Among the many headlines generated by the journalist Carlos Herrera’s interview with Pope Francis, one is a name: Massimiliano. This is the name of the nurse who, as the pope himself explained, saved his life very recently.
Carlos Herrera asked the pontiff how he was doing, referring to his recent colon operation on July 4. His answer was terse: “I’m still alive.”
Francis then revealed that a nurse saved his life, and that this is the second time this has happened in his 84 years.
“It is the second time in my life”
The pope told the journalist:
He saved my life! He told me: “You have to have surgery.” There were other opinions — “Better with antibiotics …” — but the nurse explained it to me very well. He is a nurse from here, from our health service, from the Vatican hospital. He has been here for 30 years, a very experienced man. It is the second time in my life that a nurse has saved my life.”
The first time it happened, in 1957, the person who saved the life of the then-seminarian Jorge Mario Bergoglio was an Italian nun. Bergoglio was suffering from pneumonia and, against the opinion of the doctors, she changed the dose of medication that the future pope was to be given.
Thanks to reporter Virginia Piccolillo of the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, we now know that the nurse to whom the pope referred on this second occasion and who saved his life (in the pope’s own words) is Massimiliano Strappetti, a professional described as “passionate about his work and extremely reserved.”
Massimiliano with his wife in a photo published in August.
Of Massimiliano we know very little else, because he’s been extremely discreet—so far, at least.
The words said by the pope at the Gemelli Hospital
According to the Italian newspaper, this nurse was present before and after Pope Francis’ operation, and could be seen among the people accompanying Pope Francis when he appeared on the balcony of the Gemelli hospital on July 11.
In those brief words Francis said as he greeted the people, he expressed his heartfelt thanks for the prayers and concern of many people.
During that same Angelus on July 11, Pope Francis stressed the importance of universal healthcare:
In these days of hospitalization, I experienced once again how important is good healthcare that is accessible to all, as there is in Italy and in other countries. Free healthcare, that assures good service, accessible to everyone. This precious benefit must not be lost. It needs to be kept!
Husband, father, and volunteer with the poor
According to the Corriere, Massimiliano is married and a father, and stands out for his kindness and generosity.
On his Facebook page there are photos of the couple and their children, as well as tender details such as this sentence: “If we had not met and today I met you for the first time, I would fall in love with you all over again.”
Another revealing fact is that he volunteers, helping those most in need.
Massimiliano works at the Vatican, where he was called to work after many years at the Gemelli hospital in Rome, in the intensive care unit. He has taken care of Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI (now emeritus), and Pope Francis.
However, in his social networks there is no mention of anything related to the pope’s health. It would seem that discretion is one of the virtues that has led to his current job in the Vatican.