Joan Chipkar is one of those people I can’t say no to.
In 2004, after Florida was hit by hurricanes, she convinced me to go with her to do laundry for health department staff working in the hardest hit area.
Last year, when her beloved therapy dog Charlie died, I wrote an obituary column about the brown and white cocker spaniel.
And when she called last week to ask me to write about her miracle great-grandson Landon in Alabama, I didn’t say yes, but I didn’t say no.
“I’ve had a million miracles happen in my life, but this is a real one, a huge miracle,” she said. “I expected it, but I didn’t expect it.”
On Dec. 22, 5-year-old Landon had been playing in the yard with his sisters when he tripped and fell in a pile of leaves. He screamed, “Snake!” and said his hand hurt — a pygmy rattlesnake had bitten him on his left hand underneath his thumb.
As Landon was rushed to the hospital, his hand swelled and turned black. Meanwhile, as they waited 90 minutes at the hospital for the anti-venom to be made, the black continued up his arm; the doctors decided to airlift him to the Children’s Hospital in Birmingham.
Throughout the night, the venom continued traveling up the boy’s left arm, down his back, through his chest and into his lungs. The toxicologist told Landon’s mother, Shaunna, that the snake bit him three times and it was the worst rattlesnake bite she had ever seen.
The next day, as Landon lay close to death and the doctor recommended they amputate his hand, the family prayed.
Joan had been at a restaurant here in Florida when she learned about Landon’s condition. She said she started crying and the waitress asked her what was wrong. When she told her, the waitress went into a back room to pray, then came out and told Joan everything would be OK, that God would answer her prayer.
Joan said word went out to prayer chains and prayer groups everywhere, in Alabama, here in Florida and elsewhere.
Joan said that before Landon was airlifted he asked his mom, “Am I going to die?”
She answered, “No, why would you think that?”
“Because everyone’s crying,” he said.
“They just feel bad about your snake bite,” Shaunna told him.
Later, Joan said, they learned that the pilot had fully expected to land in Birmingham with a dead little boy.
In the May issue of “Street Talk America,” a regional Alabama magazine, Shaunna wrote, “Christmas morning arrived and we received the best present from God one could ask for.” After numerous doses, the anti-venom finally worked.
The doctors called it a miracle, so did the family and all who had prayed.
The reason Joan wanted me to write about what happened was to let people know that God had answered their prayers.
It reminded me of the time my friend Charlie Wade prayed for his grandson who had a strange condition that made his head jerk involuntarily — and there was no known cure. Charlie went through his Bible and found every scripture verse where Jesus healed a child and applied it to his 21st-century prayer request. After all, if Jesus healed them, he could heal his grandson.
Charlie, just like Joan, had asked God for a miracle and they both got one.
Some people might hear stories like these and think that these two boys would have recovered without people praying, and if you ask Charlie he would tell you that I am one of them.
But not really. If I’m the parent or grandparent smack in the middle of a seemingly hopeless situation, you better believe I’ll be on my knees, asking for miracles.
Times like that reveal my true beliefs; that I know for certain God alone has the power to speak life and hope into lifelessness and hopelessness.
Joan put a picture of Landon on a “thank you for your prayers” card to send to people. On the front it says, “Faith brings miracles.”
That may be true, but for me it’s the other way around, that miracles bring faith and hearing of others’ answers to prayer inspires me to pray — and to believe that God will hear me.
So, thanks Joan. Once again you have helped thaw my cynical heart. That, my friend, is the true miracle.
Nancy Kennedy is the author of “Move Over, Victoria - I Know the Real Secret,” “Girl on a Swing,” and her latest book, “Lipstick Grace.” She can be reached at 352-564-2927, Monday through Thursday, or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org