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‘WE COULDN’T BEAR TO LOSE THE LITTLE BOY’

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Bishop Manuel Sanchez of the Oxnard (Spanish) 5th Ward was returning from a family home evening activity in July 1988, when he was notified that a Primary boy in the ward had been run over by a car. The boy, Mario Espinoza, 6, was in critical condition at the hospital.

"I became very apprehensive that we might lose this little boy," said Bishop Sanchez. "I called my counselor, Greg Swallow, and we went to the hospital and administered to him."The doctors there said there was nothing that could be done for Mario, except perhaps to transfer him to a larger hospital. He had a slim chance of living and they predicted that if he did live, he would be severely impaired because of his extensive brain damage. The neurologists told us he had severe head injuries - a cracked skull, damaged ribs and extensive trauma to the rest of his body.

"I could not resign myself to Mario's dying. We loved the little boy."

Mario was taken to the larger Ventura County General Hospital, and Bishop Sanchez and his counselor spent most of the night there, waiting. Doctors suggested Mario might be taken to another hospital in Van Nuys because they felt they could do nothing for him.

"At that moment, I felt a strong inspiration," said Bishop Sanchez. "I walked to where Mario was. Although he was unconscious and in a coma, the expression on his face seemed to say to me, `Is there anything else you can do?' "

Normally, one blessing is recommended, but "at that moment, I felt impressed that we needed to give him another blessing. I ran out to tell Brother Swallow to come in. He looked startled, but I told him, `Come on. We need to bless him again.'

"I remember clearly that there had been a lot of noise in the area where he was. It was the trauma section containing many people who were badly hurt. But as we began to bless him, I felt impressed to bless him to live. You could have heard a pin fall. The doctors, the nurses, everybody. There was complete quiet.

"After the blessing, Mario was transferred by helicopter to the hospital in Van Nuys. I felt strongly that he would not die, although the doctors said he would."

The next day, Mario began moving muscles and reacting to stimuli.

"The doctor said, `I just don't know. This boy came in yesterday. He should not even be here now, or be as a vegetable.' "

In a few days, Mario began walking, and he continued his progress until he completely recovered.

"Mario amazed science, all the neurologists and surgeons," said Bishop Sanchez. "He was the miracle of the floor. All the nurses wanted to see him. How could it have happened that Mario, who was in such critical condition, could have made such a remarkable recovery?"

In June, Bishop Sanchez had another rewarding experience with Mario when he interviewed the boy for baptism.

"It was a very pleasant experience," said Bishop Sanchez. "That boy is really special. Ever since the day of the accident, his attitude has changed. He is so heavenly."