Unsolved Mysteries Wiki

Real Name: Charles "Chucky" McGivern
Case: Medical Miracle
Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Date: December 1982

Young st

Young St. John Neumann


Details: Chucky McGivern of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, miraculously survived a life-threatening illness as a child. He and his family believe that a saint helped save him. When he became ill, they never imagined that they would be chosen to receive such a gift. Their remarkable story began during Christmas 1982, the day Chucky, then seven, came home early from school with a case of chicken pox.
Three days later, on Saturday, Chucky's brother frantically called their parents, Chuck and Nancy, upstairs. Chucky had taken a sudden, terrifying turn for the worse. Nancy noticed that he was ice cold. He had lost consciousness and slipped into a coma. He was immediately rushed to Rolling Hill Hospital and then to Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. His brain was dangerously swollen. Chuck and Nancy waited for an hour while doctors stabilized his condition.
Nancy says the doctor warned her when she went into Chucky's room. He said, "When you see him, he's going to look like he's dead." She said his skin was hard, cold, and pure white. He had a bolt in his skull, inserted to relieve pressure on his brain. He had tubes in his liver and kidneys, up his nose, and down his throat. Many of his organs were hooked up to various machines. One monitored his heartbeat. She was shocked to see him in this condition.
Chucky's diagnosis was grim. He had Reye's syndrome, a rare disease of the nervous system, brain, and liver that is virtually unique to children and often fatal. Doctors and nurses did whatever they could to stop it from advancing. That night, his doctor met with Chuck and Nancy. They were told that he was very ill and that the disease was very advanced. Chuck asked if he was going to be all right. The doctor said he was not sure.
Nancy asked what Chucky's chances were of surviving. The doctor said they were not promising. He said that even if Chucky did recover, in severe cases of Reye's syndrome, there is a possibility of brain damage. He said if Chucky survived, it was possible that he would never be able to take care of himself again.
Despite the bleak prognosis, Chuck and Nancy refused to give up hope. The fact that there was a chance that Chucky could survive was enough for Chuck. He had faith that Chucky would pull through. Nancy was different; she wanted a miracle, but she felt that those were only for people who were "chosen", and she did not feel chosen. She felt the only way to save Chucky was through prayer.
Chuck and Nancy moved into the hospital to be closer to Chucky. They were soon joined in the vigil by other relatives, who brought religious medals for comfort and healing. Nancy's cousin, Jerry, gave her a particularly unique ornament – a relic from the robe of St. John Neumann, the patron saint of vocations. He told her that he had it in his pocket when he was in a car crash in Italy. He was certain that it saved his life. He hoped that it would help Chucky as well.
Neumann came to the United States from Bohemia in 1836, because there was an overabundance of priests there. He worked in several churches throughout the northeast. He was known as a simple, tireless priest who would ultimately become the fourth bishop of Philadelphia. His diocese stretched all the way to Pittsburgh, and he would travel there often, sometimes on foot. He helped create the modern day Catholic school curriculum and wrote the book, "Baltimore Catechism".
In 1860, Neumann died of a stroke and was buried at St. Peter's Church. Almost immediately, people began praying to him for favors and blessings. During the 1890s, Philadelphia was struck by typhoid and cholera epidemics. Although thousands died, everyone at St. Peter's was spared. In 1923, a young girl was cured of peritonitis when a picture of Neumann was placed on her abdomen.
Before long, a number of miracles had been attributed to Neumann. In 1949, a teenager ended up in a coma after he was seriously injured in a car accident. His parents prayed to Neumann and were given a relic of his. Shortly after they placed it on their son's body, he recovered. In 1977, Neumann was canonized and declared the first American male saint.
Grasping at anything that could offer hope, Nancy pinned the relics and medals to Chucky's pillow. Since Reye's syndrome is a buildup of pressure on the brain, she decided to put them next to his head. They made her feel stronger and gave her and her family more hope. The McGiverns had never been especially religious. In fact, they had not been to church in years. But now they found themselves turning to God, praying that Chucky would not die. Chuck saif he has never prayed that hard in his life before. He wanted to do anything to help Chucky.
Despite the prayers of his family and the efforts of his doctors, Chucky's condition continued to deteriorate. On Sunday, the day after he was admitted to the hospital, his lungs collapsed. His kidneys stopped working. He began to suffer from pneumonia. That night, while Nancy was alone in his room, two nurses walked in. They apparently did not notice she was there; one of them said to the other, "He's not going to make it."
