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Miracles in the E.R.

Here are three healings even a doctor can’t explain…

Dr. Robert Lesslie; photo by Davis Turner
Credit: Davis Turner

“Doc, I’m tellin’ ya, it was a miracle!” Fresh out of my residency, when one of my ER patients would tell me this, I’d shrug. Not that I didn’t believe in miracles. But in the ER, with all its chaos? Not likely. We were all about intervention, not intercession.

Today, after 30 years as an emergency room doctor, I know differently. I’ve seen healings that medical science can’t fully explain. Healings that can only be the work of a power beyond medical intervention. So many stories I’ve written several books. Here are three of my favorites from Miracles in the ER.

Two techs rolled 14-year-old Ben Stevens into the ER’s trauma room with the results of the X-rays I’d ordered. A sprinter on his high school track team, he’d come in with a broken femur. He’d collapsed during a meet, running the 440. The way he’d explained it, the bone had snapped in two near the end of the race. He was healthy, strong. It didn’t make any sense.

One of the techs clipped an X-ray onto the view box. I felt the blood drain from my face. “What’s the matter, Dr. Lesslie?” Ben’s mother asked. I couldn’t respond. I just stared at the X-ray. The break was irregular, layered haphazardly, like onion rings.


“Where the femur is broken it looks like bone cancer,” I finally managed to get out. “And I’m afraid it’s already fairly advanced.”

I went with the family to an orthopedic surgeon who confirmed the diagnosis. Ben’s leg would have to be amputated. Then there’d be chemo and radiation. Even with intensive treatment, his chances weren’t that great. Ben’s mother looked at the surgeon and then at me, all the while gently patting her boy’s shoulder. “He’s in the Lord’s hands,” she said, with a serene confidence that took me aback.

After the surgery I learned that the cancer had spread to Ben’s lungs, three aggressive tumors. He had only months to live.

Three months later his parents brought him back to the ER. He had a fever, chills, aches and a persistent cough. He looked terrible.

“We tried the chemo,” his mother told me. “He got so sick they stopped it after the second treatment. They haven’t decided what to do next.”

I turned my attention to Ben. I was concerned that he had pneumonia and that the tumors in his lungs had spread. “We’ll need to get a chest X-ray,” I said. “I want to be sure he doesn’t have any infection in there. And since it’s January, I’m going to get a flu test. We’re seeing a lot of it now, and that might be a possibility.”

Ben’s father looked despairingly at me, then turned away. No one said another word. I called for a nurse and told her what we needed.

About 20 minutes later, the nurse and an X-ray technician brought Ben back to the ER. I had them put him in Exam Room 4 with his parents while I looked at his X-rays in another room. This time I wanted to be able to compose myself first.

“Doc, the boy in four is positive for the flu. Type A,” the nurse said, reading off a lab slip. That would explain the fever, aches and cough. After all, even though he had metastatic bone cancer, he could still get the same things everyone else did. In fact, it was more likely. I flipped on the bright light on the view box.

I had to force myself to look. His lungs. They were completely clear. No pneumonia. And no cancer! His tumors were gone! He just had the run-of-the-mill flu.

I ran over to Room 4 and told Ben and his parents the news. Ben nodded calmly. His father gaped at me. His mother gasped. Her hands flew to her mouth and tears flowed down her cheeks.

Just as she’d said, Ben had truly been in God’s hands.


One Friday in October. The “A” team on duty: Lori Davidson and Charlotte Turner, two of our top nurses, and Amy Connors, our hyper-efficient unit secretary. Staffers who worked unflinchingly through the worst trauma. It had been a hectic night, but for the moment the ER was quiet.

“ER, this is EMS One.” The paramedic’s voice shattered the stillness.

“Go ahead.” Lori had a pen in her hand, ready to take notes.

“Five minutes out with a one-car ten-fifty. Is…Dr. Lesslie nearby?” A 10-50 was an auto accident.

“He’s standing right here, EMS One,” Lori said. “Go ahead.”

“Can you give him the radio and switch off the speakerphone?”

“It must be something bad,” Charlotte said. Lori handed me the receiver. I stepped away from the desk. “This is Dr. Lesslie.”

