Episode 6: The Case of Marie Bailly and Alexis Carrel

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Episode 6: The Case of Marie Bailly and Alexis Carrel

This week I offer up another of the amazing 71 documented miracles of Lourdes, France involving the miraculous healing of Marie Bailly observed by Alexis Carrel, pioneer in the field of organ transplants, heart bypass surgery and other vascular surgeries and co-inventor of the heart pump.  Carrel won the Nobel Prize in 1912 for his work but it was the miracle of Marie Bailly that led him to faith in God. “Carrel died as a genuinely devout Catholic. His Catholic death is all the more significant because for most of his life Carrel was a resolute agnostic. Indeed, it took a special resolve to keep shoring up his agnosticism. The reason for this lies in a most unexpected event in Carrel’s life in 1902, the very year when he achieved international fame by solving the age-old medical problem of suturing ruptured blood vessels.  By then Carrel had been thinking about that problem for almost eight years. He was in his third year of medical school when medical science failed to save President Carnot of France, who died in 1894 after an assassin’s bullet severed one of his major arteries. Carrel began actual experimentation on the problem after he had been attached, in 1898, to the laboratory of J. L. Testut, a famed anatomist, at the University of Lyons. But ultimately, the year 1902 became crucial in Carrel’s life for another reason. On May 25 of that year Carrel yielded to the entreaties of a colleague who, at the last minute, could not accompany a “white train” carrying scores of sick from Lyons to Lourdes…[On that train] Carrel would find a 23 year-old woman, Marie Bailly, dying of tubercular peritonitis. Hers was a well-attested case in the medical circles of Lyons. In April 1902, doctors refused to operate on her lest they hasten her death. Because of her desperate condition, she had no hope to obtain a doctor’s permission to get on the train. But through the ruse of a nurse, she was spirited on board just a few seconds before the train departed from Lyons…During the night Carrel, fearing she would die aboard the train, gave her morphine injections… At 2 PM on May 28 [1902], when Marie Bailly was taken, against all medical advice, from the hospital to the grotto and the baths next to it, she was literally dying. After her hugely swollen abdomen, with hard lumps and hardly any liquid within it, had been washed three times with water from the baths, she began her spectacular recovery. By 4 PM her abdomen was flat; by the evening she was sitting up—chatting, eating and not vomiting at all, although she had hardly been able to retain any food for the previous five months.  On the next morning, May 29, she got dressed and, a day later, with no one’s help, she boarded the train back to Lyons, getting better and better on the 24-hour train ride. On arriving in Lyons, at noon on May 31, she walked through the station without leaning on anyone, took the streetcar to the home of her relatives who could not believe that it was Marie Bailly—and threw herself in their arms. [Bailly’s recovery was complete.  All infection disappeared though this was decades before the discovery of antibiotics.  All traces of tuberculosis disappeared from her lungs and all hard growths disappeared from her body without exudate or unusual body secretion.  Because Carrel came to proclaim her cure miraculous and beyond scientific explanation, he lost his position in Lyon, France and had to seek work elsewhere.  Ultimately, he was hired by Rockefeller University in America where he won his Nobel Prize.  Bailly went on to become a Sister of Charity and lived out a rigorous religious life over the next three decades.]  For his part, though Carrel was a stubborn agnostic, he eventually became Catholic in 1942 after witnessing a 2nd official medical miracle.  You might say that Carrel’s discovery of faith was yet another miracle as a result of God’s hand at work in the life of Marie Bailly. (EWTN)
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