John Paul II: The Great Mercy Pope: Beatificat... Read more
Photo: Piotr Dzubak
On April 24, 2014, Marie Romagnano, RN, interviews Floribeth Mora, the recipient of the miracle recognized for the canonization of John Paul II. Marco Antonio Rodriguez Pellitero, press officer for the Embassy of Costa Rica to the Holy See, looks on. Floribeth takes every opportunity to share about the miracle.
In Q&A, Details About a Saint's Intercession
This article first appears in the latest issue of Marian Helper magazine. Sign up for a free copy, or read our digital version.
Interview by Marie Romagnano, RN
Here we offer portions of two interviews with Floribeth Mora, the recipient of the miracle recognized for the canonization of John Paul II. One was an exclusive interview granted on Feb. 13, 2014, to Marie Romagnano, RN, director of Healthcare Professionals for Divine Mercy. In the other interview, Marie was among a pool of reporters at the Vatican interviewing Floribeth on April 24, 2014, three days before the canonization.
Could you describe your illness?
I had a cruciform aneurysm on the right side, which ruptured and bled inside my brain. It caused the left side of my body to be paralyzed. I had surgery to try to seal the leakage on the artery. When I went into surgery, I was holding a John Paul II prayercard. I prayed, "John Paul II, you are so close to God, tell Him that I don't want to die because of my children." They wanted to clamp the artery, but, unfortunately, the aneurysm was located in an unreachable part of the brain. The doctor explained that there was nothing he could do. In Costa Rica, they don't perform such risky surgery. I would have to go to Mexico or Cuba, but I couldn't afford that surgery. The doctor said I could live for a month, maybe a week, maybe an hour. He said that the aneurysm would rupture in less than a month, and I was going to die.
What was it like after you returned home?
The atmosphere at home was tense with my husband and five children. My daughter Gabriela was pregnant, and I remember her saying, "Mommy, you need to fight, I want you to meet my baby." My children would come to my room and shake me because they couldn't tell if I was sleeping or if I was dead. My husband didn't sleep; he would bless me and hold my hand until I would fall sleep. My youngest child would put a chair next to my bed and would tuck his little feet inside my blanket. He wanted to be close to me when I died. Those moments were difficult.
I asked my sisters to take care of my children and help my husband to raise our family. It was important for me that my family remained united. When I was in the hospital, I told my children just like I had taught them, "Always together." We are a very close family. Since my children were little, I have taught them that we are one flesh.
Why did you seek the intercession of Blessed John Paul II?
I was 19 when Pope John Paul II came to Costa Rica. I was amazed to see him even though I was far away from him. I had chills in his presence. I admired him because of how he helped the needy and the sick. Even when he was alive, I always saw him as a saint because he was so full of God.
Could you briefly describe the miracle?
The day of the beatification of John Paul II was approaching, and my fears were growing every day because the end of the month was coming, too. I woke up at 8 a.m. on May 1, 2011. I was in my bedroom when I heard a voice telling me to get up. Then, I heard the voice again, saying, "Get up. Don't be afraid." Immediately, my eyes were fixed on a newspaper that was on top of the TV. On the front page was a picture of John Paul II with his hands raised, and I saw his hands come out of the image signaling for me to get up. I got up. I felt peace. It was an amazing peace. It gave me the certainty that I was healed.
It wasn't confirmed until seven months later when I went for the results of an MRI. You should have seen the look on the face of the neurologist. He would read the report and then turn to look at me. He couldn't believe what he was seeing. My husband finally asked him, "Doctor, what are you seeing?" The neurologist replied, "Nothing. I don't see anything." I immediately told him that I knew God had healed me through the intercession of John Paul II.
I then flew to Italy to be seen by other doctors. They performed different tests. When they did the angiography, they were able to confirm that there was nothing on my brain, not even a spot. Nothing showed that my artery was damaged at any point in time. An aneurysm like the one I had shouldn't have healed the way it did. They told me that I should have died a long time ago.
When you prayed to Blessed John Paul II, did you doubt you would be healed?
I'm glad you asked that because many times people have doubts. I stood up, but I didn't just jump out of bed. No, God worked on me first spiritually. He gave me an unexplainable peace, the certainty that I was healed even though my body said otherwise. Despite the fact that my left side was still paralyzed, I knew that I was healed. God gave me [the graces] slowly so my faith could grow. He didn't give it to me all at once, but instead little by little until now I am a healthy person.
Based on your spiritual experience, what would you tell the sick who are at home or in hospitals, as well as the injured and the dying, about hope?
I want to tell them that when they are facing a difficult time, don't despair; don't lose faith in the Lord.
Everything will come in God's time, not ours. I know we despair when we have to face serious conditions, but we need to have faith. It's difficult when you have something serious. I went through it. I was living in fear. I believe it's my mission to help people who are losing hope. When you are in the last moments of life, you tend to lose hope. But I want the seriously ill to know that hope is the last thing they should lose.
