A vein in her brain had burst in four places, her eye was severely damaged, she was comatose, went through a near death experience, and then recovered completely without any consequences as Padre Pio had promised.
Teresa Sorrentino lives in a small town nestled in the hills of southern Italy called Cava de' Tirreni, holds three degrees, and is a university teacher. She grew up in a family that was serious about their Catholic faith and of their devotion to St. Francis of Assisi. She is married with two children. In 1972 when she was about 12 years old, she went on a pilgrimage to San Giovanni Rotondo, and developed a great admiration for Padre Pio. Gazing at photos of him, she was struck by the gentle and paternal expression on the face the humble friar. Although she knew little about him at the time, Teresa felt she could understand and empathize with him. From then on, she has always considered him to be her protector. When she learned that he was born on May 25, which was her birthday too, she took this as a special sign that united the two of them.
On a Friday in May of 1998, she was particularly happy, even euphoric. She had learned that she was pregnant with her third child. That morning she began to smell a very sweet perfume. Wondering where it could be coming from, she went from room to room and could sense it wherever she went; but her husband and her mother said they did not notice it. She could even smell it when she was in the car with her husband. The aroma persisted until 2 AM. Teresa did not know at the time that the phenomenon of the perfume often indicated the presence of Padre Pio.
Two days later, she experienced the first signs of a possible spontaneous abortion. She called her doctor, who ordered her to come in for some tests. She was worried, and her thoughts turned to Padre Pio. Another day passed. Then while on the phone with her doctor, she began to feel weak. Her last words to him before she collapsed unconscious onto the floor were “I feel ill.” She fell in a dead weight, slamming her head against the telephone receiver – it penetrated her right eye causing a large hematoma and a seriously damaged eyeball.
Teresa was rushed to a nearby hospital, where the gravity of the situation was ascertained – a vein in her brain had burst. But that hospital was not equipped to handle such a case, and she had to be transported to a different one. By the time she arrived there, she was close to death. They did everything possible to save her. She underwent a cerebral drainage, which only aggravated her condition. She lay in a coma in the intensive care ward, hooked up to IV's, tubes and wires, under the care of the best specialists available. The CT scan revealed an aneurysm, caused by a blood clot from the spontaneous abortion.
Between the aneurysm and the head trauma from her fall, her brain was filling with blood. Her condition was desperate. The coma was considered irreversible, and there was no hope. Even if she did awaken she would be paralyzed, blind in one eye, with disturbances in her speech and thinking; in other words a vegetable.
Yet, while her body was incapacitated, her mind and spirit took flight. She went through that extraordinary experience which many in a coma or near death have reported – a visit to heaven. She felt that she had broken free from her body and had abandoned it. She found herself in that famous dark tunnel, but the darkness was so thick that she became fearful as she traveled through it. Then, at the end of it she found herself immersed in a vibrant, bright light. It was impossible for her to describe the joy and happiness that filled her soul. She comprehended that in that light there were beings, persons, but she could not see anyone. Then, suddenly, she is not sure how, but she recognized her father. She saw him as a very beautiful figure of light, and was able to precisely communicate with him, but not with words.
Her dad had died from throat cancer thirteen years previously. An operation had resulted in a hole in his throat, but here, on the other side, he looked perfect. She asked him why there was no opening in his throat, and he replied that where he is now, there are no physical anomalies of any sort. Then Teresa noticed that near him was another person, a young boy that she knew, who had died at age 18, and was the son of her friend. She marveled at the fact that she was seeing him there; her father said that the boy wanted to give her an urgent and important message to bring back to his family. The boy spoke to her about many things that were later verified.
He told her personal and private details, and explained to her where a certain letter was kept in his house. He described the exact piece of antique furniture and the drawer in which was to be found a maroon colored notebook, within whose pages lay the letter. Upon her return and recovery, Teresa verified that everything he had told her was true. She believes that the encounter with him, since he was not part of her usual circle of friends, had purposely occurred so that she could believe her experience was real. If her father was accompanied by a dead relative, she might have thought that her journey to the afterlife had not actually happened – that it may have been a fantasy or a dream.
Since she considered that the encounter with the boy was real, she also believed that what her father said about her illness was true. He told her that during her horrible misfortune she was protected by Padre Pio. He explained that the perfume she had smelled a few days before entering her coma was that of the saint. Finally, he said that Padre Pio would heal her without any consequences. Then her father told her that she must return to her earthly life. But she replied that should would never want to depart from this place of such peace and immense happiness. However, he insisted, stating that Padre Pio wanted her to return to her family and to give testimony of all she has received. The mention of her family brought back the memory of her two little children, and she realized she must return. Guided by her father and the boy, she reentered the dark tunnel, but this time without any fear.
There is one more incident to relate. Teresa was in a coma for seven days before awakening. When she did, it was in the presence of her mother and a host of doctors and nurses. Shortly before she awoke, her mother had begun to smell the aroma of a very strong perfume. She knew that it signified the presence of Padre Pio. She asked the people in the room if anyone else smelled it, but all they could smell were medicines and carbolic acid. Her mother realized it must be a sign from heaven, since she was the only one that sensed it. So she shouted out with joy that it was the perfume of Padre Pio, and it meant that her daughter would soon come out of her coma! But the doctors thought she was hysterical, and tried to calm her.
In general, when someone awakens from a coma, they are confused and possibly raving. But about half an hour after her mother first noticed the perfume, Teresa awoke, and she was completely lucid. The doctors were astonished. It was an extraordinary case, one that they had never witnessed. She recognized her mother and cried out in a clear voice “Mamma!” And the date of her return just happened to be “coincidentally” May 25, Padre Pio's birthday.
Teresa was transported to a hospital in Rome, where she underwent two long and difficult operations to repair a vein that had split open in four places. But as Padre Pio had promised, all went well and there have been no consequences. As for her damaged right eye, it has mysteriously recovered completely, although the oculists had told her she would lose half of her vision in it. Shortly after her discharge, she resumed her university studies. According to the doctors, her recovery is a “miracle of nature,” but she knows she owes everything to Padre Pio. She is a member of a Padre Pio prayer group, and dedicates every moment of her free time to him, traveling everywhere to give her testimony.
Based on an article by Renzo Allegri, in Padre Pio Il Santo de Miracoli, pp. 41-45.
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