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As members of the Church of Jesus Christ, we are told that we are entitled to miracles if we live righteously and have faith. In Moroni 7:37 we read: “For it is by faith that miracles are wrought; and it is by faith that angels appear and minister unto men.”
When our 21-year-old daughter had a horrific reaction that caused her incredible pain and suffering, and ultimately lead to her death a few years later, we did not always recognize the miracles around us. Sometimes we take for granted many of the blessings in our lives. As you read Julene’s story, it is my hope that you will recognize the miracles in your own life and see how small acts of kindness you do may be a miracle and a blessing in someone else’s life—more than you can even imagine.
Julene had such a zest for life—and so much enthusiasm for doing even ordinary things. The summer and fall of 1997 was the happiest time of her life. In almost every aspect of her life, her fondest dreams were coming true. She had wonderful performing opportunities singing and playing banjo in Bluegrass bands, both in Rexburg, Idaho and on tour in Europe. She had been accepted into the top choir at BYU. But best of all, she had just become engaged to her true love, Scott. Yet on October 12, 1997, life changed for Julene—and for our whole family – in an instant.
Julene was suffering from a sore throat and suspected she might have strep throat. She went to a doctor and, without testing, he prescribed Amoxicillin. After only two capsules of this brand of penicillin, she experienced a life-threatening toxic reaction that caused huge blisters and skin loss over 70 percent of her body as well as damage to her internal organs. This reaction, Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis, is rare and was not correctly diagnosed in the first three trips made to the local hospital. Eventually, she was flown to the nearest burn center, and we were told how serious this condition was. There theytold us there was a chance she would not survive the night.WE PRAYED FOR A MIRACLE, and so did our family, our friends, and many we did not even know. Though we didn’t get the miracle of complete recovery we were hoping for, I’ve been able to identify at least 21 miracles that came during this ordeal for our family. I will detail some of them in this article.
Because the pain from such extensive skin loss is so excruciating, Julene was placed in an induced coma. That meant she had to be intubated and placed on a ventilator. The doctors at the burn center explained that it was necessary to remove the damaged skin—and they even shaved off her gorgeous thick blonde hair. Perhaps the first miracle we saw was the incredible advances in modern medicine. Her body was coated with Bacitracin, an antiseptic gel, and covered with a plastic film that had recently been developed to save burn patients. Without these and many other medical advances, Julene would not have lived through the first few weeks of this reaction.
There were serious complications many times during the first six weeks. Because Julene’s lungs were so damaged, the ventilator forced air into her lungs at quite a high pressure. I was told on Sunday morning, December 7, that she had a pneumothorax—a break or hole in the lung. The air that was forced into her lungs was escaping into the chest area. They made holes under her arms and suctioned the escaped air out of her chest cavity. They explained that this was a life-threatening situation if the lungs did not seal very soon.
After the first two weeks, my husband and I had to switch off being with Julene so that we could take care of our family and attend to work and Church duties. My husband was with our family in Rexburg that Sunday, but I felt strongly that Julene needed a blessing. I went to the sacrament meeting held in the hospital and asked the branch president to give Julene a blessing to seal her lungs. He gave me a look that showed he felt overwhelmed and said: “I don’t know if I can do that.” We discussed things for a few minutes, and he promised he would come back later.
That evening I drove back to Rexburg before the branch president returned. I was very concerned but not distraught; I felt certain he would bless Julene as he said he would.
On Monday morning, the doctor called from the burn center and told me the result of her morning chest X-Ray. Through our faith and that of this devoted branch president, we were blessed with a miracle – her lungs had sealed!
On December 26, 1997, after two and a half months in an induced coma, Julene was allowed to regain consciousness. Her lungs and her eyes were still terribly damaged, and her body was incredibly weak. She had to learn to stand and walk, and to use her hands and arms again. But because her need for oxygen was so great, these activities were incredibly difficult. And to add to her discouragement, her recent engagement and reservation in the Oakland Temple had been cancelled. Her fiancé, who had been to visit almost every night, was encouraged to move ahead with his life and gradually quit visiting.
Then came a day when we were blessed with the miracle of music. A young man named Glenn had come around to sing to patients on several Sundays. Careful not to offend, he had previously sung folk songs. But on a Sunday in February, when Julene was terribly discouraged and dejected, Glenn came to sing for her. He started with the Primary hymn written by Janice Kapp Perry. It starts: Heavenly Father, are you really there? Do you hear and answer every child’s prayer? Tears ran down Julene’s face, because she must have wondered those very thoughts. She was comforted particularly by verse 2:
Pray, he is there
Speak, he is list’ning.
You are his child;
His love now surrounds you.
He hears your prayer;
He loves the children.
Of such is the kingdom, the kingdom of heav’n.
A Child’s Prayer © 1984 Janice Kapp Perry. Used by Permission.
Who would have thought that just singing a Primary song at a time of need would be a miracle in someone’s life?
After over five months in the burn center, Julene was transferred to a rehabilitation center. Here, there were many angels who ministered to her needs, and one was in the form of a visiting teacher! I’m sure that many of the visiting teachers who were assigned to visit the rehab center did not feel that their work would be significant. However, this sister (whose name I’ve forgotten) took time to get to know Julene, had compassion for the overwhelming odds she faced, helped wheel her out to the rose gardens, and had her ward fast and pray for Julene. That fast meeting was attended by Sister Olivia King of the Relief Society General Board. Sister King became like a sister to Julene. She invited the General Relief Society President, Mary Ellen Smoot, to visit Julene. It was a beautiful event! Sister Smoot said: “You will probably use your experiences to help others someday. You might have a position like I have.” Although Julene never had the privilege of speaking of her experiences during her earthly sojourn, many were inspired by her faith, bravery, and perseverance, and now by her published story.
