The accident happened at a a place of pilgrimage and the news spread rapidly.
On July 27, a two-year-old girl named Natalia Abad Lachowitz drowned in the swimming pool of Torreciudad, a place of pilgrimage in Spain. A married couple found the girl dead. After the husband attempted to resuscitate her, the girl was evacuated by helicopter to a hospital in Zaragoza. The news spread rapidly and people in the pilgrimage village, and from all over the world, started to pray for a miracle. A few days later, it became clear that the girl had survived without any damage.
I spoke with Cecilia Philips, the wife of the man who began CPR after they discovered Natalia.
How did that day begin?
It was a day full of Providence. It rained, so many people were absent. My sister and her family went into the mountains for a hike, and they somehow forgot to ask us to join them. I’d planned to do some ironing, but suddenly I had the idea to go praying on a bank in front of the house. My husband Pedro was with me at that moment, which was also unusual, because normally he’d go to the 11 o’clock Mass in the sanctuary. Around noon, in fact I was just about to pray the Angelus, two adolescent girls came running to me, clearly in a panic. They shouted “A doctor, a doctor, a child has drowned!” At first I thought it was a joke. Immediately, my husband and I started to run towards the swimming pool, he went so fast I couldn’t keep up with him.
What did you find at the swimming pool?
A girl of about two years old was lying on the grass. She wore a sandy-colored little dress and was all wet. Pedro hit her back and her face, but she didn’t react. She had no heartbeat, nor breathing. Her skin had turned grey and her tummy was bloated because of the water inside. She felt all flabby. Her lips were filled with foam. Her eyes were wide open and her pupils were completely dilated.
Pedro then instantly started CPR. He’d been a pool attendant 25 years ago, though he had only practiced this on resuscitation dolls.
I called an ambulance and helicopter that would evacuate the girl to the closest hospital, and instructed the teenagers to await the ambulance and direct it towards the pool.
Greatly troubled, I thought “NO, this cannot happen here, not in this holy place of pilgrimage!” I invoked the intercession of Our Lady, asking her in the deepest of my thoughts: “Mary, is the child with you or with us?” I felt her replying: “You can be at ease, Cecilia, the child is with me.” I felt so much anger at that point, and I begged Our Lady to not let this happen.
What happened during the resuscitation?
The girl’s stomach contents were completely poured out and water escaped from her bronchial tubes, which my husband then swallowed. And you should know that my husband is the type of person that would refuse a glass if anyone else had drunk from it …
After about 10 minutes, my husband thought he felt a weak heartbeat in her neck, but he wasn’t too sure because of the trembling in his fingers. Then the girl deeply gasped for breath. From that moment on, she inhaled every six seconds or so. Pedro stayed the course, under the supervision of a doctor who’d go there in the meantime, for about 45 minutes until the ambulance arrived.
Where were the parents of the girl?
They were looking for her. When the father reached the swimming pool, we didn’t even recognize him as her father at first, because he seemed somehow serene and full of trust. Later at her hospital bed, he said these moving words, referring to Our Lady: “Natalia, say to Wonderful Mommy that you want to come back home, to play with mommy and daddy and your sisters”.
The mother burst into tears when she found her daughter in that state. She kneeled and together with my friend Maria started to pray the text on the holy card to St. Josemaria. She did this non-stop while Pedro was [administering CPR].
The news spread rapidly of course and by the time the helicopter had landed on the adjacent football pitch, almost the whole village stood there, elderly people and little kids, united in praying the Rosary, each word expressed with emphasis and faith. The workmen from the surrounding sport fields were involved as well. We said, “Gentlemen, we need a miracle here, if you know how to recite a Hail Mary, please start!”
Afterwards, I’ve even heard that the pilot of the helicopter was praying along. He said that everyone was praying out loud, so he did as well.
What was the opinion of the doctors upon arrival at the hospital?
It didn’t look good. One and a half lungs had drowned. The heart and liver were affected. If she survived at all, she’d probably have severe brain damage. Natalia got an infection, which could have killed her, were it not that she’d coincidentally been on antibiotics the week before. This made the infection cease quickly.
When did Natalia’s state take a different turn?
On Sunday afternoon, they stopped sedating Natalia and she woke up the next day. She reacted perfectly to all stimulations, she could name family members present in the room, point at things, do little puzzles … The Saturday afterwards, only seven days after the incident, this same Natalia was cheerfully playing in the swimming pool of Torreciudad again. It’s incredible.
You must’ve thought about these events many times the last couple of weeks. Can you share some of your reflections?
With hindsight, I can say that the events were surrounded by striking details that made the rescuing possible. I think it was my guardian angel who told me to go pray on that bank. The dazzling reality is that if Pedro and I hadn’t been there, Natalia would have been dead. And if Pedro had thought it was a hopeless case and had stopped trying to bring her back, she would have been dead.
Somehow, I feel honored that the Lord chose my husband and myself to participate so closely in these events. It served as a powerful reminder that what matters most in our lives is not the type of earrings we should buy or what we’ll eat for dinner, but the fact that we’re all daughters and sons of Christ, and also of Mary. And that we should let them care for us. They will.
July 27 was the feast day of Saint Natalia of Cordova. A Mass of gratitude for the survival of Natalia was held on August 3. History has repeated itself because the sanctuary of Torreciudad became a popular pilgrimage place after the miraculous survival in 1904 of the then two-year-old St. Josemaria Escrivá de Balaguer, whose mother brought thanks to Our Lady here.