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May 27, 2023 1892 Colum Mc Nabb, Ireland
Encounter

On the Wings of a Miracle

Born with non-verbal autism and diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa, a condition in which sight is gradually lost, he felt trapped in a silent prison of despair. Not able to communicate and hardly able to see…what would Colum’s life be? But God had other plans for him…

My name is Colum, but in all my 24 years, I have never spoken my own name because I have been non-verbal since birth. As a child, I was assessed and identified with moderate autism and a severe learning disability. My life was very boring. My parents fought for my right to an education, setting up a school with other parents of autistic children and battling for funding to continue it. But because I couldn’t communicate, they didn’t know what my brain was capable of, and I found the material dull. People thought I was happier at home watching DVDs. I did not even go on holiday after I turned 8. I did not believe that I would ever break free of my silent prison of hopelessness and despair.

Watching Others Live

I always felt that Jesus was close to me. From my earliest days, He became my closest friend and remains so, to this day. In my darkest moments, He was there to give me hope and comfort. It was very trying to have everyone treat me like a baby when I was intelligent inside. My life felt unbearable. I seemed to be living a half-life as an onlooker, watching others living life while I was excluded. How often I wished I could take part and show my true ability.

By the time I was 13, my eyesight was failing, so I was taken to Temple Street Children’s Hospital for an eye test called an electroretinogram(ERG). God had given me another challenge. I was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP), a condition where the cells of the retina at the back of the eye die off and are not replaced, so the sight is gradually lost. There is no medical cure to fix this. I was devastated. It was such an awful blow to me, and I felt overwhelmed by sadness. For a while, my vision stabilized, giving me hope that I would retain some sight, but as I got older, my sight got worse and worse. I became so blind that I couldn’t tell the difference between different colors anymore. My future looked black. I couldn’t communicate, and now I could hardly see.

My life continued in grey despair with even less inclusion and interaction. My mother now believed that I would have to be institutionalized when I got older. I felt like I was teetering on the edge of insanity. Only God stood between me and madness. The love of Jesus was the only thing keeping me sane. My family knew nothing of my struggle because I couldn’t communicate with them, but in my heart, I felt Jesus telling me that I would be healed in time.

Whirling Inside

In April 2014, something amazing happened. My Mum took me to my first RPM (Rapid Prompt Method) workshop. I could hardly believe it. I finally met someone who believed in me, who believed that I could communicate, and who would help me put the hard work into learning how to. Can you imagine my delight? For an instant, my heart began to hope—hope, not fear, that the real me might emerge. Help had finally arrived. Joy whirled inside me at the thought that someone finally saw my potential. So began my life-changing journey into communication.

It was very hard work at first, taking weeks of practice to gain the motor memory to be able to spell accurately. It was worth every minute. Feelings of freedom began to grow as I found my voice at last. As God started this new chapter in my story, it felt like my life had finally begun. At last, I could tell my family about how I was feeling, and I felt so grateful to God.

Lashing & Biting

Jumping forward to May 2017. My granny told us she had a very vivid dream a few years ago about Pope John Paul II. In the dream, she was asking him to pray for her grandchildren, and it was so powerful that she wrote it down. She had forgotten about it until she came across the copybook, and it inspired her to start a novena to Pope Saint John Paul II for my siblings and me. She asked a group of people to pray the novena with us beginning on Monday, 22nd May. On Tuesday, the 23rd, at about 9 am, I was watching a DVD in my room off the kitchen. Dad had gone to work, and Mum was in the kitchen cleaning.

Suddenly, our dog, Bailey, started barking at the door of my room. She had never done anything like that before, so Mum knew something was wrong. She rushed in and found me in the throes of a fit. It was very frightening for her. I was lashing about and had bitten my tongue so there was blood on my face. In her distress, Mum got a sense of someone saying, “Just trust. Sometimes things get worse before they get better”. She called Dad, who promised to come home. He asked her to take a video of me which was very useful when we got to the hospital. When I stopped jerking, I was in a stupor for over two minutes. I had lost consciousness during this ordeal, and I don’t remember anything about it, but Mum had been praying for me and watching over me to keep me safe.

