In 1947, Eleanor Munro contracted tuberculosis. It came on so fast and lodged in such a difficult place – the lower lobe of her lung – that it stymied every doctor who tried to help her.
To have a tubercular cavity in the lower lobe of the lung is rare. Conventional treatments, and you have to remember that this was in the days before antibiotics were developed to treat TB, all failed. Finally, Eleanor was listed as a hopeless case and sent to die at the TB annex of St. Martha’s Hospital in Antigonish, Montreal. It was December 1947.
When Eleanor arrived at St. Martha’s, She was 23, the mother of a year-old child. She had weighed 125 pounds when she was first diagnosed with tuberculosis. She was down to 87 pounds when she arrived at St. Martha’s. There was no beauty left in her, but even at that last stage of her fight with TB, she had not lost her smile. And it was that smile, and her quiet acceptance of her fate, that caused Dr. Joseph McDougall, head of the annex, to make one more attempt to save her life. He phoned a doctor in New York who was experimenting with a new procedure in which air was forced into the cavity below the lungs, pushing the diaphragm up against
the lung. This pressure, it was hoped, would force the TB cavity to shut, allowing it to grow back together.
The next day, they tried the procedure, but it nearly killed Eleanor. She simply could not tolerate the amount of pressure required to give the lungs a chance to heal. After the procedure, Dr. McDougall told her that medically, they were whipped. If anything was to be done to save her, it must come from God.
Eleanor took it quietly. Then she made a request of the Doctor. “If I’m still alive on Christmas Eve, I would like your promise that I can go home for Christmas.”
McDougall knew she shouldn’t. She was highly contagious. However, not believing she could survive so long, he gave her his promise. And against all odds, she still clung to life on Christmas Eve. And although her condition was worsening, she held the doctor to his promise. So, warned against contact with her child and instructed to wear a surgical mask when talking to others, an ambulance took her home.
She was returned to St. Martha’s the next day, Christmas Day. Daily, her condition worsened. Yet, Eleanor clung to life. At the end of February, she weighed less than 80 pounds. Then, a new “complication” set in. She became nauseous, even when there was no food in her stomach. Unable to explain this new development, McDougall called in a senior doctor. Also unable to find anything wrong, he jokingly asked McDougall if he thought Eleanor could be pregnant.
The idea was ridiculous. There was no way a woman in her condition could conceive. Nevertheless, a pregnancy test was done. It was positive. When told of the results, Eleanor simply smiled, and blushed.
Eleanor and her husband rejected the idea of an abortion when it was offered, so Eleanor was fed intravenously. Every day, the staff at St. Martha’s expected her to die. Then, an amazing thing began to happen. By the end of March 1948, Eleanor’s condition began to improve. Her fever went down. She regained an appetite and began to put on weight. A chest x-ray showed that the TB cavity had begun to heal. It also revealed the reason: the child growing in her womb was pushing her diaphragm up against the lower lobe of her lung. The baby was doing what medicine had failed to do: pressing the sides of the deadly hole in her lungs together so that it could heal.
Eleanor recovered because on Christmas Eve, 1947, as she and her husband shared what they must have believed was their last night of intimacy together, God gave her a baby to save her life. A miracle, in miniature, of what God did 1950 Christmases earlier, when as a little baby, He partook of our flesh and our blood to save the world.
Source: Focus on the Family newsletter, December 2000