VATICAN CITY - A 22-year-old nurse at Rome's Gemelli Polyclinic claims to be the first beneficiary of a miracle performed by Pope John Paul II's tracheotomy. Gina Lola Palooza told reporters this morning that she saw "a huge flame" burst from John Paul's tracheotomy site when she entered his holiness' papal suite at the hospital shortly after midnight.
Palooza, a therapeutic massage specialist, said she was attending to routine paperwork at the nurses' station when she was buzzed by the pope.
"I thought, mama mia, I've given him two massages already and I've only been here a little more than an hour," said Palooza. "But when the pope calls . . ."
When she entered the pope's suite, said Palooza, a huge flame shot from the pope's tracheotomy hole and the temperature in the room increased "at least 50 degrees." Terrified, she ran from the room to get a fire extinguisher. That's when she noticed her breasts, "formerly two sad, little robin's eggs" as she described them, bouncing against her chin. Then she saw her reflection in the glass of the fire extinguisher cabinet, and she realized that her chronic acne, which had plagued her for years, was gone.
"I sank to my knees and thanked God, the pope, and my dead grandmother for those miracles," said Palooza, fingering the huge crucifix threatening to get lost in her cleavage.
As news of the Thoracic Miracle commanded headlines in newspapers throughout Italy, thousands of pock-faced, flat-chested women gathered outside Gemelli Polyclinic chanting, "Save us, Papa. Save us, Papa."
Meanwhile, Cardinal Umberto Pescatore, chief emissary of the papal signs-and-wonders council, urged caution.
"We have strict protocols that must be followed before we can certify any effect, no matter how marvelous, as a miracle," said Pescatore. "In Italy we have a saying, Just because it smells like fish doesn't mean it's good to eat.' There might be a simpler explanation for the improvements in Senora Palooza's appearance."
Indeed, several papal doctors said that the "heavenly profusion of flame" might simply have been caused by the release of built-up gas.
"Earlier in the day his holiness was passing gas' through the tracheotomy site," said one physician, who did not wish to be identified. "We noticed that whenever the pope took his finger off the tracheotomy tube during speech therapy, he would break wind' through his throat. It was all we could do to keep from laughing."
The physician then attempted to describe to the startled reporters how the pope sounded when he ordered dinner: "I'd like the brrrrraapp fried calamari appetizer
threeeep, the scungilli pomodoro prrruppppp, and the tiramisu bruuuuuurt."
In related news, Ed McMahon announced that Colonial Life Insurance would not raise the premiums on the pope's insurance.