Pope Francis says in a new book that he can relate to people in intensive care units who are afraid of dying because of his experience, when part of his lung had to be removed 63 years ago.
Italian newspapers today published excerpts from the new book entitled “Let Us Dream: The Path to a Better Future” that will be released next month.
In the book, which is a conversation with one of his biographers, British Austin Avery, Pope Francis sometimes speaks in the most personal terms to date about the time he was hovering between life and death.
“I know from experience the feeling of those who are sick with coronavirus, struggling to breathe as they are attached to a ventilator,” he said.
Pope Francis was 21 years old in the second year at the theological seminary to become a priest in his hometown of Buenos Aires, when an illness that had been mis-diagnozed as influenza worsened and he was hospitalized.
“They took about a litre and a half of water out of one lung and I was hanging between life and death,” he said.
Several months later, doctors removed the upper lobe of his right lung. Today one can hear the 83-year-old pope breathing heavily as he climbs stairs.
“(The experience) changed my bearings,” he said. “For months I didn’t know who I was, if I would live or die, even the doctors didn’t know. For months I didn’t know who I was, if I would live or die, even the doctors didn’t know.”
Pope Francis recalls that a nun who worked as a nurse helped save his life by secretly doubling the doses of penicillin and streptomycin prescribed by a doctor.
“Thanks to her regular contact with sick people, she knew what patients needed better than the doctor and had the courage to put that experience to work,” he said.