Joe Anderson, 3, is most recent physical healing attributed to Blessed Mother's intercession
CHAMPION — Patti Nguyen said she wept for joy Dec. 8 when Bishop David Ricken declared the apparitions at the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help as worthy of belief. She was one of some 250 people attending the Mass.
"I was so delighted because it was so long overdue," she told The Compass. "I just knew all along it was sacred ground and that Mary had appeared there. I always believed that."
Her belief was only reaffirmed last November when her 3-year-old grandson, Joe Anderson, was miraculously cured of leukemia.
According to Nguyen, Joe was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia on July 20, 2010. "Jennie (Nguyen's daughter) came home from work one day and (discovered that) both of his legs were black and blue," she said. "She took him to the doctor right away and asked that he be tested for leukemia."
Patti Nguyen, right, and her daughter Jennie Anderson and grandchildren Joe and Krista, kneel before the statue of Mary in the crypt of the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help. Joe was diagnosed with acute melogenous leukemia last July. Two days after the family visited the shrine last November, praying for Joe's recovery, doctors at St. Vincent Hospital in Green Bay informed the family that Joe's leukemia had disappeared. (Sam Lucero | The Compass)
Joe was immediately admitted into St. Vincent Hospital, where he spent most of the next seven months being monitored and receiving chemotherapy.
"Towards the end of the summer, the doctors thought he might need a bone marrow transplant," said Nguyen. Tests were administered in Green Bay and the family drove to Milwaukee to meet with specialists to discuss possible procedures. "The doctor drew diagrams on a blackboard to tell us what would be done," she said. "It was a dangerous procedure."
According to Jennie Anderson, she and husband Kelsey agreed to have Joe undergo one more test, called a bone marrow aspiration. That test would determine "whether or not to move forward on a transplant," she said.
On Nov. 13, one day before Joe was to undergo the bone marrow aspiration, Nguyen decided it was time to make a trip to the shrine. "I said, 'Let's take Joe to Our Lady of Good Help.'"
Up until then, a visit to the shrine was impossible, said his mother, because Joe's immune system was compromised due to the chemotherapy.
Nguyen said her grandson has always displayed a belief in God.
"From when he was little he knew how to pray," she said. "When he prayed, his eyes looked like he was putting his heart into it. He'd walk around carrying a little cross and he slept with the little cross at night."
She noted that Joe was born on May 13, the anniversary of the first Marian apparition to three children in Fatima, Portugal, in 1917.
Nguyen drove to the shrine with her daughter Jennie, son-in-law Kelsey, and grandchildren Joe, Krista and Kayla. "Because it was near bedtime, we only said one decade of the rosary" in the crypt, she said. "We also went up to the main (chapel) altar and I showed Joe the statue of the Blessed Mother.
"Down in the crypt, Jennie said to Joe, 'Ask Jesus to help you get better,' and Joe said, 'Dear Jesus, please make me get better.' I know he had all of the faith he needed for that prayer.'"
The following day, Joe underwent tests at St. Vincent Hospital. The results came back the next day.
"Dr. Jon Brandt called Jennie with the results and said, 'There are no leukemic cells in this boy's body,'" said Nguyen. "Then we were all crying tears of joy. Every time we tell anybody this story I get goose bumps all over again."
"They were saying he had no leukemia left" in his body, added Anderson. "Basically he received his miracle."
Before leaving the hospital that day, Joe's mother noticed her son next to a statue of the Infant of Prague located on the hospital's 10th floor. "His mom asked him, 'What are you doing? And he said, 'I'm sitting by Jesus.' Then he smiled and he said. 'He healed me.'"
Nguyen said Joe left many people at St. Vincent Hospital astounded and happy. "There were a lot of people whose faith was strengthened through all of it, including all of us," she said.
Nguyen reports that Joe is "doing wonderfully well. His hair is starting to grow back a little." He completed his final chemotherapy session in early February.
"They continue with treatment even though they can't visually see cancer," said Anderson. "They just want to make sure they are getting all of it in the body.
"Joe's leukemia, the kind he had, was extremely aggressive," she added. "Typically it's found in like 65-year-old men or older. He was given a 50/50 percent chance of survival. ... We know that God healed him. We were totally confident that God would give Joe his miracle and that's what happened."