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Jim and Kelly Amato, with their daughter, Karlie.

Mercy Cuts to the Bone

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Dr. Steven C. Miller certainly has good reason for his devotion to Blessed John Paul II.

By Steven C. Miller, MD

Tired, worried, and with dark circles around her eyes, Kelly Amato arrived at the Orthopedic Clinic at Wheeling Hospital without an appointment and with X-rays in hand. She asked me for my help. I immediately responded, "Yes, of course!" What happened afterwards was incredible — not just due to the outcome, but also for how it transpired and how it continues to inspire me spiritually.

It was a crisp September day in 2005 in West Virginia. Standing before me, Kelly took a deep breath to calm herself before beginning to explain that her daughter, Karlie, had fallen during cheerleading practice the night before and had suffered a shoulder fracture. I could see distress in Kelly's face. Her daughter was badly hurt, and Kelly knew it. She felt it, as only a mother could, and there was nothing she could do to fix it or make it better.

At the time, Kelly was an oncology nurse at Wheeling Hospital. I have witnessed firsthand the care and compassion she bestows upon her patients. Under very trying circumstances, she displays a degree of strength and grace I doubt I could ever muster. I knew right away when I saw her in my clinic I wanted to help her, just as she has helped so many others.

Kelly came to me looking for some definitive advice. Though Karlie had been taken to the emergency room the night before — just after her accident — the course for treatment of her injury was still in the works.

An Horrific Injury
I reviewed Karlie's X-rays. Her fracture was horrific. The entire top of her humerus was broken off and displaced to the side of the main shaft of the humerus bone. I knew right away Karlie needed surgery. I explained to Kelly that it would be crucial to reset the bone and put it back into alignment. Without doing this, it would be doubtful Karlie's shoulder would ever be useful again. After hearing my preliminary assessment, Kelly left to get Karlie so I could conduct a thorough examination of her.

I quietly contemplated how I would get that bone back in place. I felt certain I would need to make a large incision in order to gain access to the fracture site. In my mind's eye, I started to plan out the operation and the instruments I would need. I made a mental note to myself to reserve a specialized piece of equipment called a "C-arm" fluoroscopic X-ray machine for the operating room.

Kelly returned with Karlie and Karlie's father, Jim. With the skill of a veteran nurse, Kelly carefully helped Karlie up onto the exam table. Jim stood back. I noticed he held rosary beads. As a father of three children, I was acutely aware of the couple's anguish and I wanted to help.

Karlie's shoulder was black and blue, swollen, and deformed, and her arm dangled lifelessly by her side. Still, somehow she remained calm and collected. I was impressed by her demeanor. She reminded me of my youngest daughter, Allison, and I wondered how I would react to her having such a fracture. At the conclusion of my exam, I immediately scheduled Karlie's surgery for that day.

'I Will Need It'
It must have seemed like an eternity of waiting to the Amato family when the call for surgery finally came. I hung up the phone and began making my way to the operating room when Jim approached me. He informed me he would be in the hospital chapel during the surgery praying to the late Pope John Paul II to intercede on my behalf and that God would guide me. He revealed he felt a special devotion to John Paul II, whom had recently died. Because I still felt uncertainty about Karlie's upcoming surgery, I heartily thanked Jim. "Good," I told him. "I will need it!"

Jim later shared with me the prayer he made in the chapel. Kneeling before the crucifix, Jim prayed: Dear Blessed John Paul, please help my daughter. Please intercede before our Blessed Mother and the Divine Mercy of Jesus imploring they grant to Dr. Miller and his surgical staff not only wisdom and knowledge, but the skills needed to complete this surgery in the least invasive method possible. Please John Paul, please help our daughter.

Jim told me later he had no idea where those words "least invasive method possible" came from. He knew we would have to make a large incision.

Comforted by a Crucifix
Wheeling Hospital is a Catholic institution. A crucifix hangs on the wall of each operating room. I have always found this comforting. In fact, I have a habit of looking at the crucifix during surgery, especially in times of uncertainty. Inevitably an answer seems to come to me.

