No medical explanation for Wichita girl's recovery, doctors told Vatican

06/27/2011 12:00 AM

08/05/2014 5:23 PM

As Avery Gerleman's condition continued to deteriorate, and the auto-immune disorder continued to ravage her internal organs, her doctors began seeing more surprises.

They still thought the 12-year-old girl was going to die. But about a week or two after pediatric intensivist Lindall Smith pulled out the ventilator tube, pediatric nephrologist Michelle Stuart Hilgenfeld discovered that Avery's kidneys were functioning.

This baffled Hilgenfeld. With the damage she had seen to the kidneys in her early biopsies, this should not be happening.

Hilgenfeld had been sure that if Avery by some miracle survived, she'd need constant dialysis or a kidney transplant.

When kidneys shut down, even for a day or two, they often don't start functioning again. Even if they do, they might regain only 30 percent of their function.

But five weeks after Avery's kidneys shut down, they came back on line.

There is no case like this anywhere in the medical literature, Hilgenfeld thought.

Hilgenfeld and Smith had done all they could, and they could do a lot. Hilgenfeld had seen Smith repeatedly save Avery with science and persuasion.

She knew neither of them were miracle workers. She is a Mennonite, a denomination which has none of the Catholic traditions of miracles.

But she knew, because she had seen some unexplainable things before, that there are times in crises where patients recover in a way that surpasses not only medical science but human understanding.

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