After eight months of hospitalization in Salt Lake, Julene returned home on June 10, 1998. Although there were many difficulties with caring for her at home, there were miracles of tender mercies and the Lord’s watchful care. One afternoon I was preparing to give Julene a dose of medicine from an inhaler. I heard a voice—if not aloud—in my mind saying: “Don’t give her that medicine, it is hurting her.” I thought back about the two doses I had given her earlier in the day and realized that she had had a very difficult time immediately after I administered the medicine to her. After sharing this with her doctor, he agreed that we should not continue, and her difficulties caused by the inhaler were resolved.
An even more dramatic incident that shows the Lord’s watchful care occurred as we returned from a medical visit to Salt Lake City. She continued to need a huge amount of oxygen. We had exchanged one of our tanks for a hospital tank. On the way home, Julene chose not to make a rest stop that we usually made. We had considered trading to the second tank of oxygen because we were running low, but decided we could get home without the change. As we arrived home, our respiratory therapist met us with a full tank of oxygen—the huge tank that we kept in the garage. He immediately changed Julene to this tank and said: “The tank you are on is completely empty.” And looking at the alternate tank, he continued: “And the valve on this tank is wrong—you could not have used it.” We knew the Lord had watched over Julene, because her need for oxygen was so great, that if she had been even a few minutes on room air, she would have passed out and she would have suffered brain damage, if not death.
Julene indeed felt it was a miracle when in March of 2000, Elder Robert D. Hales heard about her situation and came to visit her while she was in LDS Hospital awaiting a surgery. He talked with her and asked if there was anything he could do for her. Julene asked if he would give her a blessing. He said he would be honored to do so. When he blessed her, he assured her that the Lord loved her. Toward the end, he stated: “If it is the Lord’s will that you continue to live on the earth, you will get well. If it is the Lord’s will that you return to Him, you will return to Him.”
As much as we wanted Julene to make a full recovery, her health started to rapidly decline after her visit with Elder Hales. Although her lungs had healed more than they expected, her trachea was damaged to the point the doctors predicted she would slowly and painfully suffocate. But Julene was blessed with a miracle even in her passing. Three weeks after being with Elder Hales, he sent her a beautiful letter. After I read it to her, I set the letter down and turned to see that blood had filled her ventilator tubes. I tried to suction, but the blood kept coming; she was experiencing massive hemorrhaging from her trachea. She looked at the tubing and said: “Mom, look—there is blood in the tubes.” I told her: “I know, and I have been suctioning, but it isn’t coming out.” Unsure of what else to do, I leaned over and said, “I love you.” She looked at me and answered with a phrase she had used so many times, “I love you more.” Unable to receive air, her eyes closed and she passed on quietly—from this time of terrible suffering into the arms of our Savior, where death and sorrow are known no more.
It was truly sad to have Julene leave us. After all, she was so delightful to be around—with her positive attitude, her clever sense of humor and her amazing musical gifts. But she left us a legacy never to be forgotten. In all her trials and extremities, she continually called upon the Lord and had His spirit with her.
Elder Robert K. Dellenbach of the Seventy had watched over her from her early admission to the burn center to speaking at her funeral. After giving her a blessing prior to a very long and difficult eye surgery, he turned to me and said: “The day will come that you will thank Julene for her sacrifice for you.” I was perplexed by this statement and thought: “I will never be thankful for this trial.” Her pain and suffering was beyond anything I even thought possible. But yet, as I saw the faith and testimony of Julene’s five sisters grow, I knew that as the Savior’s suffering for each of us had purpose, Julene’s suffering also had purpose. Our family gained a greater testimony that the Atonement of Jesus Christ is real as we were lifted and sustained again and again through the years that Julene struggled and suffered. And as we were comforted after her death by the peace and power of the Spirit, we felt increased gratitude for the plan of salvation. We have a sure knowledge that, through the power of the Atonement, we will again be with Julene. Losing Julene has strengthened our desire to live worthily and continue in faith so that we can join her again someday.
We have been blessed with Julene’s presence on a few occasions. When our youngest daughter was endowed and sealed in the Rexburg temple, we felt Julene there with our other five daughters and their spouses. It was truly a blessing to know that Julene was with us, and to have our whole family together again for those few moments. In the last few years, I have felt Julene urging me to tell her story. While I was searching through her writings to write a book about her experiences, I know she was beside me—literally guiding me to certain pages. Julene still lives on the other side of the veil! As Joseph Smith said, I know she is “not far from us and know[s] and understand[s] our thoughts and feelings” (History of the Church, 6:51–52).
A few weeks before she died, when Julene knew her time was short, she wrote down some of the miracles she had experienced. I had not read these pages prior to writing her story, but I believe her testimony gives hope and understanding to those who have lost loved ones, to those who suffer, and to all of us – because we all need the Savior by our side. She finished by writing: “This much I do know: The Lord loves me and is in charge of my future. If I can trust Him, all will be well.”
You can read more of Julene’s story and the 21 miracles in my book, One Angel and Twenty-One Miracles: An Incredible Journey of Courage and Faith. It is available on Amazon.com at this link. You may also visit my blog at https://oneangelandtwentyonemiracles.com/, which details more miracles that happened as I wrote and published the book.