A married father of three from the Diocese of Lansing claims that Blessed Solanus Casey, the humble Capuchin friar and priest, visited him twice in hospital and hastened what he believes to be a miraculous recovery from COVID-19.
The 52-year-old construction worker, Nolan Ostrowski, a parishioner at Saint Peter Catholic Church in Eaton Rapids, Michigan, shared his story with the diocese in an interview Nov. 1.
When his COVID-19 symptoms worsened, Ostrowski was admitted to Sparrow Hospital in Lansing on July 25.
“And then, one night, I was sitting there and I woke up and I felt like there was a lot of darkness around me, a lot of despair over me, and I noticed there was somebody sitting at the side of my headboard and I couldn't turn to see who it was — all I could see were their legs, and his brown robe,” said Ostrowski, adding that initially he thought it might be his guardian angel.
That apparent visitation occurred on July 30, the Feast of Blessed Solanus Casey. The following night, July 31, the same figure in brown robes appeared again in Ostrowski’s hospital room, although, this time, the figure was sitting at the foot of his bed with his hands on his thighs.
“He sat there and that's when I realized that this isn't just my guardian. This is a saint. This is someone special,” Ostrowski recalled. Ostrowski began to pray and “plead for my life,” he said, telling the figure that he didn’t want his children raised without him.
“There was no response from him. It was like I was talking to a statue. Nothing. And then I said, ‘Well, if you save me, I'll never use God's name in vain again.’ And he jumped up like he won the Lotto. I mean, it was kind of startling. And he ran around the side of my bed. And when he ran, it was like a skipping, floating motion,” Ostrowski said.
“And he reached out and he touched my rib cage under my arm and then at the bottom of my rib cage. I remember kind of lifting my arm a little bit, but it was all very quick. And then he just stepped back a couple steps, and I felt like there was this ease that came over me and I felt very relaxed and comfortable. I knew I was saved.”
The following day, Ostrowski’s wife Kathleen showed him a photograph of Blessed Solanus. Ostrowski instantly recognized him as the figure who had twice visited him and laid hands upon his rib cage.
Father Solanus Casey was a Capuchin priest who was based for much of his life at Saint Bonaventure Monastery in Detroit. He was known during his lifetime as a wonderworker, for his great faith, and for his abilities as a spiritual counselor, but especially for his great attention to the sick. He was beatified at a ceremony held at Ford Field in Detroit in 2017.
The Ostrowski family and their friends had been praying to Blessed Solanus in the days prior to the events of July 30-31, although Ostrowski said he “didn't really know what he was about or what he had done.”
On Aug. 3, Ostrowski’s condition deteriorated and he was placed on a ventilator and into an induced coma. Two days later, he was airlifted to Lutheran Hospital in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where he was placed on an Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) machine, which operates an artificial lung for patients with severe respiratory issues.
“I knew once he was there, even though it was a roller coaster while he was there, that he was there to get better, that that's where God sent him to heal,” Kathleen Ostrowski said.
As it happens, the hospital in Fort Wayne is situated only 20 miles away from the former Saint Felix Friary in Huntington, where Blessed Solanus spent most of the last 10 years of his life in retirement. After a month, Ostrowski was able to walk again with the help of the ECMO machine.
“And the other doctors in the ICU, they said it was a miracle and they couldn't believe how well I was doing. They took me off the ventilator. I was able to breathe on my own, non-stop. They didn't have to put me back on it [during the day]. And they said that never happens,” Nolan Ostrowski said.
“I still sometimes struggle with a lack of breath, but for the most part, and it's only been a couple months since I've been off that ECMO machine, I am doing very well — and I think it's because of the intervention that occurred to me.”
On Oct. 1, Ostrowski returned home to his family in Eaton Rapids. Since then the family has made a pilgrimage of thanksgiving to the tomb of Blessed Solanus Casey in Detroit.
They have also written to those responsible for promoting Blessed Solanus’ cause of canonization. It is a cause that requires one more attributable miracle in order for “Blessed Solanus” to be declared as “Saint Solanus” by the Vatican.
“Well, I feel like it's gonna happen regardless. If my part in it is to make it happen, it would be great,” said Ostrowski. Added his wife Kathleen, “It would be great but I also feel that Solanus will keep doing what he's doing, and he's obviously not done, so if Nolan’s miracle is it that would be great — but it'll happen.”
Recently, the Ostrowski family heard back from the promoters of Blessed Solanus' cause to thank them for sharing their story, but explaining that after consulting with their advisory physicians they won’t be pursuing Ostrowski’s recovery as an official miracle, due to the fact that there may be some medical explanation for his recovery.
Even so, the Ostrowskis feel blessed by what happened to them, and they're happy that their story will be kept on file as part of the canonization process.