Gara Hopkins




August 2012 Reported in [Spirit]. The family and friends of a non-Catholic Maryland girl who has what they believe is stigmata have sought help from the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. after the seven-year-old was reportedly taken into custody by the Prince Georges County Department of Social Services.

According to her family, the girl, Gara Hopkins, 7, of District Heights, was rushed to Children's National Medical Center in Washington by her mother on August 3 after the child began mysteriously bleeding from her eyes. At the hospital, the blood began to appear on the top of her feet and the palms of her hands. "She said, 'High-five me, mommy,' and when I looked at her hands, it was all blood," said her mother Garrena. "The nurses would wash it off -- there was no cut or bruise -- and the blood would just appear again. The doctors didn't say anything. They just kept taking pictures. The nurses were using their iPhones. One said, 'What y'all need is a priest.'"

"They had taken her to the doctor and he couldn't find anything," said the friend, Barbara J. Gadson, a registered psychiatric nurse at Washington Adventist Hospital in Tacoma, Maryland, who often baby-sits the second-grader. "Three weeks ago, she had tears of blood and the blood on her feet and hands. We were there at the hospital. We're not Catholic -- we're evangelical -- but we knew it was stigmata. I'm a registered nurse. I understood. But the doctors, they don't believe in the supernatural."

An unusual medical condition, or a supernatural component? And if supernatural, from what source?

She has also bled from her ears, nose, and other parts.

While such a flow of blood would seem to indicate a medical circumstance, the reported appearance of it away from any orifice, such as the palms of her hands, is perhaps more baffling. Gadson claims that blood tests have been unusual, showing no red-blood cells. She also says that despite considerable bleeding, the girl has shown no loss of blood volume. Attempts to reach medical personnel have not yet yielded information. A supervisor at the county department, Thomas Weimer, refused comment.

If it is an authentic case of stigmata, it is an extraordinary one. Thus far, the archdiocese, while confirming to Spirit Daily that it is aware of the case, has not yet commented. It was first handled by the archdiocese's Secretary for Pastoral Ministry and Social Concerns and is now in the hands of the archdiocese's public information office, according to a source there.

The archdiocese has not formally investigated nor in any way verified the phenomenon.

According to Garena, the hospital had originally enjoined Washington, D.C. social services personnel, and when no evidence of abuse was found, referred the case to Prince Georges in Maryland, which decided to hold the girl pending further study. Neither the Prince Georges sheriff's department nor social services has yet returned phone calls from Spirit Daily. The chaplain's office at the hospital refused to confirm whether the girl had been a patient there, citing federal laws. A priest who works in pastoral care at the hospital, Father Olusola Adewole, is likewise prohibited from comment, according to the pastoral office.

The Hopkins family has hired an attorney and is seeking for release of Gara this Thursday. According to Garina, the girl is being held in a "therapeutic home" administered by the county's Child Advocacy Center at an unknown location. Mrs. Hopkins is only allowed to see her on a limited basis when she is brought to the social services department. "She is still bleeding, but they don't know why," says Garina, a pharmaceutical technician.  "She wants to come home. They tried to say I did this. On August 5, they took me from her room at the hospital and when I realized what they were going to do -- that they were taking her away -- I tried to get back to her room but the police were there and handcuffed me. They also handcuffed my brother. He got to the room but it was already empty."

"They're just devastated," said Gadson. "We're all good Christian people. We're not Catholic, but we're evangelical. We contacted the archdiocese for help. The family is traumatized -- 'devastated' is not the word. They're not supposed to talk about it. No one is supposed to talk about it. The world needs to know. She's a special little girl and the phenomena has just happened every day."

The unusual nature of the "stigmata" -- with bleeding from parts of the body along with the typical palm and feet and sometimes eyes -- necessitates strict and cautious ecclesiastic investigation. According to the family, there is thus far no medical explanation despite a barrage of tests since 2010, when the allegedly inexplicable bleeding first began to occur. Garina said the girl has been examined by hematologists, pulmonologists, an endocrinologist, an obstetrician-gynecologist,  a geneticist, psychiatrists, and others. 

According to the mother and grandmother, Patricia Duckett, the latest episode began in April of this year, when Gara was hospitalized during Holy Week and then released, only to be readmitted when the bleeding intensified. "The doctors didn't know," says Garina. "She had bled from her eyes, from her ears, from her nose. We were in bed and the child nudged me and she's bleeding from her nose. We stopped it and laid back down and her nose started bleeding again. I called the doctor and they wanted me to take her to the emergency room. That was August 3. There were all these specialists and the tests came back normal." The child had also coughed up blood.

Gara is a Girl Scout who is active in dance class, enjoys church, and wants to be a preacher.

