The girls had been burning trash to help raise money for a Sabbath school project. But now something had gone terribly wrong.
“Run!” Beth screamed desperately. Finally Jan started to run, but then began staggering. A neighbor, Judy, dashed out of her house to investigate the commotion. By the time Jan reached the woman, her legs were covered with blood.
Benghazi, Libya, was just one of the places where World War II battles had been fought. There were still many pillboxes* standing. Ammunition also still lay in various places. Was it possible that some live ammunition had accidently gotten mixed in with the trash the girls were burning?
Yes, that must be it! thought Judy, a nurse who happened to be at home this day with her baby.
At first glance it looked as if only Jan’s legs were hurt. But then she gasped, “I’m dying! It’s my heart!” With that she collapsed in a heap on the ground.
Judy immediately dropped to the ground beside Jan and began mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
Beth quickly gathered her wits and started running toward Jan’s house, which was about a quarter of a mile away. Jan’s mother, Mrs. Fahrbach, answered the door to find Beth visibly shaken. Nearly breathless, she began relaying her frightening story as tears ran down her face.
“Oh, Mrs. Fahrbach, there’s been—something blew up! Jan’s legs are bleeding, and she’s fainted!” Mrs.
Fahrbach hurried to the scene. When she arrived, Judy was still working on Jan. Blood flowed out of huge wounds in the girl’s legs. Her face was ashen.
Mrs. Fahrbach shouted desperately, “We need a doctor—quickly!”
“Wouldn’t it be better to take her to a hospital now?” Cleo, the business manager at the nearby Adventist hospital, had suddenly arrived on the scene. Where had he come from? No one bothered to ask.
As gently yet as quickly as possible, Jan was lifted into the back of Cleo’s car. Judy continued giving the young patient mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. One of the adults suggested trying CPR.
“I can’t do that,” Judy responded. “Jan has been wounded in her chest.” Sure enough, right over Jan’s heart was a horrifying hole.
Everybody kept shouting at Jan. “Please breathe!” She managed a couple of shaky breaths during the ride to the hospital, which was about a half mile away.
At the hospital Jan was rushed into the emergency room. Doctors and nurses bustled around the little girl, working quickly as they tried to save her life. Many Libyan workers lined the hall, praying earnestly to Allah.
By now Jan’s veins had collapsed and her blood circulation was gone. Her face turned blue, and the skin across her chest began to discolor.
Jan’s father was a doctor at the same hospital. Dr. Fahrbach, who had just finished a surgery,
sent a woman to see what the commotion was about. She quickly returned with tears in her eyes.
“Come quickly! It’s Jan! She’s not breathing!”
Dr. Fahrbach dashed down the hall and burst into the room. “What happened?” he cried out. Had she hit her head? Why wasn’t she breathing? He saw his wife sitting in a corner, singing her daughter’s favorite songs, but eye contact with her would make him break down. He had no time for that. Right now he could not even think about Jan as his own daughter. He rushed to where she lay and began performing CPR.
“Won’t that break her ribs?” someone asked. “And what about the hole above her heart?”
“She’s already not breathing!” Dr. Fahrbach responded. “It’s better to take this risk than to have no heartbeat at all!”
Suddenly, almost 30 minutes after Jan had been brought into the emergency room, everyone grew quiet. A breath! Jan had taken a breath! Would it be her last? One second passed. Two seconds. Three seconds. Agonizing silence. But then Jan took a second breath, then a third! Slowly her breathing grew more steady. She started moaning, and then she gave a piercing shriek. What sweet music to her parents’ ears!
Jan was settled into one of the hospital rooms, and the long night began. For 15 hours Jan remained in a deep coma. But every now and then she would yell at the top of her lungs. Her parents spent the night in prayer and deep thought beside their daughter’s bed.
In the morning Jan regained consciousness.
Later a nurse came into the room. “So how are you, Jan?”
Jan’s expectant face turned toward the nurse. “I’m fine! Can I go to Sabbath school?”
The nurse laughed, knowing just how difficult that would be, especially since it was Tuesday!
Jan soon traveled to Loma Linda, California, for surgery to close the hole in her heart. Ammunition had indeed been mixed up with the trash that the girls were burning. As Jan was starting the fire, the ammunition had exploded. One of the shells had pierced Jan’s heart.
Jan quickly recovered from the surgery and is alive and healthy. I’m reminded that miracles don’t happen just to strangers in Bible stories. They happen here, now, and today. Just look at Jan. To me, she’s a walking miracle.
*Small fortifications for machine guns and antitank weapons