How did the faith of the nurses and doctors encourage your faith and hope in God?
I have tremendous admiration for the doctors and nurses who took care of me. I was touched the most by those who had hope and talked to me and my family about main- taining our faith and hope. My physician Dr. Alejandro Vargas Román is very much a doctor of faith. He always told us, "God is there. You have to ask God to help you." I always said this miracle is not exclusively for Floribeth. It's a miracle for the world because God wants everyone to know He exists.
Could you describe the details of your illness?
On April 8, 2011, I had a really bad headache. It was a pain that was not normal. I went to the hospital in Cartago and said that I had a migraine because of too much work. At that time, I was too busy working and going to school to finish my law degree. So I went for a long weekend to a beach in Costa Rica with my family. My husband told me that I needed to relax. The headaches continued and I fell while I was at the beach. I didn't realize that the reason I fell was because my body was having serious problems. I felt uncomfortable on my left side but I didn't understand why. My left side was becoming paralyzed. I went to another hospital where they did some tests. One of the doctors told me I had stroke, and I was admitted to the hospital in Cartago. Then I was transferred to another hospital in the capital and remained in the ICU. I had a cruciform aneurysm on the right side, which ruptured and bled inside my brain. Doctor Alejandro Vargas Román attempted to perform an angiography to seal the leakage on the artery. He wanted to clip the artery, but unfortunately, the aneurysm was located in an unreachable part of the brain. The doctors recommended going to Cuba to get surgery. In Costa Rica, they don't perform such risky surgery. Sadly, it was impossible to go to Mexico or Cuba because I couldn't afford the medical expenses. The doctors said that it would be best to go home since there was nothing they could do. One of the doctors explained very clearly what I had, although at that time I thought he was being cruel. He drew a picture of my artery and said that I could live for a month, maybe a week, maybe an hour. He said that the aneurysm will rupture in less than a month and I was going to die. It was very difficult for me to understand how someone healthy like me — I had only been in a hospital to deliver my five children — was all of a sudden facing this reality. I was very scared of what was happening. I was condemned to die.
How did you feel about dying and leaving your husband and children?
For me, that was the hardest thing. It was very hard to face the fact that I was leaving my children and my husband. I didn't want them to be without a mother and a wife. That kind of situation is what terrifies a family — to know that, very soon, you won't see them any more. I think that's the most difficult thing that a person can face, when they sentence you to death [with a terminal illness.] That's the most difficult moment there is. My husband spoke with my children. He told them that mommy was coming home but not for too long because I would die. I really wanted to stay at the hospital because I was afraid that if I went home I would die sooner. I was afraid for my children. It was very difficult to see them taking care of me. You can't imagine how hard it was. The doctors also told me that if I sneezed or if I lifted something the aneurysm could rupture. I was like a baby. My family had to take care of me. I remember my granddaughter Valentina would say, "Grandma, please tell me you are not going to die. Don't leave me alone." It was very obvious the pain my family was going through. My granddaughter was always there and my mom, who is elderly, was there too. I was not the only one suffering. Everyone around me felt my pain.
After the doctors told you the condition was fatal, what did the nurses say to you about prayer?
I always say that nurses who talk about faith and hope are the primary support for sick patients in the hospital. For me, it's very important that the hospital staff be full of God, full of faith, so that they can strengthen those of us who are going through the toughest times. I always like to emphasize that when I give my testimony and when I'm visiting the sick. I'm not a nurse, but I'm going to try to bring a bit of hope to those people. When I was in the hospital, a lot of the staff had words of encouragement for me. Now it's my turn to give the sick some hope. I like to remind them that God always has the last word. Once I received those words of hope and now I can give those words of hope to the sick patients.
What sensations did you feel at the moment you were first being healed? The time of healing was very important to me because the main thing I felt was peace — a lot of peace. The feeling of peace took away my fear and agony. The peace I felt was so beautiful. It was a different feeling to be sure. I knew I was healthy again. The peace gave me the knowledge that I was healed. People did not want to believe me, yet that peace gave me the certainty that God had healed me. The peace made me so sure that I had no reason to doubt it. God gave me peace. He gave me the assurance that I was healed.
Finally, please tell us how you would encourage other patients who have a serious medical condition to pray?
By helping them. I believe it's my mission to help people who lose hope. When you are in the last moments of life, you tend to lose hope. But I want the seriously ill to know that hope is the last thing they should lose. We should always, always persevere in doing God's Will, and that's what I do with the sick patients now. I visit them, and I don't let them fall into hopelessness. I give them a hand so that they can move forward. So that they trust in God, since God Himself is going to walk in front of them. It will always be God who's in front of them. We are only instruments for God's use. And God needs more nurses like you, Nurse Marie. Nurses who bring that hope of life that is so vital to the sick patients you have. I hope that God continues to give you that gift, because I know first-hand that when a patient is extremely ill, we need people who encourage us and direct us spiritually in such a crucial moment of our lives.