July 2021, the Pope recites the Angelus from the Gemelli – Ansa Polyclinic
A very demanding definition, in which a sense of gratitude and recognition of great professional ability coexist. But which, precisely for this reason, calls for an even more marked sense of responsibility. Massimiliano Strappetti is for everyone the nurse who saved the Pope’s life. Francis himself explained it, without mentioning him directly, a few weeks after the colon surgery he underwent at the Gemelli polyclinic on 4 July 2021 Interviewed by Radio Cope (broadcaster of the Spanish Bishops’ Conference), the Pontiff underlined his “over 30 years of experience”, adding that it was he who pushed for him to undergo the surgery. «He told Me ‘He has to have an operation’». And this, despite the contrary opinion of those who suggested limiting oneself to antibiotic therapy. That insistence was then decisive, since in removing the diverticular stenosis that made the Pope suffer, the surgeons had found necrotic tissue.
Engaged in volunteering
Massimiliano Strappetti – Photo Ansa taken from the Facebook profile
Before and after that day, Strappetti, 52, followed the Pope’s health step by step. A closeness formalized yesterday in the position of “personal health assistant” of the Pope. It means that the “coordinator of the Vatican direction of health and hygiene” will collaborate even more closely with the Pontiff’s doctor, Professor Roberto Bernabei, professor of geriatrics at the Catholic University .
In reality, quite little is known about Strappetti’s biography. On his social profiles the appointment made yesterday is not reported. The latest posts on Facebook are instead dedicated to scenes of family life and a tribute to grandparents and grandmothers, because becoming one “does not mean being old, but having been blessed with the best gift that can exist”. Among the few known details, however, Strappetti’s commitment, already at the service of John Paul II and Benedict XVI, stands out in volunteering for the homeless, in which he collaborates with the cardinal almsgiver Konrad Krajewski. Another official fact is that he arrived at the Vatican after a professional process that saw him busy at Gemelli, even in the intensive care unit.
Nurses, saints next door
The Pope at Gemelli during last year’s hospitalization – Ansa
Beyond the appointment, however, his life will not change that much. He will continue to carry out the role of “guardian angel” for the sick and frail as it is for nurses who dedicate heart and soul to their profession. The Pope himself underlined this several times, even calling them “saints next door”. In particular, two years ago in the Message for the day dedicated to them, Francis wrote that «every day, in contact with the sick» nurses and nurses «experience the trauma that suffering causes in a person’s life. They are men and women who have chosen to answer “yes” to a particular vocation: that of being good Samaritans who take charge of the life and wounds of others. Guardians and servants of life, while administering the necessary therapies, instill courage, hope and trust ».
A service, a capacity for support that Francis personally experienced several times. In 2021 but also in 1957 as revealed by Bergoglio himself in the same interview with Radio Cope. In the aforementioned circumstance, the future Pontiff was treated for an epidemic of flu that a nurse from the seminary was fighting with aspirin. Insufficient therapy so much that Bergoglio was taken to hospital where they removed water from one lung. Then «the doctor said – continued the Pope -, I don’t remember well, a million units of penicillin and a lot of streptomycin and when he went out, the nurse told me: ‘twice as much’». That assumption of responsibility, that dose increase, was decisive for the recovery. And also for the Pontiff’s trust in a professional category that, so to speak, personifies the daily care, the being next to, like the guardian angels. As nurses and nurses in love with their profession, but above all with people.