Miracles are not something from a world gone by, but a part of everyday life for those that believe, and for those that see them for what they are. True we can sometimes pass miracles off as coincidence, but we fool ourselves and deny God when we do.
I would like to share a personal story of a family miracle, it’s the story of the miraculous restoration of a young missionaries sight. I have thought about sharing it again having done so before on his missionary blog. It’s this next picture, that has prompted me into action.
This is my son, gazing at his son, my first grandson. Its a touching moment, but quite possibly one that may never have been.
Jacob served in the Greece Athens Mission and wrote us an email explaining he had been having problems reading as he studied. Assuming it was just small print scriptures and thinking he perhaps required glasses, he visited a local opticians.
On the 9th of November 2015 we received another email from him, explaining it was more of an issue than just glasses. The optician had diagnosed him with a degenerative eye condition called Keratoconus, which simply put, means his corneas were thinning. As they thinned, the pressure within was pushing the normally round front surface of the eye into a cone shape, causing damaging changes in vision. Although rare in the UK it is apparently more common in Greece.
The optician suggested it could be controlled by wearing contact lenses, but the long term outcome may have been the need for corneal transplants from a donor.
By the time he shared this news with us, Jacob had come to terms with the situation. Thanks to the support of a senior office couple and a blessing from an amazing Mission President, President Heder, his attitude was very positive. The plan at that point was to monitor the condition until he returned home, at the natural conclusion of his missionary service.
Strangely Sister Heder had been given the contact details of an Athens based eye specialist before her mission. She still had this with her and feeling uncomfortable with doing nothing, Sister Heder insisted an appointment was made for a second opinion. It was unexpected to find on arrival, that this eye specialist, was actually a world expert on the very condition Jacob had!
The appointment confirmed the diagnosis, but concern was expressed at how progressed the deterioration was for a 19 year old. On a scale of one to four, it was described as a two. The specialists opinion was that action needed to be taken within the next three months. His recommendation was that surgery be carried out on both eyes to reshape the cornea via laser treatment, before they became too thin to ever correct. At the same time a second process of crosslinking was to be done reinforcing the cornea and halting future deterioration. Known as the “Athens Protocol” This was the only place in the world where a pioneering dual procedure was being performed. Given the condition it was also recommended both eyes be done at the same time.
We did some research and so did Sister Heder. It became apparent to us very quickly as parents, that the best outcome for Jacobs sight would be to stay in Greece. This thought was also held by the church medical team. Although there was concern at performing a double procedure on two eyes simultaneously, as failure would obviously have a very negative outcome. However the only thing that would have been offered at home, was contact lenses, to hold back the failing cornea.
With every prayer offered, we realised our natural desire to have him return home and try to manage the issue, was changing to a desire to have him continue to serve and receive treatment in Athens.
To give some context to this, we have since met people with Keratoconus, who have no more than blurred vision up to a maximum of an arms length away. There is still no corrective surgery available, even privately in the UK. It is no exaggeration to consider this condition would have led our son to be blind, in quite a short time.
In early January 2016 Jacob had corrective surgery to both eyes, (the double Athens Protocol procedure) at the same time. That day sat in the kitchen at home, waiting for news was possibly one of the longest afternoons of our lives. We were so blessed that Sister Heder sent us frequent messages and pictures, and that she attended the clinic with him and his companion. The pre-op checks showed the condition had progressed even since November, but the surgery went well.
I still cant get over the sign on the Athens clinic door “Your Vision – Our Mission“
Jacob and his companion moved into the mission home for a week while he recovered, wearing very dark glasses. I don’t think as parents we will ever be able to express the gratitude we have to President and Sister Heder and their family for the care they showed our son. But we have even more gratitude for a loving Heavenly Father that gave our son the gift of sight.
Of course the cynical may dismiss all this as coincidence, or tbe intervention of cutting edge medical care. But I know its a miracle. I can’t think of what would have happened, if these events didn’t unfold as they did.
- A Prophet issues a mission call to serve in Greece Athens, the very place where the world renowned expert in Keratoconus lives and practices, the only place the “Athens Protocol” is available.
- Jacob was transferred into Athens from a more remote part of the mission, just before going to the initial opticians appointment.
- A mission Presidents wife is prompted to seek a second opinion from this very specialist, based on a business card received with his number scribbled on the back, before her mission, “just in case she needed it”
- After further opinions by church doctors and the missionary department, the Church funded the full surgery and allowed him to stay in his mission throughout.
We know that serving a mission has saved our sons sight, he is now happily married to our beautiful daughter-in-law and has perfect 20-20 vision, all the better to admire his son with.
I learnt another lesson from this experience, we all have to face trials, worry and pain. When describing the miraculous deliverance of the Army of Helaman we often overlook the last line of Alma 57:25
“And it came to pass that there were two hundred, out of my two thousand and sixty, who had fainted because of the loss of blood; nevertheless, according to the goodness of God, and to our great astonishment, and also the joy of our whole army, there was not one soul of them who did perish; yea, and neither was there one soul among them who had not received many wounds.”
Yes they all survived, but they were all wounded. So it is with life. We are all wounded, if we were not, how would we learn to call upon Him that is mighty to save. Even Jesus Christ