Is heaven for real? A 10-year-old Gulf Coast boy lost one hundred percent of his skin after a one in a million reaction to a common antibiotic. During his four-month stay at Shriner’s Hospital in Galveston, TX, one day, in particular, changed the way he viewed his entire experience.
Thelonious Ziegelschmid-Sylvester’s parents rushed him to the hospital and within hours they learned he had an extreme case of Stevens-Johnson Syndrome called Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis. His experience with an angel, Jesus or God is different because of the clarity he had and the way the experience seemed to signify the end of his hardest days.
“After a while, I saw this man standing in the corner of the room in a white robe with a beard,” Thelonious said. “White skin, brown beard, brown hair. He smiled at me and it was like I was back in my body. I thought it was really strange but after that, it was just… kept getting better and better after that point.”
After asking if Thelonious believed he was visited by an angel or God, he answered, “That’s what I believe.”
In his darkest day, he saw a light. Something appeared in his room, seemingly sent from heaven.
“I just kept getting better from that point,” Thelonious said. “It wouldn’t go better and then worse, better then worse. It would just get better after that.”
Thelonious has trouble holding his head up because of muscle weakness and he’s sensitive to the light. SJS has left him legally blind. Scars on his legs serve as reminders he almost lost his life.
“It just kept getting worse and worse, literally right before our eyes you could see the blisters spreading,” said Tony Sylvester, Thelonious’ father. “You could look at him… It was like growing, it was growing. You could look at him and then look back again and it had moved. There was more and more and more.”
It took four months for Thelonious to recover and come back to the Gulf Coast. When I first learned his remarkable story, it got me thinking.
After understanding all I could about Stevens-Johnson Syndrome, I wanted to speak with an expert so I could better understand the experience Thelonious described when he almost watched himself die.
“It’s an empirical evidence that reaffirms what we’ve always believed in faith about being human,” said Fr. Christopher Viscardi, priest and professor of Theology at Springhill College. “There’s a deep spiritual dimension and we live not by bread alone that we also had this spiritual dimension in that we are made for the presence of God and God’s presence sometimes enters into our awareness in surprising ways.”
It’s not the first experience described to Fr. Viscardi. I asked if he truly believed this young man was visited by Christ.
“Who knows?” he began. “God is not just another little UFO. God is present in all things at all times. I truly believe God is with me right now, God is in the universe. God gives life, so there’s nothing different about this. I think people need something special to say this is God, well God is everywhere all the time.”
Thelonious’ parents now want to spread the word about Stevens-Johnson Syndrome because it can happen and it is devastating. They hope, much like the teachings of Christ, by spreading the word, more people will believe in healing powers and seek out a way to fight this evil.
For more on Thelonious’ journey, click here.
To donate to his GoFundMe, click here.