Eight years of constant pain ended for a Canadian dentist when he was blessed with a medal kissed by Our Lady of Garabandal.
The year 1986 began as a great one for me and my family. My dental practice was very successful. Our two children, ten-year-old Natalka and six-year-old Andriy were doing very well in school. I was enjoying every sport activity imaginable: hockey, baseball, tennis, squash, racquetball, swimming, water-skiing, golf, you name it.
My children and I loved throwing a ball around on summer evenings I was doing some volunteer work as Canadian President of the Ukrainian Youth Association. Helen was teaching part-time in a Ukrainian school and driving the children to their various music and sports activities. Helen and I had just joined a choir which was preparing for its premiere performance with a new conductor that March. All in all, we were a thriving, active and happy family.
February 19, 1986, I went to choir practice as usual. Helen was not feeling too well and was not with me that evening. On my drive home, I stopped at an intersection preparing to make a left turn. In my rear view mirror, I saw two headlights coming around a bend in the road at tremendous speed. The last thing I remembered were those two headlights almost on top of me. To this day, I can't remember getting out of my car but what I do remember is standing outside leaning to support myself on the hood of the car which had been propelled by the impact of the collision to the other end of the intersection. I was feeling very weak and nauseous. Eventually a policeman arrived on the scene and charged the other driver with reckless driving. There was an ambulance station on the corner of the intersection but neither the attendants nor the policeman thought to take me to the hospital. They just let me go home in my own car.
Somehow I managed to make it back to the house that night but the next morning it really hit me. I couldn't move. The pain in my head, neck, shoulders and back was excruciating. I had to cancel that day's patients and see my doctor. Thus began an endless eight-year long procession of visits to doctors, lawyers, therapists, chiropractors, specialists, X-ray laboratories, even a psychiatrist, for examinations and various treatments, none of which were helpful for very long if at all. I had a bad reaction to much of the prescribed medications and couldn't use them. All I was left with as a pain killer was Tylenol-3 which didn't have any adverse effects on me. Like clockwork for eight years, Helen would renew my prescription for 100 Tylenol-3's every three weeks. What did the doctors have to say? There was permanent damage to my neck and jaw (TMJ). Nothing could really be done. What I had to look forward to was increasing arthritis in my neck and upper back and retirement within five years due to increasing disability.
A Different Way of Life
After the accident I was in constant pain seven days a week. Tylenol-3 only made it a bit more bearable but not always. Often there were periods of excruciating pain that lasted for 40 hours that no pain killer could control. At these times I would have to lie flat on my back on the floor, unable to move, unable to eat. Very often the pain would make me vomit.
I was also a walking barometer able to sense weather changes 48 hours in advance better that the weatherman. I would rather not remember the two days leading up to a tornado that hit a community near our city one year.
Gone was the joy I had had in attending meetings with the youth group. Those I attended, because I absolutely had to be there, I would spend lying on the floor during the course of the meeting. It was tremendously painful just to wake up every morning and try to lift my children. They wondered why I was always mad at them; I had a short temper now and kept telling them to leave me alone.
Our social life dwindled to almost nothing and over the years we had to cancel so many invitations and engagements that we lost quite a few friends. At the office, I was not able to work comfortably; I struggled with my pain. Many times I had to be driven home by someone from my office because I couldn't manage it myself. Within six weeks of my accident both my staff members left because they couldn't the stress of the situation. Helen had to step in for one of them while we found someone else to replace my assistant. I thank God that most of my patients understood my problem and didn't mind too much when I had to cancel their appointments, sometimes on very short notice. This happened so regularly after the accident that some patients would call in before leaving home just to see if I was still there. Between February, 1986 and April, 1994, I lost between 1/2 to 2 1/2 day's work every week; I have the figures documented. And it doesn't take much to figure out how this affected our financial situation. I just thank God that I didn't lose my practice altogether and that He saw us through the worst of it.
As a result of all this, I fell into a terrible state of depression with only my family (my wife, Helen, my mother, Irene, and my brother, Jerry) for support. Many times I asked Helen to get an axe and hit me over the head or neck and put me out of this misery, and misery it was for when I was in absolute agony, nobody could talk to me or help me in any way.
In addition to the troubles this was causing me in my office, I had to give up all my volunteer work. I withdrew into myself; life wasn't worth it.
