Complementary and alternative medicine Medicine Religion

Jesus is growing her a new leg! Or is he?

One of the best retorts to the claims of faith healers is the simple question: If faith healing works such miracles, why has there never been a documented case of faith healing regrowing an amputated limb? Now that would be truly miraculous. That would make even a curmudgeonly old skeptic like me sit up an take notice.

Now, a woman named Carole Miller McCleery-Greene is claiming just that; so I had to check it out.

When I came across this Carole’s site on a mailing list, I originally filed it away, thinking it would make a good installment of Your Friday Dose of Woo. Then I thought about it. YFDoW has evolved to be intended for wacky, fun sorts of woo. That’s why you’ll probably never see antivaccination lunacy or serious cancer quackery there. Yes, I’ve had a few misfires, where in retrospect I realize that the the subject of the week was probably too dangerous or serious for the light-hearted tone that I wanted to project, for example German New Medicine. Upon reading about the woman who claims Jesus is growing her a new leg after amputation, I concluded that the story just seemed too sad and the woman’s delusion too depressing to be used as fodder for my Friday follies. However, it does serve as a disturbing reminder of how fundamentalist religion can lead to serious delusion.

The website introduces Carole thusly:

Carole Miller McCleery-Greene has been going all over the world glorifying Jesus for bringing her back from the dead and giving her new life.

Her body that failed her has been made whole again. These are not merely statements but medically documented facts! Carole has given her testimony in meetings around the world, in a mighty demonstration of the Holy Spirit, with souls being saved, healed, and delivered by the Power of God.

Now here on the Healings and Miracles website, you can watch videos of some of these services and be touched by that same Power of God.

After the auto accident in 1981, Carole was pronounced dead twice, revived at the scene, Dead on Arrival at the hospital yet miraculously began speaking from under the cover at the morgue. God had other plans for Carole! Besides bringing her back to life, she has received many healings for incurable autoimmune diseases and twelve creative miracles including the re-growth of her amputated leg!

I’m sitting up, taking notice. I’m also wondering if Carole has the goods to back up this extraordinary claim. After all, we don’t generally see humans regenerating limbs. Some lizards can do it, of course, but not mammals. According to Carole’s story, this is what happened to her leg in 1981, after she was in a car crash, declared dead, placed in the morgue, and then found to be trying to talk:

The left side of my body was horribly mutilated. My left leg was split completely open from the ankle to the very top of my leg on the backside. Above the ankle and below the knee the flesh had been ripped away with only the bone showing. My left arm, wrist and hand had been cut severely. My thumb had almost been severed. The ribs were broken and my face and mouth were smashed. Within a short time, gangrene had set in and spread throughout my whole body, causing a very high fever…

The left leg died from the gangrene, so the doctors told my brother that they had to amputate the leg. It was dead flesh. They wanted to take it off above the femur bone that was broken and separated over two inches. I thank God everyday that my brother would only give permission for below the knee, less than two inches below the kneecap!

Believe it or not, after Carole recovered, she was in another automobile crash five years later, in 1986, suffering a severe neck injury. She also documents a number of other health problems, including a fall that damaged her rotator cuff, a defective heart valve with severe angina, and autoimmune diseases. (For someone so beloved by God, Carole sure does have a lot of bad luck and health problems.) In 1995, due to severe arthritis of her knee joint, from what I can gather from her account, her below-the-knee amputation (BKA) was revised higher. Why they didn’t convert it to an above-the-knee amputation (AKA), I’m not sure, but what was done was a “radical amputation” to just below the knee joint. However, if you examine the medical documentation Carole has posted to her website, the patient had developed a bone spur at the cut end of her tibia, and it was noted that her fibula had been left the same length as the tibia. The physician mentioned in his dictation that the patient already had a very short BKA stump, making fitting a prosthesis difficult. What was really ultimately done, as the report makes clear, was nothing more radical than trimming back the fibula and removing the bone spur on the end of her stump.

