Pro-Life Speaker Melanie Pritchard’s “Miraculous” Recovery

Wed Aug 4, 2010 - 12:15 pm EST

By Mark Henry

PHOENIX, AZ, August 4, 2010 (Catholic Online) - It all started out 7:00 a.m. Wednesday morning when Melanie Pritchard texted my wife Tina telling her that she was going into labor and "asking for prayers." After Tina and I returned from morning Mass, Melanie's friend Meghan called Tina in tears telling us that Melanie's heart stopped during delivery and she desperately needed our prayers.

During the frantic drive to the hospital, my wife was distraught. She loved Melanie like a younger sister.  In Melanie's eyes, her greatest accomplishments are being a loyal wife to her husband Doug and dutiful mother to her son Brady.  To the public, Melanie is a nationally known pro-life speaker and the founder of the Foundation for Life and Love, an educational organization that seeks to preserve and promote the dignity and sanctity of human life at all stages. Melanie is the former Education Director for Arizona Right To Life.

Melanie is much in demand as a vibrant speaker to youth and adult groups on pro-life issues, modesty and chastity.  Melanie and her husband Doug teach marriage preparation classes for the Diocese of Phoenix using Pope John Paul II's Theology of the Body writings.  Melanie's Catholic spirituality is steeped in the Culture of Life and thoroughly imbued with the teachings of Pope John Paul II.

My wife first became acquainted with Melanie when Melanie graciously agreed to serve, without pay, as a virtues coordinator in a modesty and chastity apostolate my wife runs.  Melanie is a mentor of countless young Catholic girls, a fabulous role model of motherhood, chastity and modestly and treasured by the pro-life community in Phoenix and beyond.

In the dreadfully long drive to the hospital, we felt helpless and wondered what could we possibly do for Melanie? Well, let's pray a decade of the Rosary. We also prayed to Pope John Paul II that he would intercede for a miraculous healing of Melanie, a prayer that we and countless others would invoke many times over the next 24 hours. After our drive time prayer, we still had quite a bit of time before reaching the hospital so we started calling everyone we knew, requesting their fervent prayers and to pass the word by email.

I called contacts I had in Catholic media, both new and traditional.  Fortunately, I got through to close friends at Immaculate Heart Radio, St. Joseph Communications and other Catholic media outlets who faithfully responded and immediately started broadcasting prayer requests for Melanie on the radio, internet and other media.  I am a contributing writer for Catholic Online and a member of the Catholic Online Writers Circle. The other members joined the cascade of prayer being offered for Melanie. Of course, Melanie's friends and family had already started prayer requests of their own and impassioned pleas for prayer made to many convents, monasteries and religious orders.

Very quickly news of Melanie's critical condition spread like a digital wildfire with "prayer for Melanie" requests now going "viral" online.   The pray it forward juggernaught to save Melanie had begun in earnest with many specifically praying for Pope John Paul II's intercession to save the life of his loyal spiritual daughter, Melanie.

When we got to the hospital, the news was worse than we thought.  Melanie had suffered an amniotic embolism and there was massive internal bleeding. Her heart had stopped again, twice, and they were rushing her into surgery again. There was a real likelihood of heart and kidney failure.  I learned later that the medical condition Melanie was experiencing was usually fatal.

There was some good news, however, which was that Melanie and Doug's new born daughter Gabriella Cecilia was healthy after her emergency C-Section delivery. Additionally, Melanie's brother Larry, a renowned heart surgeon, was on the scene and keeping a keenly trained medical eye on everything.

Melanie somehow made it through the surgery but then suddenly she took a turn for the worse.  Fr. John Muir, a childhood friend of Melanie and Doug, arrived at the hospital and administered the last rites to Melanie. Melanie's husband Doug was told that Melanie was slipping away and it was time to say his final goodbye to Melanie, the love of his life.  Shortly thereafter, Melanie's parents and sisters also proceeded to Melanie's bedside to bid her goodbye.

By now, legions of prayers were storming heaven from Melanie's bedside, from the local community and throughout the country as well. Prayer vigils were organized at a number of Phoenix parishes and all the way across the country at a Theology of the Body conference in Philadelphia they took a break to pray for Melanie's healing.

Inspirational stories of personal faith conversions of those hearing and reading about Melanie's faithful fight for life started coming in. Melanie's friend Brooke told us about the man in the Midwest who had never attended Church but read the email appeal for prayers for Melanie and was so inspired that he went in to the nearest Church to pray. Brooke's sister, Meghan, told us of the security guard at the hospital who was a lifelong Catholic who had never been to adoration before, but after hearing about Melanie he went to the adoration chapel and spent the night on his knees, in prayer. Father John Parks excitedly told us about the long confession lines after the prayer vigil for Melanie at Mt. Carmel Parish in Tempe, Arizona.

Throughout the country, a rising multitude of prayers were rising up for Melanie and her family.  The sheer magnitude of this prayer groundswell first became apparent to me when one of Melanie's younger tech savvy friends excitedly exclaimed that "Prayers for Melanie" made the "Top 100" on Twitter.  I am told that Twitter has one-quarter of a billion visitors, so being in the Top 100 is pretty amazing.

At the hospital,  Melanie's husband Doug, her parents Jim and Sherry Welsch and their other children exhibited a degree of faith and fortitude that was hard for me to fathom.  Looking back now, I realize that they were being spiritually lifted up in this most difficult of times by the chorus of prayers being offered for them by rapidly increasing numbers of Catholic faithful throughout the country.

Something that really stood out to me was Melanie's father Jim's reply when I asked him how he was doing. This was after Melanie's third heart attack and her life was ebbing away. He replied that he loved his daughter, he was praying for her recovery but the most important thing was that if God was calling Melanie to heaven then he would accept God's will.  To me it was a supernatural manifestation of faith, one that God just could not ignore.

Every hour, against all odds, Melanie continued her fight for life. The fact that she survived the second surgery this Thursday night stunned and amazed a hospital nurse who was in the operating room when Melanie was being operated on.  When this nurse returned to work Friday morning, she exclaimed to Melanie's family that Melanie was a "walking miracle."

When we returned to the hospital Friday morning, we were astounded to see Melanie awake, talking and pushing a walker around and determined to get out of the hospital and taking care of her family. Many who witnessed Melanie's amazing recovery were starting to realize that God had certainly answered the prayers of His faithful. 

It is above my spiritual station in life to discern whether Melanie's recovery is a miracle or not. What I do know is that she has survived against overwhelming odds and that the coming together of such a large and diverse community to pray for her healing is an amazing thing to behold. 

Interestingly enough, the cause of Pope John Paul II's canonization has apparently been delayed since Sister Marie Simon-Pierre's previously thought miraculous recovery from Parkinson's disease may have been premature with the recurrence of Sister Marie's medical condition.  If this is true and the postulators for John Paul II's cause are one miracle short they may need to look no further than what just happened to Melanie Pritchard here in Phoenix.  If a faithful pro-life Catholic mother, wife and leader like Melanie Pritchard could advance the canonization of her spiritual mentor Pope John Paul II, it would be fitting indeed.

Please continue to pray for the continued healing of Melanie and prayerfully consider supporting her work at the Foundation For Life And Love.

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