Ana Maria thanks God for her recovery, and for the incredible spiritual transformation she's seen in her family.
Ana María Brea has been in the Ramón y Cajal Hospital in Madrid for 42 days because of the coronavirus. She is now in an ordinary hospital room and rehabilitating well, but she spent 14 days in the ICU.
“It’s been a unique experience in my life and in my family’s life,” she says now in a cheerful voice.
Ana María is originally from Venezuela and moved to Spain 13 years ago. She works as the director of what’s called the “Golden Telephone,” for an organization called Messengers of Peace. With 90 volunteers, this service has 5 telephone lines running 24 hours a day, ready to be called by people from all over Spain who are in need of consolation.
“I got infected on the subway”
Ana Maria rides the subway for an hour every day to get to work. “When it was announced that there would be confinement as of March 14, we met to decide how we would continue our work during the state of emergency. I think I caught it that day on the subway.”
On Friday, March 20, she felt sick. “I had a fever—my temperature was 100.4 degrees—and I had chills.” The next day, “I had a fever again and my whole body hurt.” She called the emergency phone number and was recommended to take acetaminophen, get plenty of rest, and take hygienic measures at home.
By the third day, it had gotten worse. she had a fever and diarrhea. “I called again and was advised to stay isolated in my room.”
“Take her to the hospital immediately.”
On the sixth day, her husband and two children were worried. Ana Maria was feeling worse. The husband decided to call Ramón y Cajal Hospital, where her medical records were on file.
“I’ve been immunosuppressed since I had my kidney transplant,” Ana María says. “That time, they told my husband to take me to the hospital immediately.”
“My husband spent two days not knowing where I was.”
She was admitted for coronavirus and after a few days, seeing that she was getting worse, she was transferred to the ICU. In Madrid, the number of cases was causing the hospital system to collapse.
“There was such chaos in the hospital, with so many cases to attend to, that they could not tell my husband where I’d been taken. Two days passed without him knowing where I was. It was a terrible time for him because he was looking for me in the hospital corridors and they kept stopping him,” Ana Maria said.
“This girl’s not going up to heaven yet.”
In retrospect, Ana Maria now sees the hand of God in everything that happened. “Many people began to pray for me, here in Spain and in Venezuela. Blessed be God,” she says. “I’m very Catholic, and I believe that the Virgin helped me so that the Lord would say, ‘This girl’s not going up to heaven yet.’”
“It’s as if God told me, ‘I have a mission for you here on earth,’ and I will fulfill it in my job or wherever God wants,” she says.
Among those praying for her were many people from her parish: “From Fr. Angel to many volunteers, everyone has prayed for me … There’s a lot of unity, and I’m convinced that I’m alive through prayer.”
“Someone was praying for me at that hour”
“I lived through some horrible things in the ICU, but there have also been some wonderful events,” explains Ana Maria. “I had nightmares. I wanted to pray, and the devil wouldn’t let me. With those nightmares I couldn’t sleep, until one day at 11 p.m., I stopped being afraid and fell asleep. Then a person from Venezuela told me that he’d been praying for me at that hour, without knowing what had happened to me.”
“I think,” she says, “that I stayed to be a witness of faith.”
“They told my husband that I was going to die.”
Ramón, her husband, didn’t stop worrying. Ana Maria recalls,
“One of the days while I was in the ICU, they called him and told him that I was going to die and that he couldn’t see me anymore. They told him so that he would get used to the idea … Ramón couldn’t say goodbye to me even over the phone, nor could he see me. Now he has told me that in that painful situation, he decided to pray the Rosary and to let go of me. It was a terrible pain for him.”
But Ana Maria survived. “On Easter Sunday I opened my eyes. I came back to life.” She had to spend a few more days in intensive care, but now she’s back in an ordinary hospital room in rehabilitation, and will return home soon.
Her children have had a religious conversion
Ana Maria’s children are also an important part of this story. “I think the coronavirus had to happen to me for them to convert. That’s how I explain it.”
Her children, Arianna and Tony, are 30 and 28 years old, respectively. “They declared themselves as atheists, even though I always said, ‘Not atheists; you’re just not active right now.’”
“In the hospital, I prayed every day for their conversion, and I entrusted them to everyone who was praying for me. There’s even a group of Our Lady of Coromoto, from my homeland, to whom I especially entrusted them.”
Now, she says, “both Arianna and Tony pray the Rosary daily. Arianna follows the Mass on television … They both went through the coronavirus at home, with muscular pains and severe headaches.”
Now the worst is over. Ramón was able to see Ana María for the first time on the 38th day of her hospitalization. She’s regaining muscle strength and the medical team believes that in a few days she’ll be able to return home.
“The conversion of my children has been a wonderful gift that I’m keeping from all this,” she says.