Even as Karlie was being prepared for surgery I was still unsure how I was going to fix her fracture. I knew it could not be left as it was. Somehow, someway, I needed to reposition the end of the bone back into place and stabilize it with a metal pin or screw.

Karlie appeared anxious as she was laid on the operating table. The attending nurses spoke to her compassionately and were able to calm her down. After she was administered the anesthesia, we got to work. With scalpel in hand, I was prepared to make the incision that would allow me access to the fracture. To my surprise, I could not make the incision! Something inside me told me to wait. Perhaps it was the unblemished skin on her shoulder. Perhaps it was a memory of my own daughter in her sleeveless prom gown. I just couldn't shake the image of how the incision I was about to make would be prominently on display when Karlie wore a prom gown or a wedding dress.

I could not make the large incision. I just could not do it! One minute went by and then another. My colleagues in the operating room looked at me, wondering and waiting. Almost instinctively, I turned to the cross on the wall and whispered, "What do I do here, Lord?"

A Procedure Not According to Plan
What happened next was then — as it remains today — a wonder. I heard a voice in my mind telling me clearly what to do, and I did not hesitate. I immediately knew it was the answer I sought and desperately needed. I abandoned the original plan, and tried something I had never done before or since.

Utilizing the specialized X-ray equipment, I made a tiny incision on the skin over the facture site. Then, I inserted the handle end of a spoon-like instrument over the broken end of the bone and under the ball of the shoulder above. Then, with a downward force, similar to a shoehorning, I was able in one stroke to flip the broken ball of the shoulder up on top of the shaft of the broken humerus.

To the amazement of everyone in the operating room, including me, it appeared on X-ray as perfect, absolutely perfect! A collective "ahh!" came from the group. I then drilled a small, smooth pin across the line of the fracture for stabilization. We then applied a small bandage and a sling, and — just like that — the operation was complete!

Afterward, I felt a huge sense of relief. But beyond that, I sensed that something remarkable had occurred. I felt that through my hands, a power I did not understand had performed something extraordinary. Once I was sure Karlie was safely in a recovery room, I went straight to her parents to tell them the exciting news of how her bone was restored to perfect alignment with no more than a quarter-inch incision. Karlie's father solemnly nodded his head as I related the events of the surgery.

"I knew my prayers to John Paul would help you!" he said

A Pope of Mercy Was Present
At the hospital the next morning, Kelly and Jim were with Karlie in her room. Karlie was sore, but she was raring to go home. After examining her, I asked Jim if he wouldn't mind telling me what, specifically, he had prayed for in the chapel during the surgery. He shared with me his faithful prayer request to Blessed John Paul II. Then I asked him if he knew what time it was when he left the chapel.

"Sure I do," he said. "It was 6:40."

I sat down, astonished. I shared with him that it was 6:40 when I had paused during surgery, looked at the Crucifix on the wall, and asked for God's guidance. For both Jim and me, this served as confirmation of the exact moment of Pope John Paul's powerful intercession.

Then, later in the day, after describing the events surrounding Karlie's surgery to my wife, Carolyn, I received further, indisputable confirmation of John Paul II's presence. As Carolyn listened, I couldn't help noticing her smile. When I finished, she stood up and said, "You need to see what came in the mail today!" She retrieved an 8 x 10 envelope from the Marian Helpers Association in Stockbridge, Mass., home of the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy. She handed me the envelope, and to my surprise, inside was a beautiful 8 x 10 photo of Blessed Pope John Paul II in support of his canonization!

An Unshakable Faith
Since the time of Karlie's surgery, Kelly has continued to work with, and minister to, the sick and dying in her profession as an oncology nurse. Jim and I have become good friends, and we correspond regularly. I am grateful for Jim's faithfulness and friendship. He has helped me to deepen my faith and has taught me much about the power of prayer.

Karlie Amato healed perfectly and went on to become a cheerleader and honor student at Shadyside High School in Shadyside, Ohio. She is now in her third year at Walsh University and is enrolled in the nursing school. She is considering a career either as a nurse practitioner in orthopedic surgery or as an orthopedic surgeon. In the summer of 2012, as part of a trip sponsored by Walsh University, she traveled to Medjugorje and Rome. In Rome, she wept at the tomb of Blessed John Paul II.