From what I can gather from Carole’s account of all her illnesses and “healings,” the growth of her new leg began a few years later:

I was invited to give my testimony at a Minister’s Conference in Clearwater, Florida. After praying for almost everyone there, the power of God was moving mightily when Rev. Tyson Prater came across the front of the church and said, “Carole may I pray for you?” God just spoke to me in an audible voice “Tell Carole her leg is growing.” I told him, “Certainly.” When Tyson touched my head, I received this word from God as I realized, He “spoke” the world into existence, He spoke my leg was growing which could not fail! As Abraham did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith he would become the father of many nations, I called my new created leg that was not as if it was by faith, and gave the glory to God! Romans 4:20…

Three weeks later, while talking to a friend on the phone, I looked down and saw my left knee come down level with the right knee. My hips came together! From the broken separated femur bones which had fused together, causing shortage to my left amputated leg, instantly a new femur bone was created and the broken, smashed femur vanished! The next day I went for x-rays. The doctor said, “It’s a beautiful healthy bone, but of course, you are so healthy!” Due to the artificial left leg having been made taller to help compensate for the shortage of the femur, the prosthetic was cut off at the ankle area, bringing me to walk level again.

The radical amputation surgery to my left knee in 1995 below the knee, had removed all the fibula and tibia bones leaving almost nothing to walk on. The doctors were amazed I could even keep an artificial leg on. I did sustain many bad falls as it would slip off, throwing me down.

After the completion of the new femur, for several weeks masses of new bone began to form around and under the knee. Then growth started down and around with shaping on both sides. The new growth to the knee area made wearing the prosthesis very painful.

This page shows several X-rays and MRIs of Carole’s stump, supposedly documenting this regrowth, which, as of 2002, Carole claims to include the regrowth of the quadriceps, anterior tibialis, and gastrocnemius muscles, although there is no documentation of this specific point in any of the reports. In fact, I notice that the X-rays and MRIs are shown, but no radiology reports accompany them to back up Carole’s claims and no direct statements from doctors, just Carole’s account that the doctors described her progress as a “miracle.” If you scroll down the page to the MRI from December 13, 2006 and compare it to the MRI from July 25, 2002 and the X-rays from 1995, you’ll see that there really is no significant “regrowth.” True, there does appear to be some remodeling of soft tissue and bone, but that’s to be expected after her operation in 1995. In fact, even if you believe that there’s been some bone lengthening, the amount of lengthening observed over six years looks trivial on her imaging studies. Even if her leg truly were regenerating, at the rate documented on her website, I can safely (and sadly) conclude that Carole will almost certainly die of old age before she regrows enough bone to mean anything.

Let me ask you something: If you were a doctor, had a patient with a limb that was regenerating 20 years after it had been amputated because of trauma, and had compelling, unequivocal evidence to prove it, what would you do? I know what I’d do. I’d submit a case report to the New England Journal of Medicine! That’s what I’d do. If I had the goods that proved it beyond a shadow of a doubt, Carole would be world-famous, and so would I!

In the end, although I’m sure it’s comforting to Carole that she feels so loved by Jesus, she is deluding herself if she thinks that Jesus is growing her a new leg, which is one reason that I considered her story too depressing for an installment of YFDoW. However, I have to wonder why she thinks she is so blessed. She’s had a hard life, with a veritable panoply of injuries and illnesses, including two auto collisions, one of which claimed her leg, a heart valve disorder causing her angina, a serious injury to her rotator cuff, serious difficult swallowing due to scleroderma, and a variety of other health problems of hers and in her family. If Jesus was responsible for her improvement after each of these illnesses, why is it that He doesn’t get the blame for inflicting these injuries and illnesses on her in the first place?

Whatever the reason, even after seeing Carole’s story, I conclude that the question still stands: If faith healing can work such miracles, why can’t it regrow an amputated limb? Carole may think she is “kicking Satan in the teeth with her new leg,” but there’s no evidence that there’s any new leg to begin with, much less one long enough and strong enough to knock out Satan’s teeth.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

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