Rare and difficult to believe, the stigmata is a phenomenon that has been attributed to major saints such as Saint Francis of Assisi and Saint Padre Pio, among other mystics. It is not known, however, how many parts of their bodies bled unusually over their lifetimes. The involvement of so many biological mechanisms is something that makes the situation particularly difficult to discern -- or diagnose. Bleeding from the nose and eyes usually indicates a serious medical condition such as a coagulation disorder -- problem with clotting. Other causes like liver disease, platelet disorder, aplastic anemia, bone marrow disorder or leukemia need to be ruled out -- which apparently was the case. The appearance and disappearance of blood on hands and feet -- with no skin wounds -- is perplexing and -- to those of a mystical bent -- perhaps compelling. Her grandmother says she is a child with mystical gifts, including seeing spirits. A prayer group that sought to visit her said she had been placed, at least for a time, in a "bubble" that sounds like an oxygen tent. The mother and grandmother assert that the bleeding has continued though the girl is now under county auspices and said social workers now accuse Gara of self-mutilation. "At first they tried to say the mother threw blood on the girl," says Gadson.

"They thought we were inflicting it on her," says her mother. "But it just appears. She has bled twice from her eyes at the hospital."

As ABC News recently reported: "Every decade, people around the globe come forward to claim that they spontaneously bleed and bruise without an injury, disease or chemical to cause it. Stigmata might first come to mind, but there are many terms for the spontaneous bleeding -- psychogenic purpura, autoerythrocyte sensitization, Gardner-Diamond syndrome -- and just as many different reactions to the claims. Skeptics, the religious, psychoanalysts and the medical profession have all vied to explain the condition. And those who claim to have the symptoms often report they are mystified and stigmatized and unable to get help. Take the family of Twinkle Dwivedi, a 13-year-old girl from Lucknow, India, who has spent the better part of a year asking doctors for a physical explanation to her unusual bleeding. Dwivedi and her family say she bleeds spontaneously from her mouth, her ears, her eyes, her hairline and the soles of her feet. The bleeding lasts for only a couple of minutes, but it can start five to ten times a day. The first time it happened, in July 2007, Dwivedi said she was quietly taking notes in class when blood suddenly started to ooze from her mouth. It happened again a few days later, and eventually the bleeding became a regular problem. 'Doctors over there told her that she has some rare blood disorder but couldn't find a name for that,' Dr. Pervez Ahmed Siddiqui, Dwivedi's family physician, said."

According to CNN, Dr. Barrett G. Haik, director of the University of Tennessee's Hamilton Eye Institute, "says there is an answer, sort of. He says 'crying blood,' a condition called haemolacria, is common in people who have experienced extreme trauma or who have recently had a serious head injury." Gara has no such known trauma. Haik and a team of researchers published a 2004 study in the Journal of the American Society of Ophthalmic Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery looking specifically at children who developed unexplained, spontaneous episodes of bloody tears between February 1992 and January 2003. Only four cases were recorded.

Mystics such as Therese Neumann of Germany and Myrna Nazzour of Syria were photographed with blood exuding from the eyes. "On the night of Holy Thursday, April 2, 1926, Therese saw in a ecstatic visions the complete Passion of Our Lord, from the Garden of Gethsemane up to His death on the Cross, beginning at about midnight on Holy Thursday, and ending with our Savior's death on the Cross at 3 p.m. on Good Friday afternoon," notes a [blog about Neumann]. "The suffering which came upon Therese during those hours was so excruciating that words cannot describe it. From the additional wounds on her hands and feet, which were now all completely penetrating, blood flowed profusely, as it did from her eyes, rolling down both cheeks and collecting upon her throat and chest."

Padre Pio secretly bled from his side. Others have bled from their foreheads.

Requests for further information from medical personnel have been made and will be reported. Gara's stepfather is employed by the U.S. Department of Defense. "They say it's 'Münchausen syndrome,' where [the mother and grandmother] are making it up. It's not that. I'm a neuro-behavioral nurse, a psychiatric nurse. It's not. The grandmother is a school counselor.

"These are Christian people, who believe the Bible is the Word of God," repeats Gadson. "How can you self-mutilate with no wounds? It just happens. She can be standing there and it just happens. She has stigmata."

"It is not her blood from inside her body that comes from her palm and feet," notes another family friend, Tracy Weaver.

Friends and family say the girl had a "near-death" episode a year ago when she nearly drowned at the bottom of a pool. After the initial onset in 2010, the bleeding had halted for a year and a half, only to resume during Holy Week. "Please pray," says her mother. "She tells them, 'My mother didn't do this.' She wants to come home."


Visit the Gara Hopkins Donation Fund [blog].