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Mother (now Saint) Teresa was a terrible patient

Kimberly Adams Sep 5, 2016
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Dr. Patricia Aubanel Riedel was one of Mother Teresa's doctors during the last years of her life and now works at hospital that bears her name. 
Kimberly Adams/Marketplace

Over the weekend, Pope Francis canonized Mother Teresa. Although she was known for her tenderness with children and the poor, to some … she was a bit of a handful. Along with the many nuns and other staff supporting her, she had a team of doctors struggling to keep up with her, especially as she got older.

One of those doctors was Patricia Aubanel Riedal of the “Mother Teresa” Hospital del Prado in Tijuana, Mexico, who called working with the Catholic nun a “gift” and a “privilege”, even if it was a struggle at times. Here are some of her memories of the newest saint as she recalls them: 

Mother Teresa was treated in this hospital which now bears her name. 

She was 80 years old, that’s when I met her — she came into Tijuana in the late 80s to build up the first missionary house and she now has six houses in Tijuana. So one of the times she came in, she became very very ill in Tijuana. She had pneumonia, she had a heart condition and she was becoming more ill. She had a few doctors from U.S. seeing her and a couple from Mexico, but she was not getting better. And that’s when I received a call to come in to see Mother.

I was lucky. Before she wouldn’t like doctors to come see her, she wouldn’t accept the care. She was not worried about her disease or her illness, she was always worried about others, and always worried about helping others and caring for others and giving food to others. She would bring people for cure to doctors but she would never care for herself.

She didn’t listen to the radio, she never watched TV, never saw a newspaper and she knew everything what’s going on in the world. She would see that there was a war in Beirut and she would have a dream that there was a children’s hospital that was bombarded. And she woke up with the feeling that I must go to Beirut. I must go and rescue as many kids as I can. And we said, “Mother, what are you talking about? There’s no way to get into Beirut.  It’s the middle of the war, the borders are closed, you cannot get in.  What can we do to get in?” She then would take a boat from Athens, convince some fishermen to take her to the border of Beirut, and as soon as we arrived into the borders of Beirut there was a cease of fire. So we entered into Beirut and rescued the children in this hospital. It’s absolutely amazing, incidents like this — I could tell you so many beautiful stories. 

Marketplace’s Kimberly Adams spoke with Dr. Abubanel Riedel in Tijuana with the support of the International Women’s Media Foundation’s Adelante Latin American Reporting Initiative. 

Click the audio player above to hear Dr. Riedal  talk about Mother Teresa. 

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