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She Remains Resilient Through Personal Tragedy

Virginia, who is one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, suffers from a disease called locked-in syndrome. Her body is paralyzed. She can see and hear, open and close her eyes, and move her head slightly. She cannot speak or eat. At one time, she was healthy and energetic. But one morning in 1997, she felt a sharp, persistent pain in the back of her head. Her husband took her to a hospital, and that evening she fell into a coma. She woke up two weeks later in an intensive-care unit, paralyzed and connected to a ventilator. For a few days, she could not remember anything, not even who she was.

Virginia explains what happened next. “Gradually my memories returned. I prayed intensely. I did not want to die and leave my young son without a mother. To build up my courage, I tried to remember as many Bible verses as I could.

“Eventually, the doctors moved me out of intensive care. After six months in different hospitals and at a rehabilitation center, I was sent home. I was still completely paralyzed, and I needed help with everything. I was so discouraged! I felt useless to others and to Jehovah. I also worried about the care of my son.

“I started to read experiences of other Witnesses who dealt with conditions like mine and was amazed at what they were able do for Jehovah. As a result, I tried to cultivate a positive attitude by focusing on what I could do. Before I got sick, I had limited time for spiritual activities. Now I had the whole day, every day. So instead of giving in to despair, I focused on my devotion to Jehovah.

“I learned to use a computer. I type with software that reacts to my head movement. It is exhausting, but the technology allows me to study the Bible and to share my hope with others by letter and e-mail. To communicate with those around me, I have a board with the alphabet on it. The person with me points at the letters, one at a time. When the wrong letter is chosen, I open my eyes wide; when the right letter is chosen, I close my eyes. We repeat the process to form words and sentences. Some of the sisters who spend a lot of time with me have become experts at predicting what I want to say. When, at times, they get the wrong word, we see the funny side of it.

Communicating by means of an alphabet board

“I enjoy being involved with congregation activities. I always tie in for the meetings, now by means of videoconferencing. I’m able to type my comments, and someone reads them out during question-and-answer parts. I also tie in with a small group of Witnesses to watch the monthly JW Broadcasting programs. *

“I have had locked-in syndrome for 23 years now. At times, I feel sad. But I’m able to overcome those occasional moments by praying, by associating with the brothers, and by staying spiritually active. In fact, with help from the congregation, I have been able to auxiliary pioneer for over six years. I have tried to be a good example for my son, Alessandro, who is now married and serves as an elder. Along with his wife, he also serves as a regular pioneer.

“I often meditate on the things I will be able to do in the future paradise. The first thing I want to do is talk about Jehovah with my own voice. I would like to go for a walk along a creek in the countryside just to enjoy the beautiful landscape. And since I’ve been fed with liquids through a tube for the past two decades, I can’t wait to pick an apple from a tree and bite into it. And of course, being Italian, I look forward to making and eating my favorite Italian foods, including pizza!

“The ‘hope of salvation’ has helped to protect my mind. (1 Thessalonians 5:8) Seeing myself in the new world gives me joy despite my physical limitations, which I am confident will soon end. Yes, I can’t wait to enjoy ‘the real life’ that Jehovah has promised to give us by means of his Kingdom.”—1 Timothy 6:19; Matthew 6:9, 10.

^ par. 6 A link to JW Broadcasting can be found at jw.org.