A 50-year-old woman suffering from a form of motor neurone disease who has been wheelchair-bound since 2005 now walks again after bathing in Lourdes -- and her doctor is stunned. The Italian press is carrying the story -- eg Corriere here -- and there's Spanish coverage here. As usual, such stories get ignored in the English-language press.
For the last four years, Antonietta Raco from Francavilla sul Sinni in southern Italy has had Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or ALS, a a fatal, progressive neuro-degenerative disease. She went to Lourdes at the beginning of August with her parish, and was lowered into the baths; a few days later, back home, she found she could walk again and the disease is all but gone.
At the baths she heard "a marvellous woman's voice which kept saying, 'Don't be afraid'", and which seemed to bring relief to her body. But she took to mean that her condition would get worse and she would need courage to bear it. Nothing changed after the bath. Back in Francavilla sul Sinni with her husband one evening, she felt a force in her legs and heard the voice again tell her: "Tell him! Tell him what happened!". She called her husband, and when he came in, she stood up from the wheelchair, walked towards him, and hasn't used it since.
Her doctor says:
"In June, when I last visited the lady, she was quite unable to walk, only to lift herself out of the wheelchair and to stand with a support. Now she walks normally and without getting tired, and the only remaining part of her disease is a slight disturbance in the left leg, where the condition spread from. I have never seen anything like it in ALS patients. The diagnosis was unequivocal: the lady had a form of ALS which was steadily progressing. The disease can slow, and sometimes stop, but not improve, because it attacks the neurones irreversibly."
A miracle, then? "I cannot give a scientific explanation of what has happened," says the neurologist, Adriano Chiò.
Nor will the medical bureau at Lourdes be able to verify it until a long series of medical exams is over. But this has all the signs:a dramatic, inexplicable cure; a physical sense of something happening; the reassuring voice. According to her bishop, it is a "gift of God through his holy mother".
It is not easy being a miraculé.
"The first few days I was afraid to go out," says Antonietta. "I didn't know how people would react, I was scared to face what just seemed to big a thing. But then, with the help of my parish priest and the bishop, I go up the courage. Many people have been coming up to me and putting their arms around me."