After the accident, I realized that my situation was very grave and that, barring a miracle, I would die. Therefore, I promised Dona Lucilia that if she helped me, I would testify for her beatification and propagate devotion to her. This is what I am doing on these pages.
In perusing the Gospel narrative, at a certain point we come upon a particularly moving episode: having pity on ten lepers, Our Lord cures them, but only one returns to express his gratitude for such a great gift. This fact elicits a paternal reproach from the Divine Master: “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine?” (Lk 17: 17).
Gratitude is a duty of justice, but it is also said to be the rarest of virtues. A very special effort is required on our part in order to never neglect it.
Taking the example of that man who did not fail to seek Jesus out to thank Him, I wish to register here my affectionate and filial gratitude to Dona Lucilia Corrêa de Oliveira for the immense favour that I received through her intercession, and I hope that these lines will be of spiritual benefit to those who read them.
An apparently irremediable disaster
It was around two o’clock in the afternoon, on March 31, 2014, when I was involved in a serious accident while travelling from Joinville to São Paulo in Brazil, along autoroute 101. The driver of the car I was in had to brake suddenly because of an unsignalized problem on the road ahead. The car behind us was unable to stop in time, colliding with the rear of our vehicle on the side where I was seated.
Everything happened very quickly. I realized that blood was flowing from my mouth and I wanted to move, but was unable even to lift my neck. I realized that my situation was very grave and that, barring a miracle, I would die. Therefore, I promised Dona Lucilia that if she helped me, I would testify for her beatification and propagate devotion to her. I also asked that she grant me at least a few more minutes of life so that I could receive the Anointing of the Sick. Thanks be to God I had gone to Confession before setting out on the trip.
As I prayed, I heard the passers-by on the highway shouting that the car would catch fire, because oil or some other combustible fluid had spilled out onto the road. I asked the sisters who were with me – thanks to Our Lady none of them were seriously injured – to remove me from the vehicle. But as they were unable to do so, we had to wait for the emergency personnel.
When I awoke, I found myself in the ICU; given the seriousness of the accident, the media were requesting information
When the ambulance arrived, they immediately removed me from the vehicle. Due to the gravity of my condition, they called the helicopter and I was airlifted to the hospital in Joinville.
Some sisters and a Herald priest were awaiting me there. The priest immediately gave me the Anointing of the Sick, after which I was taken to emergency department where my injuries were assessed. My fourth and fifth cervical vertebrae were fractured and the spinal cord damaged; I was quadriplegic and had little hope of survival.
When I awoke, I found myself in the ICU. It was then that the head nurse asked me when a family member could be expected to be arriving in Joinville, since, given the seriousness of the accident, the media were requesting information.
Dona Lucilia and the prayers of the founder
I did not know what Our Lady wanted of me until one of the sisters came to visit me, bringing news that Msgr. João desired that I live. He was praying insistently for me and had affirmed that I would come out of that tragic situation well. The sister also commented that after the helicopter had taken off, they had seen a beautiful rainbow at the site of the accident, imparting a sense of hope amidst that disaster.
All of this brought me great encouragement, even though on several occasions my death seemed imminent. One of the first days in the ICU, for example, I was doing respiratory physiotherapy when my oxygen levels dropped and I began to feel shortness of breath. I lost consciousness, and when I came to some hours later I could no longer speak, for I had received a tracheotomy in order to breathe.
Two days after being admitted, I underwent a very delicate surgical intervention on the neck. 1 The surgeon who performed the procedure later commented that he had done what he could as a doctor, but he did not see much hope for survival. I remember that when this physician came to see me, he asked me what I wanted, and I replied, only by moving my lips, for I could not speak, that I wanted a cure. Then he said to me, afflicted: “Ah, but only our Father in Heaven can do that for you.”
In the long periods of solitude and pain, it encouraged me to look at a photo of Dona Lucilia
What most gave me strength to fight for survival was the thought that Msgr. João was praying for me and very much desired that I live. I believe that I would have died from this accident, but his prayers, always including my cure in the intentions of his Masses, and especially his desire, as the founder, changed God’s plans in my regard. Thus, in the long periods of solitude and pain, it encouraged me to look at the picture of Dona Lucilia that was with me in the hospital during the almost three months that I spent there, and to recall Msgr. João’s words when he put my intention in his Masses: “That Sr. Ana Lúcia live, live and live!”
After some days, a Herald priest, who is also a physician, travelled from São Paulo to visit me in the ICU and verify my condition. He had the goodness to call Msgr. João, so that he could say a few words to me: “Salve Maria, my little daughter! Do not worry, you are going to be fine, you are going to live, and you are going to walk again. I already see you walking.”
“Your daughter is the most critical patient in the ICU”
It would be much too lengthy to relate everything that transpired with me during this time. Suffice it to say that I have documented and kept all the examinations and medical progress reports in a dossier of approximately five hundred pages…
Due to episodes of atelectasis, my lungs almost closed several times and I could not breathe; a thoracic drain was inserted; I had two episodes of pneumonia; needed to receive a blood transfusion; had a nasal and vesical catheter; and I underwent a gastrostomy, for I was unable to swallow even my own saliva.
