Maximiliano Acuña is a garbage collector in Buenos Aires who earlier this year was injured in a serious accident that left him without legs.
On Tuesday, he was surprised to receive an unexpected phone call from Pope Francis.
The pope offered words of encouragement, 33-year-old Acuña told the Argentine Morfi Television program.
On March 22, the father of five children had been collecting garbage in a Buenos Aires neighborhood when he was struck by a car going some 80 miles an hour.
As a result of the accident, both of his legs had to be amputated.
A Buenos Aires legislator, Gustavo Vera, decided to tell Pope Francis what happened in an e-mail, in which he explained that the “doctors’ prognosis was for the worst.”
“In the best case scenario, he was expected to be in a vegetative state or to have serious neuronal damage, and in the worst case it was going to be the end for him,” Vera told the Holy Father.
However, Acuña surprised doctors when he came out of the coma on the third day. Two days later, he was moved from intensive care to a regular hospital room. “In a few weeks he was already home with his five children,” Vera related in his message to the pope.
This July 18, Acuña was getting ready to be honored at a ceremony at the Buenos Aires Legislature when he got a special call.
“I’m Pope Francis. A friend (Vera) sent me a letter, and I was moved and struck by how much strength you have,” the voice said on the other end of the line. “Always go forward, because you’re an example.”
Acuña recounted these words with emotion at a ceremony in front of hundreds of other garbage collectors.
Now, Vera is working with the general secretary of the Truckers Union, Pablo Moyano, to propose that March 22 be declared “Waste Collectors’ Day,” in tribute to this young collector.
“God gave me my life back, because they removed both legs, but everything that is happening to me is beautiful,” Acuña said.
“I always believed in God, I always went to church, praying everyday asking him for work, and that he take care of me day by day.”
“God exists,” Acuña continued. “I want to give everyone this message, that God exists and that he has given me a new opportunity.”