Pope's Personal Physician Heads Team of Doctors

Buzzonetti With John Paul II Since 1978

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VATICAN CITY, MARCH 4, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Entrusted in 1978 with the position of primary physician of the young and athletic John Paul II, Dr. Renato Buzzonetti didn’t think his expertise would be needed anytime soon.

The attempted assassination of May 13, 1981, however, marked the beginning of a series of seven hospitalizations in Rome’s Gemelli Polyclinic that required Buzzonetti to dedicate himself full-time to his first responsibility, the Pope’s care.

Continuing to care for the Pope as his primary physician, Buzzonetti writes the statements on the Holy Father’s health, though they are all signed by Joaquín Navarro Valls, the Vatican spokesman confirmed yesterday.

Buzzonetti, 81, a specialist in gastroenterology and hematology, has never given an interview and discretion has characterized his lifestyle.

He worked with other popes including a few months with Paul VI, who died Aug. 6, 1978. He certified on Sept. 29 the death of John Paul I that same year.

Having received his degree from the University of Perugia in 1965, Buzzonetti began to work five years later in Rome’s St. Camillus hospital.

Beginning in 1965, Buzzonetti complemented his work in that Italian public hospital with services in the Vatican. In 1979 he was appointed director of the office of Health Services of the Vatican City State, a post he still holds.

He is also a member of the administrative council of Vatican City’s Health Assistance Fund.

Buzzonetti has accompanied the Holy Father during his 26-year pontificate on his trips around Italy and the world, in his summer residence of Castel Gandolfo and during his holidays in the Italian Alps.

Assisting Buzzonetti is Sister Tobiana, one of the Polish nuns who looks after the Holy Father. She holds a degree in medicine, and continues to assist in the Pope’s care at the Gemelli Hospital.

Doctor Rodolfo Proietti, head of the Gemelli’s emergency and admissions departments, admitted John Paul II in early February when he was hospitalized for complications from the flu.

A professor of anesthesiology, Proietti administered the general anesthesia to the Holy Father before his tracheotomy operation Feb. 24.

Speaking with the Italian newspaper Avvenire after the hospitalization, Proietti spoke about the «enormous emotion» surrounding «the honor to look after the Holy Father.» He commented that in doing so he understood what «every patient must represent for a doctor and the way in which a doctor should live his mission.»

«I came out with the awareness that I received much more than I gave. There were more profound feelings, which I will never forget, and which I would like to keep private,» he added.

Between the two hospitalizations in February, the Holy Father’s progress was followed in his Vatican apartment by a doctor specializing in resuscitation and by Dr. Angelo Camaioni, an ear, nose and throat specialist of Rome’s St. John’s Hospital. The Pope also has a nurse available in the Vatican.

The tracheotomy was performed by Dr. Gaetano Paludetti, an ear, nose and throat specialist from the Catholic Sacred Heart University in Rome, Camaioni, and assisted by Dr. Giovanni Almadori.

Also present at the surgery were Dr. Enrico De Campora, an ear, nose and throat professor at the University of Florence and consultant for the office of Health Services of the Vatican City State, and Buzzonetti, confirmed Navarro Valls.

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