A Moment of Illumination

When I finally came to and staggered to my feet, I was very unsteady. Mum and Dad helped me into the car for the drive to the hospital (UCHG). At the hospital, the doctors examined me and admitted me to the hospital for further investigation. The porter came with the wheelchair to move me to the Acute Medical Ward. While I was being wheeled along the corridor, I suddenly got a very dramatic improvement in my eyesight.

How can I describe my feelings at that moment? I felt mesmerized by the beauty of the sights around me. Everything looked so different and so clear. It was amazing! It is impossible to explain how I felt in that moment of illumination. I can’t express the degree of my wonder at returning to a world of color and shape. It was the best moment of my life so far!

When Mum asked me if I had something to say, I spelled out, “My eyes are better.” Mum was astounded. She asked if I could see a sticker on a machine outside my cubicle. I said, “Yes.” She asked if I could see what was written on the top of the sticker. I spelled out, “I am clean.” She was so astonished that she didn’t know what to think or how to react. I didn’t know how to feel at this moment myself!

When Dad and my aunt came in, Mum told them what had happened. Dad said, “We will have to test this.” He went to the curtain at the end of my bed and held up a small bag of dairy-free chocolate buttons. I spelled out what was written on the bag. Then it was rapid fire for a while as he gave me lots of words to spell in the next few minutes. I got all the words right. My aunt and parents were amazed.

How was this possible? How could a blind man write all the words correctly? It was medically impossible. No amount of medical treatment can help with Retinitis Pigmentosa. There is no cure in medical science. It had to be God miraculously healing me through the intercession of Saint John Paul II. It cannot be explained any other way. I’m so grateful to God for restoring my sight. It is an act of true Divine Mercy. I am now able to use a keyboard for independent communication with speech, which is much faster.

My Praying Mom

Let me tell you about how I kept the faith. I had many times of doubts when I felt hopeless. It was only Jesus who kept me sane. I got my faith from my mother. Her faith is very strong. She inspired me to keep going when times were tough. Now I know our prayers are answered. It took me a while to get used to having my eyesight back. My brain/body disconnect was so great, and my brain was not wired to use vision in a functional way. It was fine for scanning, but it was difficult to get my brain to use information from my vision. For instance, although I could see, I still found it hard to identify what I was looking for. I got frustrated sometimes when I stumbled because I didn’t see where I was going even though I had a vision.

In September, I went back to the hospital for testing. I got a 20:20 score for my sight and color vision, so my vision is normal now. However, the retinal photograph still shows degeneration. It hasn’t improved. According to medical science, it is impossible for me to see clearly. I should still be stuck in a murky, grey world. But God, in His mercy, has released me from that dull prison and plunged me into a beautiful world of color and light. The doctors are baffled. They are still baffled, but I rejoice because I can still see.

Now, I can do many things much better than before. I can tell Mum things much faster now that I can use the laminated alphabet sheet. It is so much quicker than the stencil. I am so grateful to my talented Mum for persisting with my education despite the difficulties and for praying so faithfully for my healing.

In the Gospels, we hear about Jesus restoring the sight of many blind people, just as he had restored mine. In these modern times, many people have forgotten about miracles. They scoff and think that science has all the answers. God is left out of their considerations. When a miracle like my healing occurs, He is revealing that He is still very much alive and powerful. I hope that my story of healing will inspire you to open your heart to the God who loves you so much. The Father of Mercy awaits your response.

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Colum Mc Nabb

Colum Mc Nabb is a young aspiring writer. Diagnosed with moderate autism and severe learning disability, he is non-verbal. Yet his deep spirituality is evident as he transpires now that it was Jesus who kept him sane in those years of silence. Column lives with his family in Galway, Ireland.

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