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Jack Sullivan was in agony. Bedridden after complicated surgery on his spine, the pain was so intense he was unable to sleep and had trouble breathing.
An earlier scan had revealed the vertebrae in his lower back had turned inwards and were squeezing his spinal cord, severing the protective layer around the spine. His doctor said the case was one of the worst he had ever seen and that he was lucky not to have been paralysed.
Nearly a decade later, on Sunday the 71-year-old will walk pain-free to preach the Gospel at the Mass to beatify 19th Century Cardinal John Henry Newman.
The open-air beatification Mass in Birmingham's Cofton Park is the centrepiece of the Pope Benedict XVI's four-day UK visit.
Hundreds of priests, bishops and cardinals will concelebrate, some 50,000 worshippers are expected to attend, and millions more will be following the proceedings on television.
To be beatified - or made blessed, the penultimate step on the path to full sainthood - an individual's worthiness must be proven by the attribution of a miracle following a petition by someone in need.
Critics say miracles - unexpected events attributed to divine intervention - have no place in the world of modern medicine, and are more likely the result of a placebo effect, or wishful thinking, than divine intervention.
But after eight years of investigation by a Vatican panel of medical experts, Jack Sullivan's 2001 healing was last year confirmed by the Pope as miraculous.