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BY Tom Hoopes
Man Survives ‘Non-Survivable’ Gunshot Wound
By DICK RUSS
CLEVELAND, Ohio — A doctor called it “miraculous.” The hospital chaplain attributed it to Pope John Paul II. A young man who recovered from an injury which had been described as “non-survivable” had been directly entrusted to the intercession of the late Holy Father
Jory Aebly, 26, was shot in the head execution style on Feb. 22 after he and a friend left a restaurant in downtown Cleveland. Though he was initially given virtually no chance to live, Aebly walked out of Cleveland’s MetroHealth Medical Center five weeks later.
“I stand before you today and can say, in my mind, Jory is a miracle,” said Father Art Snedeker during a news conference announcing Aebly’s release from the hospital. Father Snedeker is a member of the hospital’s pastoral care team and was Aebly’s near constant companion during his astounding recovery.
Aebly, a lab technician at another Cleveland hospital, suffered a gunshot wound fired at point-blank range behind his left ear. The bullet pierced both hemispheres of his brain. Fragments of the bullet and of Aebly’s skull were scattered throughout his brain. The priest anointed Aebly, and the family was told of the “non-survivable” nature of the injury.
Father Snedeker also immediately entrusted the young man to the intercession and prayers of Pope John Paul II.
“The first night that Jory arrived and I performed the sacrament of the sick, I also asked Pope John Paul to pray for Jory and to protect him,” Father Snedeker said. The chaplain later gave Aebly a rosary which had been blessed by John Paul II during a personal audience Father Snedeker had with the Pope years ago.
“He blessed a dozen rosaries,” Father Snedeker said, “and I asked the Holy Father then to always remember the patients at Metro, to keep them in his prayers. He said he would and that I should give these blessed rosaries to those who needed them. The one I gave to Jory was the last.”
Pope John Paul II knew of Cleveland’s MetroHealth Medical Center through one of its physicians, world-renowned neurosurgeon Dr. Robert White, who frequently consulted with John Paul during his papacy.
Aebly’s co-worker, Jeremy Pechanec, 28, who was also shot in the head during the robbery, died the same day from his injuries. At an emotional news conference the following day, the mothers of both victims pleaded for prayers for their sons. When the women were escorted from the room, trauma surgeon Dr. John Como entered and told the media the reality of Aebly’s condition.
“It would be unusual for someone to recover, to survive an injury that is through and through the brain,” Como said, as he displayed a frame from a CT scan of Aebly’s brain. It showed a glowing path of bone and bullet fragments cutting a swath completely through both lobes, from the left ear to the far right side of Aebly’s head.
“This is a very severe injury,” Como said. “Right now he is in very critical condition, and we do not know if he’s going to survive.”
On Feb. 24, police arrested the first of five men who would eventually be charged with Pechanec’s murder and the attempted murder of Aebly.
Two days later, the media was summoned back to the hospital to hear astounding news.
“It’s one in a million,” announced Dr. Robert Geertman, a neurosurgeon who treated Aebly. Geertman revealed that not only was Aebly still alive, but that he was moving his arms and legs and had actually been able to talk. “My jaw was on the floor,” said an incredulous Geertman. “I’d say it’s pretty miraculous.”
Aebly’s family immediately acknowledged the effect prayer was having. They issued a statement saying, “We believe that his fighting spirit, along with all of the prayers from Cleveland and elsewhere, are resulting in what some doctors can only describe as ‘miraculous progress.’”
Father Snedeker was spending much time at Aebly’s bedside, praying with and for him, and bringing comfort to the wounded man and his family. He described Aebly as “an incredible young man who has been greatly blessed” and says he gave him the last rosary “because I believed he would benefit from John Paul’s intercession and protection.”
In the weeks that followed, prayers for Aebly’s recovery continued to pour in, and his condition was steadily upgraded. Within three weeks, he was walking with the aid of a walker, and on March 31, to the applause of assembled reporters, he appeared at a hospital news conference and got out of a wheelchair.
Aebly took a few steps to the podium and said, “I truly believe that one of the reasons I am here today and able to speak to you is because of the many prayers that I’ve received.”
No one has formally brought the case of a potential “miracle” to the attention of the Diocese of Cleveland, said Robert Tayek, spokesman for Bishop Richard Lennon. “We have only read and seen in the media what everyone else has,” Tayek said. “We are thankful for his recovery.”
Miracles of John Paul
A number of possible miracles attributed to the intercession of Pope John Paul II have been reported around the world. They include a French nun said to be cured of Parkinson’s disease and a 9-year-old Polish boy who recently got out of his wheelchair and started walking while visiting the tomb of John Paul.
Father Snedeker says his calling Aebly’s return from the brink of death a miracle was more descriptive of the outcome of the superb support and care Aebly received and of the spirit of the young man; it was not meant in a theological sense.
“It was an observation of a truly incredible event,” Father Snedeker said, “not a miracle in the sense of a capital ‘M.’ Jory received incredible medical care, and he beat all the odds.”
Still, Aebly’s family credits the power of prayer as the decisive factor in his unanticipated recovery. “I believe in the power of prayer, and I firmly believe that your prayers are the reason why I can introduce you to my brave and determined son,” said Aebly’s mother, Deb Wolfram, before she took her son home to continue his recovery.
And a doctor close to the case confided that “some things just cannot be explained. They come through the good graces of somebody else.”
Dick Russ is a Channel 3
reporter and anchor in Cleveland.