I, too, become emotional when I think back to the day of Karlie's surgery. I feel humbled that I was a player in what I believe was a miraculous event. It inspired me to take a deeper look at my spirituality, my faith, and my commitment to the Lord. My belief in intercessory prayer and the power of prayer in general have been confirmed and strengthened.

To this day, I pray before each surgery. I pray for clarity of thought and for our Lord's guidance. I pray that I may perform a perfect surgery and that each patient recovers well and without complications. I pray for the intercession of Blessed John Paul II and of Our Lady and to our Lord Jesus that I may be allowed to continue with my work, if it is His will. I give thanks for my faith and all the blessings I have received.

I am truly grateful to Blessed John Paul II for his intercession during Karlie Amato's surgery and for inspiring all of us to never give up faith in the Lord.

Dr. Steven Miller wishes to thank Karlie Amato and her parents, Jim and Kelly Amato, of Shadyside, Ohio; his wife, Carolyn, who continues to inspire his faith; his son, Benjamin L. Miller; and Stephanie Jones and Jenny Dunn for their kind assistance with proofreading and editing.

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JIM AMATO - May 16, 2013

I CANNOT BEGIN TO EXPRESS THE REAL SENSE OF POWER AND FAITH BROUGHT ON BY JOHN PAUL II'S INTERCESSION THAT OUR DAUGHTER, DR. MILLER, KELLY AND I ALL FELT THAT EVENTFUL EVENING. WALKING OUT OF THE HOSPITAL CHAPEL AND GLANCING AT THE CLOCK ON THE WALL...RECALLING THE TIME OF 6:40 AND THEN REALIZING THE NEXT DAY FROM DR. MILLER THAT THIS WAS THE EXACT SAME TIME HE STOPPED THE SURGERY TO PAUSE FOR THOUGHT AND THE CLARITY BEFORE HE PROCEEDED WAS THE CONFIRMATION WE NEEDED THAT JOHN PAUL II HAD INDEED CAPTURED THE ATTENTION OF OUR LADY AND THE DIVINE MERCY OF JESUS FOR THIS MIRACLE TO TAKE PLACE. TO THIS DAY I RECALL THE PRAYER, CLUTCHING MY BLESSED ROSARY. THE WORDS THAT CAME TO ME WERE AS POWERFUL AS THEY WERE MYSTERIOUS - "GUIDE HIM TO USE THE LEAST INVASIVE METHOD POSSIBLE." THESE WERE NOT MY WORDS, BUT THOSE OF THE SPIRIT. APPROACHING DR. MILLER, STILL HEARING THOSE WORDS AS I WALKED TOWARD HIM, I KNEW THERE WAS A HIDDEN PURPOSE BEHIND THEM. THERE WAS ONLY ONE WAY TO OFFER MY RESPECT THAT FORGED A BOND OF FRIENDSHIP WITH DR. MILLER THAT REMAINS TO THIS DAY - I GAVE HIM THE VERY ROSARY BLESSED BY JOHN PAUL II THAT IT WOULD ALWAYS BE A REMEMBERANCE OF THE EVENT AND TIME THAT CHANGED ALL OF OUR LIVES. THANKS, STEVE, FOR YOUR FRIENDSHIP AND GUIDANCE. MAY ALL WHO CALL UPON HIS MERCY THROUGH THE INTERCESSION OF OUR LADY AND BLESSED JOHN PAUL -ALWAYS FIND PEACE AND SOLUTIONS TO THEIR NEEDS.

Mary - May 17, 2013

I was in tears throughout this beautiful story. Thank you for sharing this witness to the power of God . Praise God! Thank you, Doctor , for your humility and fatih, and Jim, Kelly, Carolyn, and Karlie too! Thank you John Paul II for your intercession! Karlie, what a wonderful team on earth you have, as well as your team in heaven. God bless you all.

Michele - May 17, 2013

Amen. Amen. AMEN!!!!!!

alg - May 17, 2013

I too was in tears as I read this wonderful story. His Mercy endures forever!

