When Gloria Polo was struck by lightning in 1995, her internal organs were so badly burnt that the doctors believed there was no way she could survive. They wanted to turn off her life support and let nature take its course.
Twenty-two years later, except for a slight limp when she walks, there are no obvious signs of what she suffered.
When one of the doctors who had treated her injuries was asked by a journalist in 2013 to summarise what had happened to Gloria Polo he said simply, “Miracle”.
Her amazing story has become known around the world, not so much because of her miraculous healing, but rather because of her near death experience, during which she claims she saw heaven, hell and purgatory.
Presented by Parousia Media, Gloria was recently in Sydney, where the 58-year-old orthodontist from Colombia gave her testimony at packed-out venues. Audiences turned out in their hundreds to hear how the near death experience had changed Gloria’s life, convincing her that God is real, the afterlife is real, and that what we do during our lives here on earth has profound consequences for our lives hereafter.
Before she was struck by lightning, Gloria says that, although a Catholic, she had been living an “egocentric” life, and was practically an atheist. “To me the important values in life then were having money and enjoying the power that money gave me,” Gloria says.
On that fateful day, 5 May 1995, the 36-year-old mother of two, was walking with her nephew and husband through the grounds of the National University of Bogota in Colombia when the lightning bolt struck. Tragically her twenty-three year old nephew was killed. Her husband was rendered unconscious but escaped serious harm. Gloria’s body was severely burnt inside and out. While unconscious, Gloria says she left her body.
“I didn’t feel anything when the lightning bolt hit me. I was enveloped by an immense light that gave me an immense love, immense peace, and immense happiness.”
She says she was granted “spiritual wisdom”, making her aware that the majority of humanity were submerged in a “sea of iniquity”. She saw that many people were enslaved by sin and totally absorbed in TV, social media, the internet and computer games, “with no wish whatsoever to elevate their own soul to God, without any prayers, and indifferent to the needs of their neighbour.”
She says she glimpsed paradise, where she could see “a beautiful garden’’ full of ‘“living water’’ and “living flowers’’.
“I wanted to go in but when I tried I found I couldn’t get in because I died in mortal sin,’’ Gloria said.
When Gloria’s husband regained consciousness and saw his wife’s body smoking and jumping due to the electricity, as the paramedics performed CPR on her, he cried out, “Gloria! Don’t leave me!”
She believes Jesus took pity on her distraught husband and permitted her to return to her body, which was severely damaged.
The lightning bolt had caused Gloria to have a cardiac arrest. The electricity had exploded all her skin, including around her breasts, womb, legs and internal organs. She was using birth control at the time—an IUD device made of copper—which maximized the effect of the lightning. “The doctor told me my ovaries were left looking like black raisins. Liver, kidney, lungs, totally burned.”
She was taken to hospital and underwent surgery but her condition rapidly deteriorated. “My lungs started to fill up with water. My kidneys started failing. I was dying.” Gloria had a second cardiac arrest and when medical staff performed CPR on her again she went into a deep coma.
Once again Gloria says she left her body and believes she saw her sins personified. “I started seeing these people coming out of the walls of the operating theatre with an evil look and with a look of hatred towards me …Those faces are the sins that I’ve committed since I was thirteen—the last time I went to sacramental confession.”
She also describes falling head first towards a giant “mouth” that she believes was the gateway to hell. She screamed in desperation, “I’m a Catholic!” Gloria says it was St Michael the Archangel who prevented her falling into hell and she describes him as being made of “immense love, authority and beauty”.
She ended up in a place she believes was purgatory, consisting of many cells containing people. The people in the highest level of cells were very beautiful with light emanating from them.
Gloria says she saw her own parents in purgatory. Her mother who had been “an adorer of the Blessed Sacrament” on earth was in the higher levels and her father on the lower levels.
“I realised that my parents were being held to account for the education they had given me here on earth, especially my dad because he was the patriarch—the man for his family.”
Gloria became acutely aware of the dire state of her own soul when Jesus opened the Book of Life—the book detailing everything she had done during her life.
“I see how abominable my sins are, especially the sin of abortion. My life is seen through the light of the Ten Commandments … I realise that I’m condemned to hell by my own will.”
It was the prayers said for her by other people that saved her, Gloria says, and caused Jesus to have mercy on her, and send her back to her body.
“Then I see the greatest power that the prayer of intercession has. I see the Virgin Mary collecting all the prayers from all the people of Colombia with her left hand and in her right hand she collects all the prayers of the saints.”
She re-entered her body and her heart began pumping normally again. She regained consciousness much to the astonishment of the doctors and her family. “They were all crying and praising God,” Gloria says.
Against all expectations, Gloria recovered incredibly fast, including her internal organs. As if this were not miraculous enough, Gloria went on to later bear another child despite the damage her internal organs had endured.
She can no longer dance or do aerobics and she walks with a limp, but Gloria is blissfully happy. “I don’t walk like an elegant swan anymore but I’m happy,” she says with a smile.
The experience changed Gloria profoundly. “Just the realisation Satan is real caused me a lot of anguish. I started living a sacramental life, getting closer to the Holy Eucharist every day.”
Today Gloria gives her testimony all around the world, with the approval of her diocese in Colombia and her spiritual director.
A book has also been written about her called Struck by Lightning: Death, Judgment and Conversion (available from Parousia Media).
She receives no profit whatsoever from her testimony and sees it as God’s mission, not hers.
“I can see my testimony has touched a lot of people. It’s not me, it’s the power of God. There are a few men who have become priests after they’ve heard my testimony because they’ve felt so much love.”
Gloria has a simple message for her audiences:
“We have a God who loves us so much but also respects our free will. It’s a God who loves you with so much passion. His mercifulness is so big. He is constantly seeking people’s love, like a beggar. He doesn’t force anyone to love him. So it’s up to the individual.”
by Catherine Sheehan
This article was originally published in the Catholic Weekly.