Chuck and Nancy could only wait and hope. Little did they know that over the next forty-eight hours, something truly remarkable was going to occur. When Nancy went to visit Chucky, she noticed that the St. John Neumann medal was turned face down on his pillow. In order to turn it back around, she had to unpin it, take off the other medals, turn it back around, put it back onto the pin, and put the other medals back on again in order for it to be face up.
The next time Nancy came back, the medal was face down again, as if somebody had come in and switched it around. It happened at least four times. She thought she was going crazy. She asked the nurses and other relatives; all denied touching it. That evening, another intriguing mystery – someone taped a picture of Neumann in Chucky's room. It was put up with masking tape, crooked, and close to the ground, as if a child had placed it there. Nancy asked around, but no one knew where it had come from or who had put it there.
On Monday morning, Chuck had an odd encounter in the waiting room. At around 11am, while he was watching TV, he noticed a young boy in the doorway. He looked "poor", was about eleven or twelve, wore a shabby plaid jacket, had rumpled hair, and wore black-rimmed glasses. He looked around at everyone in the room. Chuck figured that he had come with his parents, who would come in soon after. He wondered why the boy was alone. He looked around again, smiled at Chuck, and then left.
On Tuesday morning, Nancy discovered that another relic of Neumann's, a piece of cloth from his robe, had vanished from the room. Despite a search, it was not found. Later that day, a nurse told Chuck about an "incident" that happened in Chucky's room. A boy had come to visit him. He said to Chucky's doctor, "I came to see Chucky." The doctor asked him how he got in there, as they were in an isolation ward with security. He said, "I only wanted to see Chucky," and then backed out of the room.
The doctor told the boy to come back. When the doctor went out into the hallway, no one else was there. Security was called, and the hospital was searched. The boy was nowhere to be found. Based on his description, he appeared to be the same one that Chuck had seen in the waiting room.
Later that day, Chucky received another unexpected visitor – Father Robert Roncase of St. Martin's Church. He had heard about Chucky's plight and felt compelled to administer his "last rites." He said that something inside him told him that Chucky needed to receive Anointing of the Sick and that it was an overwhelming feeling that he had to go down and do this for Chucky. Right after he had that feeling, he left and went to the hospital.
Father Roncase remembers that while he was anointing Chucky, he could feel that something was happening. He could feel the overwhelming presence of the Holy Spirit. He could feel that Chucky was, in some way, receiving grace and strength from God. Less than an hour later, the unimaginable happened. Chucky began to move his fingers. Then, his hand reached up and touched the bolt in his head. Within hours, he was taken off life support, sitting up in bed, and answering questions. To Chuck and Nancy, a miracle had come to pass.
Chuck said it was a great feeling to go from thinking that Chucky might die to having him pull through. He and Nancy started calling their family and friends to let them know that Chucky was getting better. He said it was unbelievable how fast Chucky got better.
Chucky began telling Chuck and Nancy about a bizarre dream he had while unconscious. Incredibly, he described the same boy that his doctor and Chuck had seen in the hospital. He remembers when he woke up, he was sort of confused because he did not know if that was all a dream or if it actually happened. In his dream, he remembered seeing several Asian children surrounding his hospital bed and giving him presents. Chuck and Nancy were also there.
In Chucky's dream, there was one boy in particular that always stayed by his bedside. The older boy told him that everything was going to be all right. In his dream, the boy was his best friend. The boy was like a "strength" for him. Whenever he did not feel good in his dream, the boy was there to make sure everything was all right.
On Saturday, one week after he had lapsed into a coma and a week before Christmas, Chucky was released from the hospital. According to Nancy, the doctors told her that they had never had anyone so gravely ill recover so quickly. Three months later, Chucky, Chuck, and Nancy went back to the hospital for a check-up. The doctors said it was like he was never sick, as if nothing ever happened to him. There was no permanent damage whatsoever.
Two weeks after Chucky left the hospital, Chuck and Nancy took him to Neumann's shrine in Philadelphia. While there, he wandered off into the monastery, which had several pictures and other relics of Neumann's. When Chuck and Nancy found him, they noticed he was looking at one in particular. He told them that the child in it was his best friend in his dream. Chuck and Nancy were startled when they realized it was of Neumann when he was twelve.
Nancy believes that Neumann interceded for Chucky in some way. Chucky does not know why Neumann came to his aid. He said it is something he will never be able to explain. But he is certain that Neumann will always be there for him and will always be by his side.
Did the McGiverns actually experience a Christmas miracle? Or were they the recipients of incredible good luck? Perhaps it does not really matter. In this case, a rational explanation is hardly necessary.
Extra Notes:

  • This case first aired on the December 23, 1992 episode.
  • It was also documented on It's a Miracle.

Results: Unsolved