I was conscious practically the entire time and, as my bed was facing the nurse’s station, I could hear the information being transmitted at each shift change. I fully understood that the outlook was very grave, to such a degree that one nurse said to my mother: “Your daughter is the most critical patient we have in the ICU.”
One of the doctors who followed my case commented to a priest that had visited me: “This one here, if she survives, is going to remain in this state…” My situation worsened daily, increasing the certainty that I could only survive with a miracle.
Despite the worrisome news that reached him, he maintained an unbreakable faith in my cure
Nevertheless, Msgr. João maintained an unbreakable faith in my cure. Despite the worrisome news that reached him about my condition, he persisted in affirming: “She is going to live and will be perfectly fine.” And he continued to pray: “For the cure of Ana Lúcia.”
A dream foretelling the inexplicable improvement
As the Church allows the re-administering of the Anointing of the Sick whenever there is danger of death, I received the Sacrament on more than one occasion during those weeks, until my situation began to stabilize somewhat and I was discharged from the ICU. All of the Heralds were very happy and surprised with the news, but when they told Msgr. João he was not surprised, and exclaimed: “I said she will recover from this.”
In the hospital room, there were still serious incidents, especially regarding my respiration, for my oxygen levels frequently dropped. When I was lying down, there was no position in which I did not experience pain. I was also unable to withstand being seated for any length of time, and to transfer me from the bed to the chair, or vice-versa, necessitated the nursing team to carry out a complicated manoeuvre.
One Saturday morning, a doctor that had followed my case, but who had not visited me for some time, came to my room to relate to me a dream he had in which I spoke and moved… which he thought I could no longer do. How surprised he was upon entering the room to see me move my hands and hear me pronounce some words, although with a voice distorted due to the tracheotomy that had been performed. Taken with emotion, he said to my sister as he left: “This is a miracle. God really does exist!”
Gradually, without a clinical explanation, I began to improve and my life was virtually no longer at risk. I gradually began to move my upper limbs. One day, one of the professionals who was assisting me came to see me and said: “Ana, you are quadriplegic, and if some day you are able to control your own wheelchair and have some independence, you should be happy.” I then replied: “I am not quadriplegic, and with the grace that Dona Lucilia will grant me and the prayers of my founder, I am going to walk!”
Having said this, I began to move my leg… The nurse technicians who were in my room began to weep with joy and they went out into the corridors of the 6th floor of the hospital proclaiming what had happened. The doctor was flabbergasted and she exclaimed: “How is it that you, a quadriplegic, are moving your leg? Ana, what Saint did you pray to?” I pointed to the photo of Dona Lucilia and told her that from the moment of the accident I had asked her for a miracle, promising that I would give my testimony for her beatification. I also commented that she herself could give her deposition as a physician, to which she replied: “Let’s go to Rome together, and I will speak to the Pope!”
My case rekindled the faith in many hearts
From that day on, many employees of the hospital came to my room to ask for prayers. On one occasion a lady, referring to the photo of Dona Lucilia, confided: “I look at her and feel I must ask for a grace.” And a nurse technician told me: “Ana, you are our miracle. Your case is the most spoken-of in the hospital.”
This professional felt so attracted by the story of Dona Lucilia that she asked her for the grace of having another child, for she only had one and due to health problems she was unable to conceive again. Some months later, I was able to speak with her by phone, and she informed me that she had received the grace and would soon be giving birth to another child.
One of the nursing aides from the night shift, a Catholic, albeit fallen away from the Church, commented: “I don’t know exactly why you suffered this accident, but I think it could have been to help people’s faith grow. Many people here in this hospital have lost their faith and say that miracles no longer happen; now, several people are converting.”
Confiding in her goodness and intercession, one is never abandoned and there is no situation without a solution
The nurse that had received me when I arrived at emergency always brought his nursing students to visit me, telling them what a miracle it was that I was alive and describing the unexpected developments in my case.
Finally, on June 11, I took my first steps in the hospital corridor, with two physiotherapists assisting me. This scene was witnessed by doctors, nurses, nursing technicians and patients who were present.
Today I lead a normal life, with only a few sequelae regarding strength in my upper and lower limbs on my left side. I continue with physiotherapy once a week, but I am independent, without a walker or any type of aid, and I am responsible for one of the houses belonging to the Society of Apostolic Life Regina Virginum in São Paulo.
In summary, I have experienced the maternal protection of Dona Lucilia countless times in my life, but after this accident I was confirmed in my certainty that, confiding in her goodness and intercession, one is never abandoned and there is no such thing as a situation without a solution, no matter how terrible the calamities we may experience. For, as Dr. Plinio once said, Dona Lucilia has “an overflowing love, not only for the two children she had, but also for the children she did not have. She seemed to be made to have thousands of children”… 2 ◊
1 Halo cervical traction was implemented immediately to reduce the fracture-dislocation of the fourth and fifth cervical vertebrae. The surgical procedure, done by accessing the anterior of the neck, consisted in spinal decompression (corpectomy) and the immobilization of the third to sixth cervical vertebrae by means of a plate (arthrodesis).
2 CLÁ DIAS, EP, João Scognamiglio. Dona Lucilia. Città del Vaticano-Nobleton: LEV; Heralds of the Gospel, Nobleton, 2013, p.615.