An abnormal tangle of veins burst inside Kevin Wells’ head on Jan. 2, 2009, an ordinary evening when his wife, Krista, was asleep beside him and their three children were asleep in their own rooms.
The prognosis was grim. Wells had an arteriovenous malformation (AVM) in the brain, and the shunts inserted to drain the blood and fluids kept clotting. The neurosurgeon had no choice but to open the back of Wells’ head, but several hours into the surgery, he stopped. To continue might cause serious damage or death.
Family, friends and priests came to his bedside in the intensive care unit at a Baltimore hospital. The next day on their way to see him, his friends Father James Stack and Mary Pat Donoghue prayed the Chaplet of Divine Mercy.
They asked Wells who in the communion of saints he wanted to intercede.
“Bring my uncle down,” he whispered. “I need Tommy now.”
He meant Msgr. Tom Wells, who had been brutally murdered in 2000.
By Father Stack’s and Donoghue’s accounts, the room began to glow as they prayed, and Donoghue felt warm and dizzy. Father Stack anointed Wells. The next day, an angiogram showed the AVM had vanished.
Wells recovered, but it wasn’t the end. The AVM returned and had to be treated with a high dose of radiation from a gamma knife. At the time of this writing, he was scheduled for another angiogram and a second treatment.
“I am living my life,” said Wells, who tells his story with humor and persistent faith in “Burst: A Story of God’s Grace When Life Falls Apart” (Servant, $14.99). “I am doing everything I used to do, and I never think about it. I gave it to God. When I was within a whisper of Judgment Day, I prayed to God that I didn’t understand, but I said, ‘God, I am holding onto you right now. Will you please hold onto me?’ Because of that, I don’t worry.”
Wells, 43, lives in Crofton, Md., with his wife Krista and their three children. A former sports writer, he is now vice president for a family masonry contracting company and volunteers at a prison ministry through the Archdiocese of Baltimore.
Our Sunday Visitor: What was it like growing up in a strong Catholic family?
Kevin Wells: I was extraordinarily lucky. From an early age we were introduced to the glories of the Roman Catholic faith. ... My parents led by example. They are just a fun Irish Catholic family, and they knew that without living the faith, you don’t do too well.
OSV: Yet you always found it hard to talk about miracles?
Wells: That was until this moment with Father Stack. The bleeding left and the shunt was draining freely. The doctor explained that there was no rhyme or reason for that. Then two people saw a dark ICU room light up. I remember very little from those days, but I certainly remember that, and the unique warmth. Something supernatural occurred in that room.
OSV: How did suffering and darkness deepen your faith?
Wells: I have come to believe that God can love us ferociously because he wants total intimacy from us. He loves us so much that he will not inject, but allow, certain sufferings in our lives to lead us closer to him. This is what happened to me, being that close to death as I was, that I knew it was not so much the sins of the past, the big whoppers. I knew that what it was is that I could have loved better. I could have loved my wife better. I could have loved the world better. I learned through this pain that there is a lot more love in me that the world needs and that my family needs.
Those anvils that land from heaven, those postcards from heaven, are what wake us up, and it’s the best brand of love. Those punches are loaded with salvific grace.
OSV: You write about intercessions in your life. Do you think God is more present than we realize?
Wells: I’ve learned to see God in the details of my life because I know he is everywhere. I think he is constantly sending out these grace invitations. Every day, he is trying to work in our lives. He is right outside our door and is knocking. Tragically, we don’t always acknowledge them or even see the graces that are extended to us. I truly believe that the Holy Spirit — the advocate he said will be there — brings us those graces. If we are wise, we learn to use them.
Maryann Gogniat Eidemiller writes from Pennsylvania.