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Little miracle from Lourdes pilgrimage

BRAIN injured Brisbane mother, Susan Gunderson, is back from Lourdes still hoping for a miracle, but a fellow pilgrim believes his six year-old son has been blessed with a ‘little’ one.

The boy, Harrison Creevey, of Tarragindi, and his father Matthew, joined Susan on the pilgrimage after a major fundraising appeal.

Harrison has quadriplegia and is unable to speak, after contracting a form of encephalitis as a result of being bitten by a mosquito in Mt Isa almost three years ago.

Matthew said he and his wife Kim had noticed an improvement with Harrison since his return from Lourdes about a month ago. It is progress they cannot explain.

Harrison has to be fed through a tube and, for six to nine months before the pilgrimage, his parents had been trying to build up the amount of food he is able to take in normally.

They have been having three 40-minute ‘practice’ meals a day, measuring his progress by the amount he could eat in that time.

‘Before we left, he was eating a quarter to a third of a Vita-Brit with milk for breakfast,’ Matthew said. ‘Once we got back we realised the speed of his eating had quadrupled.

‘The week we got back, he was eating a whole Vita-Brit. In the week after that, he was reducing his eating time from 40 minutes down to 30 minutes. He’s now eating one and a half Vita-Brits.

‘If we can feed him two, we won’t have to use the tube to supplement his breakfast.

‘On his best day, he eats 50 per cent of the volume of food to sustain his weight gain and growth, greatly improved on the five to 10 per cent before we left (for Lourdes).’

The Creeveys are aiming to do away with tube feeding by Christmas.

‘That wasn’t a realistic goal before we left (for Lourdes),’ Matthew said, grateful to those who made the trip possible.

‘We take our little miracles when we can get them.’

Susan, her husband Steven, and the friends who organised the pilgrimage have not given up hope of similar blessings.

They are still praying for the miracle that will allow the 42 year-old mother-of-two to talk and walk again, and to be able to do things for herself and her family.

Since suffering a brain haemorrhage at her home in Greenslopes, on Brisbane’s southside, in May 1996, Susan has had quadriplegia and is unable to speak.

She is fully cognitive, but has limited communication through an electronic voice synthesiser.

Inspired by the efforts of Susan’s daughter, Samantha, 9, and some of her Year 4 classmates at St Joachim’s Primary School, Holland Park, who were praying the Rosary for a miracle, Nicole King and her friends launched an appeal to raise $20,000 to allow Susan and Steven to make the pilgrimage to Lourdes.

People throughout Australia responded generously, and $50,000 was raised, allowing Susan to include six year-old Harrison Creevey and his father, Matthew, in the pilgrimage party.

‘Thanks to the Catholic communty for letting me take little Harrison,’ Susan said through her voice machine.

Although a physical healing has not happened for Susan, she and Steven are aware miracles do not always happen immediately and other people have told them their ‘miracles’ happened a long time after visits to Lourdes.

‘Miracles happen in God’s time, not ours,’ Steven said.

He said while there had been no physical healing, there was much spiritual benefit.

‘We certainly came back with a renewed faith and renewed determination,’ he said.

‘We came back with a greater understanding of suffering.’

Susan said: ‘If Jesus can suffer – and he suffered for everybody – who am I to complain?’

Steven, who has given up work to care for Susan, counts his blessings that his wife is still alive and that his children Samantha and Harry, 11, still have their mother.

‘We’ve already had half a dozen miracles,’ he said.

‘She died three times on the night (she was taken to hospital after the haemorrhage). The next morning they took her off the oxygen and for some unknown reason, she started breathing on her own. The doctors can’t explain it.

‘The doctors said she’d never walk, and she can now take steps.

‘When Nicole came to us with the idea (of the pilgrimage to Lourdes to seek a miracle), we told her we’ve already had miracles, but, typical Nicole, she said ‘Go and ask for more’.

‘You can’t go (to Lourdes) and come back the same person. We had so many spiritual experiences.’

Through her voice machine, Susan said it was ‘uplifting’.

‘I’m calmer,’ she said.

She said Lourdes was the highlight of the trip ‘because it is such a holy place’.

Steven said the experience had benefited them as a couple.

‘One thing we really enjoyed – we could go out on our own and, whilst we missed our children, we had just the best time,’ he said.

‘It was so wonderful to be with her and her with me. We just enjoyed being together and I’d go as far as to say we’re as much in love as the day we were married.

‘After all we’ve been through, this has been wonderful for us.

‘The fact we’re still together, the kids love their Mum and the kids love their Dad … the fact we’ve survived all that’s been placed in front of us is a miracle. It’s been a tough eight years.

‘We haven’t given up hope, because Susan is so determined she’s going to get better …’

The couple wanted to thank the Catholic community for supporting the appeal.

‘Obviously our story touched a lot of people because the outpouring of donations was remarkable,’ Steven said.

He said more than 80 per cent of the $50,000 raised was from the Catholic community.

Nicole said a surplus of $4350 from the appeal would be held in trust for another pilgrimage.

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