A Changing Attitude
I was not particularly religious at this time, but I found myself changing. This was mainly due to the fantastic support I was receiving from my wife, Helen, and my mother, both religious persons. Suddenly, I found myself praying nightly. I began to read the Bible and promised God I would read it every night for the rest of my life. There were no conditions.
I mainly prayed for my mother whom I loved very deeply and who about this time was diagnosed with cancer. And while I was praying for her, she was constantly praying that God would help me.
It was because of my mother that Helen and I wound up going to Garabandal. She really lived her faith devoting much of her time to the Church and the women's league, cooking and baking for the sick and visiting them even when she wasn't feeling well herself. She often went on weekend retreats with the women's league.
After various cancer treatments proved ineffective and the doctors declared that nothing more could be done, she was resigned to the fact. That was in the summer of 1993 and Helen and I decided that perhaps a pilgrimage would be good for her. I knew she would like to go on a religious pilgrimage but that she wouldn't go alone. So I told her that we were planning to go to Garabandaland promised her that we would all go together. She was extremely happy and hoped to live long enough to make the trip.
However, throughout September and October of 1993, her condition deteriorated rapidly. Now when I prayed, I asked God that if He wished to take her, it was His choice. And take her He did on November 14, 1993. I, of course, was deeply saddened but also happy for her - but I missed her. I completely forgot about our proposed visit to Garabandal.
Shortly after New Year and our Ukrainian Christmas, I felt something bothering me. I remembered my promise to my mother about going to Garabandal and this thought kept eating away at me. I told Helen and so we decided to join The Workers of Our Lady of Mount Carmeltrip to Garabandal for Holy Week and Easter.
We were to fly from Toronto to New York where we would meet up with the rest of the group; but before we left I didn't speak about going to Garabandalonly Spain. Even on the trip to New York I kept saying to Helen that I didn't know why I was going. I wasn't very religious, not the type of person to walk around with a Bible in my hands or to be praying all the time. I mentioned to Helen that we would be the youngest ones there and even brought along a spy mystery novel to read in case I got bored. But boy, was I ever mistakenabout the people going to Garabandal! And this trip was the best thing I ever did in my life. It saved my sanity, my family life, my marriage, my career and most important, my soul.
At the airport in New York, Helen and I immediately recognized Joey and Marilynn Lomangino because we had seen countless pictures of them. Rosemarie Melenchuk, the tour guide, greeted us but we were too shy to approach Joey. However, we were thrilled that he was on the pilgrimage.
We arrived safely at the village of San Sebastian de Garabandal and it was just as we had imagined it would be, quiet, serene, picturesque, home. We felt very much at ease there but my pain was with me nevertheless. I had my medication and kept taking the Tylenol-3's like clockwork.
Once in the village, it was announced that Joeywould give a talk about his experiences in the afternoon of the following day in the village church. Of course, Helen and I planned to be there.
After Joey's talk, we got on line with everyone else to venerate his medal (kissed by Our Lady at Garabandal). I was feeling my usual self, pain in my neck, shoulders and jaw. But when I kissed Joey's medal -- it was I cannot explain it to this day -- it was as if suddenly all the energy just drained out of my body down through my feet. I can still remember the feeling even today. I was barely able to stand and would have fallen if I had not held onto the pews for support. Helen was kneeling in prayer when I got back to our place but I didn't have the strength so I just sat there. Slowly, my strength returned and then and only then could I kneel down to pray. The pain was still there. Never before in my life have I experienced a similar feeling. I thought perhaps it was the stale air or that I was over tired. It was not a common fainting feeling. A couple of days later, Bob House, one of the tour members, noticed something about me, perhaps a pained expression or the way I was walking and approached us. We talked and I mentioned my accident and the subsequent chronic pain. Bob suggested I ask Joeyto put the medal on my neck but I told him I didn't come to Garabandal for that. I had come for my mother, to fulfil a promise I had made to pray for her. I told him that if anything were to happen, it would happen anyway but I wasn't going to ask for myself.
Good Friday was a cold and damp day that intensified my suffering; Holy Saturday was even worse. I was taking my Tylenol-3's every three hours just to be able to move around. In the evening the situation became acute; I didn't sleep all night.
