With quiet confidence Sydney Khoury climbs each step of a metal ladder as she attempts to place flowers atop a statue of Blessed Mother at St. Philip Church in the United States.
It’s a bit of a reach for Sydney, but with determination, the nine-year-old extends her arms, carefully placing her tribute atop the head of Mother Mary.
A short distance away, Bishop Thomas J. Tobin of Providence, Rhode Island watches admiringly as the St. Philip School second-grader successfully overcomes yet another obstacle in her young life.
Three years ago, Bishop Tobin also witnessed Sydney overcome one her greatest challenges.
At that time, as she lay in the Intensive Care Unit of Hasbro Children’s Hospital with her life hanging in the balance, the bishop prayed over her with a relic of Mother Teresa.
Sydney’s parents say the prayerful intervention yielded results nothing short of miraculous.
In November 2007, Sydney was diagnosed with a Stage 3 malignant tumor on her kidney.
Two days later, doctors removed her kidney and started chemotherapy and radiation. The overall success rate of the treatment was only 42 percent they were told.
For nearly three months, her condition was stable. Then, a robust round of chemotherapy quickly took its toll on her.
“She started five days of chemo. It hit her so hard,” recalls her mother, Michele.
Sydney went into what is known as a neutropenic state, as her white blood cell count dropped to zero, severely limiting her body’s ability to fight off infections.
“She was home for three days; on the fourth, she caught a fever,” Michele said.
Sydney was immediately brought into the hospital where she spent nearly all of February 2008 in the Intensive Care Unit.
She was intubated twice to maintain an open airway, and also became paralyzed for 12 hours during that time.
On Feb. 20, Michele and Ken Khoury received news that no parent ever wants to hear.
“They couldn’t tell me if she’d make it,” Michele said. “The doctor said, ‘I can’t guarantee anything over the next 48 hours’.”
Two days later, Sydney received the sacrament of the anointing of the sick from Father Peter J. Sheahan, the assistant pastor at St. Philip Church.
On Feb. 27, with Sydney’s condition not improving, doctors performed a lung biopsy.
“Her lungs were just collapsing,” her mother recalls.
The next day, with doctors about to have a discussion with the family about their wish to fit Sydney with a tracheal tube to help her breathing, Bishop Tobin visited Sydney.
As he prayed over her, he held in his hand a relic of Blessed Mother Teresa.
What happened next was remarkable.
Both of Sydney’s parents and Bishop Tobin witnessed the young girl’s body convulse during the prayers for her recovery.
“Very quickly after that, she got well,” Michele said of her daughter’s health. “He did the blessing and she didn’t need the tracheotomy.”
While he is cautious about attributing Sydney’s recovery solely to divine intervention, Bishop Tobin says the day he visited her in the hospital was a powerful day indeed.
“I always tend to be skeptical of these divine interventions, but it is very clear to me that something very special happened that day,” Bishop Tobin said.
“When she was blessed with the relic, her body reacted and she opened her eyes,” the bishop recalls.
In order to ensure any possible recurrence of cancer is treated immediately, Sydney must undergo an MRI every three months. Her most recent test showed that she is still in remission.
“Her spirits are great,” Sydney’s dad, Ken, said of his daughter.