness, and weight loss that would not respond to antibiotics. A chest X-ray showed a mass in his right lung. Mario needed a bronchoscope, and Jim, our equipment expert, had brought a bronchoscope that worked with our GI equipment just in case such a need would arise. Mario performed a bronchoscopy and saw a foreign body lodged in the right lower lobe of the man’s lung. Unfortunately, after two hours, Mario could not remove it. Usually he would have dozens of instruments to choose from to facilitate removal of a foreign body from the airway, but not this time. He hated to stop, because he knew the man would die if it were not removed. Even if the patient would have had access to a thoracic surgeon to operate, he was too weak and cachectic to survive such a surgery. 

Our GI team had brought some equipment, but the equipment I had to remove foreign bodies was for GI scopes, and much too large to fit through the working channel of a bronchoscope (the diameter of the channel is 6mm, so an instrument has to be less than 6mm in diameter to fit through the bronchoscope). The few snares and biopsy forceps that fit through the channel were ineffective in moving the mass.

Jim went through every piece of equipment we had several times. So did the nurse assisting Dr. Castro. I then went through every piece of equipment we had and found nothing suitable.

I returned to the OR to tell Mario. He was visibly upset at the thought of stopping the procedure without helping this man. Mario asked me, “Are you praying?” I was embarrassed to say no, so I simply said, “I will.” I felt so humbled and helpless at that point. As I looked down, I saw “GIACCARDO GI” where we had it stitched above the pocket of my blue scrub shirt. I prayed aloud, “Blessed Father Giaccardo, please help this man. We are entrusting this mission to you, and we need your help so we won’t have to just let this man die. Please help us to help him. Amen.”

I returned to our supply room, and sitting on top of all of our equipment was a 5.5mm diameter Caesar foreign body removal tripod. None of us had seen this in all our searches. I ran it into the OR. Mario slid the tripod through the bronchoscope, grasped the foreign body, and successfully removed a large molar that we later learned the man had lost in his sleep months earlier without knowing what had happened to it.

Our patient began to finally respond to his antibiotics. By the end of our mission week he looked and felt tremendously better. Thanks be to God through the intercession of Blessed Father Timothy Giaccardo.

The entire mission team now has a great devotion to Blessed Father Tim, and it looks as though next year our entire mission team, not just the GI Group, will be under his patronage.

The Pauline Family has many Blesseds, Venerables, and Servants of God, including Father Giaccardo. One of the many reasons I am so happy to be a Pauline Cooperator is that these incredible men and women are now part of my family, the Pauline Family, and I know I can call on them in my times of need. If you have a need to entrust to Father Tim’s prayers, send me an e-mail ( with your mailing address, and I’ll be happy to send you his relic and a prayer card asking for his powerful intercession. (I won’t keep or use your address for anything else.)
* Emaciated, due to serious illness.

Jeffrey E. Mathews, MD, has been a Pauline Cooperator since October 11, 2009. He and his wife, Carolyn, live in St. Louis, MO, and consider themselves blessed to have three sons and two daughters, two of whom still live at home. Dr. Mathews has a love for languages. He has studied French and Chinese in the past and he is currently studying to become more fluent in Spanish.


Anonymous said...

What an inspiring story-prayer works.

Sr. Margaret J. Obrovac, FSP said...

Yes, Anonymous, prayer "opens our eyes" in many ways. Thanks for your insight.

SrLaura Brown said...

A wonderful example of the power of intercessory prayer... and we have our own Pauline saints just waiting to hear from us!!

Maryann Toth said...

Thank you for sharing this beautiful story about the power of intercessory prayer. As a fellow Pauline Cooperator, I agree, it is wonderful to be part of the family.

Alice said...

Bless you for sharing this wonderful story!! Nothing like prayer to help when human touch is not helping. god bless.

Easter Almuena said...

Great story, Jeff! So glad to know the power of Jesus' healing at work through the intercession of Blessed Father Timothy Giaccardo's! I will be reconnecting with him very soon.

Association of Pauline Cooperators said...

My comments wiill show up as Pauline Cooperator - it is Sr Margaret Charles. Thank you all for your contibutiions to this blog. I'm glad it is continuing in this way. Timothy Giaccardo loved the Pauline Cooperators and now he is in the National Office (room since the "office" is a team now."