Early Easter morning, April 3, I wasn't able to get out of bed to join the rosary procession through the village streets. The pain was so excruciating I couldn't even raise my head as the villagers passed by the house where we were lodged singing the rosary. After two more Tylenol-3's we were somehow later able to attend Mass celebrated by tour spiritual director, Father Thomas Blessin. The day dragged on until finally 6:00 o'clock came when I took my last two Tylenol-3's.
At eight o'clock, we went to dinner, I didn't feel much like eating but Helen urged me to go. As we entered the inn run by Serafin, the visionary Conchita's oldest brother, Bob House came up and asked if Joeyhad put the medalon my neck. I replied that I hadn't asked him. Bob then took me by the arm to where Joeywas standing in the corner of the room and said, "Joey, here's a man with a sore back." Joey, always the gentleman, immediately took out his medal, asked me where it hurt and to guide his hand. I didn't know what he was saying but imagined he was praying. Then he told me to pray and (while applying the medal) said, "Remember it's up to God...all I can do for you is pray." I thanked him. I felt no change at this time and the tremendous pain I was enduring was still there. We all had dinner and then left to pack our bags since we were scheduled to depart early the next morning.
Two hours later, after packing, I instinctively reached for my medication. Suddenly I realized there was absolutely no pain in my neck, back or jaw. My neck hadn't felt like this for years, in fact, I couldn't remember the last time I had felt so totally pain free. I said my prayers before going to bed and took no medication, but felt I would have to get up in the middle of the night to take it. At 2:00 a.m., I awoke to go to the washroom and afterwards as I sat on my bed, reached for my medication. But wait, there was no pain. I felt terrific! I was sure the pain would "kill me" in the morning but I didn't need any medication at this time. I prayed the rosary and thanked Our Lady and God for these few hours.
I woke up early Monday morning and to my utter amazement, I felt absolutely wonderful. I thanked God and waited for the pain to begin later. My wife, Helen, knew nothing about these wonderful few hours for me. As we got on the bus I waited for the pain - but it didn't come.
Bob House, wonderful caring Bob, came to me as we were getting on the bus and before even knowing what happened to me, gave me his medal which was an exact replica of Joey's and told me to use it daily. I have been doing this faithfully and have it in my possession constantly.
As the bus made its way to the Santander airport, I realized it would be unfair of me not to tell Joey and the rest of the group about the wonderful few hours I had just experienced. Eight hours without pain was just phenomenal for me and I told everyone on the bus about the present state of my health.
All the way I expected the pain to hit me but it didn't. Our new friends kept coming up to me and asking, "Are you still all right?" "Yes," was my answer.
Helen and I missed our connecting flight to Ontario from New York's Kennedy Airport and had to wait even longer on an already exhausting day. When we arrived home very late, it was cold and raining, the kind of weather that usually kept me in the house. The next day, my office staff members were surprised when I showed up for work. The weather was terrible and they knew that normally, on days like this I would not be able to work. They saw my face, they heard me speak, they saw my energy and how I walked. They couldn't get over it. Whatever happened to Mike?
A New Lease on Life
Since that time, vitually all my patients have been amazed at the tremendous change in me. I was like the old Dr. Mike before the accident. I joked, I was happy, I was radiant. Weather has not affected me since then and Helen complains that she has lost her walking barometer. Energy? I have too much even for my staff whom I have managed to exhaust every day since then. I relate the story of Garabandal constantly. Once my assistant said to her mother, "Mike is so happy I can't stand it." You see, she didn't know me before the accident. And I can swing those golf clubs again, cart a heavy wheelbarrow, lift heavy weights and do all those things I couldn't do for eight years. It's wonderful.
Since then, Helen and I have given a number of talks on Garabandal and will continue to do so as long as we are able. I thank all those who are happy for me and if it's God's plan that my pain should return even this minute, don't feel sorry for me. I have had one of the greatest gifts anyone could have. I felt very lucky after a few short hours and now after seven months one can imagine fortunate I consider myself. (update....it is now over seven years without pain).
As a result of this unexpected gift the lives of my family, friends and patients have all been changed for the better, not to mention the many others who have seen me suffer for years. Helen and I will pray that they, too, will be rewarded and that we'll all be able to witness the great Miracle soon.
To this day I ask, Why did it happen to me? I have no answers. How long it will continue only God knows. But I thank Him every day for the tremendous blessing He has bestowed on me. ***
By Michael Rozeluk, D.D.S.