“This ten-fifty,” said the paramedic, “it’s…the driver is a seventeen-year-old kid, Bobby Green, and he’s fine. Drunk, but fine. The passenger—he wasn’t belted and was ejected from the car. He broke his neck. Doc, it’s Charlotte’s boy, Russell. And he’s dead.”

Reflexively, I glanced at Charlotte. She was talking with Lori. Our eyes met and she froze. “No!”

Charlotte was devastated. For the next year she couldn’t seem to recover from her anger at the young drunk driver. We had to assign her to the minor trauma department, treating patients with sprained ankles, small cuts, respiratory infections and the like. It saddened me to see her struggling, unable to do the work that was her true calling. I was a doctor, but I had no idea how to help her heal.

One day I was in minor trauma, stitching the finger of a teenage boy, making small talk as the final suture was being knotted. He had been sharpening a lawnmower and the blade had slipped.

“So what are your plans after you graduate?” I asked.

But he didn’t respond. He was staring at someone behind me.

I turned to see Charlotte. My eyes went to the chart beside my patient. Bobby Green.

How had I not remembered that name? I kept tying knots in that last suture, desperately trying to think of what to do, what to say.

“Mrs. Turner…” Bobby’s voice broke. “I want you to know that—” Charlotte stepped around me. She looked Bobby in the eye. They stayed like that for a long moment, motionless, until finally she reached out and put a hand on his shoulder.

“It’s okay,” she said softly. “It’s okay, Bobby.”

He put his hand on hers. His body shook with sobs. It was done. With those few, simple words she had forgiven him, released him. And she had released herself. A most incredible healing.


Every couple of weeks, for going on two months now, Mildred Jackson had brought her eight-year-old boy, Benny, into the ER with blisters from head to toe. After a few days the rash would go away, only to mysteriously reappear. I was as baffled as the rest of the doctors. We checked his labs but found nothing unusual.

Thankfully, it had been a few weeks since we’d seen Benny. Maybe whatever was ailing him had finally gone away. That night the ER was crowded. I picked up the chart of my next patient. “Danny Totherow. 42 yr old. Male. Bar fight—head lacerations,” the cover sheet read. He was lying on his back on a stretcher, a blue surgical towel draped over his head.

“How did this happen?” I asked.

Danny’s words were garbled. He was still under the influence of whatever he had imbibed. All I could make out was that someone had hit him with a beer bottle.

Just then the curtain behind me flew open. “Dr. Lesslie, it’s me, Mildred Jackson. And Benny.”

There was Benny sitting on a stretcher, covered with blisters. “I see the rash is back,” I said. “Let me take care of this gentleman and I’ll be with you as soon as I can.”

But Mildred didn’t wait. She went over the entire history of her son’s mystery malady, every ER visit they’d made, everything the doctors had told her before.

Danny rose up on one elbow, peered at Benny, then collapsed back onto the bed. “Hot tub?” he mumbled.

“What was that?” I moved the towel aside.

“Got a hot tub?” “No, we don’t have a hot tub,” Mildred said. “Why?”

Danny muttered something incoherent. But I knew what he was getting at. “No hot tub in the neighborhood?” I asked. “No friends with one?”

“No, we don’t have one and no one—wait, the Pottses have one in their backyard. Charlie’s one of Benny’s friends. But he’s not allowed in it.”

“Uh-huh,” came the slurred response from Danny.

“Benny, you haven’t been in Charlie’s hot tub, have you?” Mildred looked at her son. He shook his head slowly. “Benny?” She dragged his name out.

Benny’s head-shaking morphed into a slow, sheepish nod. “I’m sorry, Momma. Charlie said it would be okay as long as I didn’t have the rash.”

“Has Charlie ever gotten this rash, Benny?” I asked.

“No, he never did. He never got in the tub. Said it was too nasty.”

“Uh-huh,” Danny mumbled again.

That was the answer. Hot tub dermatitis, a common bacterial infection that causes a bumpy, blistery red rash. The Pottses’ tub was a regular petri dish—and every time Benny’s rash cleared, he would dip himself in it again. I explained all of this to Mildred.

“Praise the Lord,” she said.

“Uh-huh,” agreed Danny.

I couldn’t have said it better.

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