Doctors said she would not recover, but her sister prayed that she could remain on the earth longer.
It was a carefree and fun Saturday night like many others when Monica Petralia went out to dinner with friends at a pizzeria near the city of Ferrara (Italy). She ordered the usual — a mushroom and ham pizza. Little did she know it would lead to a life-changing near-death experience.
In 2013, she appeared on the Italian Catholic television network TV2000 to talk about her experience. She recounted how, three hours after eating the pizza:
Her friends immediately took her to the emergency room in Ferrara, a 30-mile journey. Monica was in very serious condition and the doctors didn’t know what to do. They discovered that she had suddenly become allergic to some everyday foods. It was the tomato that put her in a coma that night.
I found myself in a hypercapnic coma; that is, there was no more gaseous exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide in my lungs (…) My chances of salvation were nil. The doctors even said that if I survived I would be in a vegetative state.
Her near-death experience
At a moment of crisis during the coma that lasted three days, the doctors were deciding whether to keep her on life support. Monica experienced a dramatic and at the same time wonderful near-death experience:
I was dead but I could see and hear everything the doctors were saying. I could hear the doctors saying, “No, come on, unplug the machines,” and “No, come on, let’s keep her alive.” I was seeing and hearing everything and I saw and experienced a wonderful tunnel of light. I went completely out of my body. I saw the doctors scrambling to save me but I was above my body. I didn’t feel the physical pain but I saw everything and made an “okay” sign with my fingers to say everything was okay.
A blazing light greeted her, giving her a feeling of extraordinary peace and well-being that she had never felt before:
I saw this wonderful tunnel of light, with wonderful colors, wonderful melodies (…) that not even the most beautiful sunset on this earth can give. I was fine there, I had no perception of pain, of judgment (…) It was beautiful. Wonderful people came around me, dressed normally, smiling at me, welcoming me.
Among these presences Monica recognized Padre Pio and Pope John Paul II.
Her unexpected recovery
The chief doctor of the intensive care unit gave her up for dead. He could see no hope.
The doctors had said I would not recover. I had a sister in the waiting room who prayed a lot to Our Lady for me (…) and asked her if I could live a little longer on this earth.
40 days of convalescence and a desire to help others
After a short time, Monica awoke from her coma without any irreversible damage, contrary to every prognosis. Her convalescence lasted 40 days. It was a long, complex period, but in that desert God inspired in her heart a desire to be near the sick in the very same hospital where she received treatment:
Little by little I came to feel that that was my path; probably the Lord had wanted to give me a strong shake to get me on the road again. (…) It was as if a little voice was saying to me, “I have brought you back to life, but now you must work for me through your brothers and sisters most in need.’
And so for many years Monica has been a caregiver, supporting patients and standing by the sick in the very ward where she too was once hospitalized.
Shortly after recovering her health, with her soul filled with gratitude, she decided to handwrite a letter to Pope John Paul II, who unexpectedly replied to her. It was an immense joy for her to receive the Holy Father’s apostolic blessing – a precious gift that she will never forget.
I wish the Holy Spirit would always give me a smile and the strength to be able to say to people who are (…) worse off than me: “Come on! Don’t be afraid of this earthly life because although we are just passing through, the Lord is our goal.”