Rev. Alice Phillips - May 17, 2013

Steve Miller is a wonderfully skilled and blessed Christian doctor who loves the Lord! As a pastor, I witnessed first hand the wonderful, compassionate, and loving care that he gave to many of his patients. He was tops at Wheeling Hospital for his skill and care. I also became one of those patients when I broke my arm and dislocated my elbow; and I, too, experienced his incredible care. He continues to be used by the Lord as His healing instrument as is so very evident in this story!

Fr. Joe Roesch, MIC - May 18, 2013

Thanks for sharing this story. It is powerful! The saints are very close to us and want to help us draw closer to Jesus!

Maggie - May 18, 2013

A story I will share on FB and hope it will travel far. I wish I could find such a physician to treat me. There seem to be too few who pray and listen to the Holy Spirit. God bless all involved in this miracle and thank you Blessed John Paul II!

FR BILL - May 18, 2013

THIS POST IS SIMPLY GOOD STUFF

mary - May 18, 2013

Yes to hear of Blessed John Paul2 in helping you in prayer was exalent, I know when I had My Right Knee done i prayed to Blessed John Paul2 I felt his healing in my leg,yes jst say"JESUS I TRUST IN YOU. Amen

David T - May 19, 2013

Interesting that the time was 6:40. I believe this time translates to the same time our Blessed Mother appears to the visionaries in Medjugorje each day. Normally, is is 5:40 cst so I believe that tranlates to 6:40 est.

Karlie Amato - May 19, 2013

Yes you’re right, David. The time that the Blessed Mother appears to the visionaries is 6:40. I learned that when I was in Medjugorje last summer. I actually had the privilege to stay with one of the visionaries and I was able to talk with her one on one and tell her my story and I could tell how much it touched her. What happened to me to this day still is so hard to believe, and each time I read or hear this story, it takes everything I have to fight back the tears. When I was in Rome and I got to see Pope John Paul II’s tomb, I don’t even know how to explain the emotions that I felt. I just remember standing there and crying and thanking him over and over for what he had done for me. That moment, and when I was in Medjugorje were my favorite parts of being over there. So many spiritual things happened to me when I was in Medjugorje that made me realize that I really was meant to be there.
This story is proof to how powerful prayer really can be, and because of everything that has happened it has made my faith grow so much. I attend a small Catholic university and when I study for tests, I don’t go to the library; I go to the church on campus. That’s the only place where I feel like I can stay calm when I have a huge nursing test coming up. Before each test, I say a prayer to Pope John Paul II, and I know he’s always there to help me. Ever since he was there for me during that scary event in my life, I see him as a guardian angel. I hope that this story touches everyone who reads it and hears about it and allows them to grow in their faith as much as I have.

Hank and Sue Richter - May 19, 2013

Mercy cuts to the bone, and in your remarkable account it cuts to the soul, Steve. Thanks so much for sharing this with us.

Jan - May 21, 2013

Remarkable story! And yet we shouldn't be surprised! God bless the Amato family and Dr. Miller for their great faith! That's all we need is great faith, and God can do amazing things through us! Praise God!

Kyle - May 28, 2013

This is unbelieveable!!! GOD refuses to help all the starving children in the world, or end holy wars just to help one surgeon. It's not like the surgeon went to years of school, or that medical advances through science helped at all. THANK YOU LORD FOR IGNORING ALL OTHER TRAGEDIES AND DOING THIS

Sherry - May 28, 2013

The power of prayer is an amazing force so often not remembered until all other paths of intervention have failed. When used from the onset, miracles such as this one can and will happen. AMEN!

Stephen T Magyar - May 28, 2013

Amen to everything in this message. My family also shares devotions to JP2 and our Blessed Mother. Kelly was my oncology her also. God bless and know our prayers are with you.

Linda Becker - May 31, 2013

Steve, there were a couple of points I took from your story that for me reinforced lessons previously learned. First, in order to receive God’s inspiration, there has to be an open mind and willingness to listen. And second, perhaps most important of the two, there has to be trust and faith in the message, then action taken to follow through in order to see what is possible. The result of being able to do those things was certainly evident in your experience. I want to live that way.
Beautiful, powerful story . . . your sister-in-law, Linda