One morning late last year, Maria Rossetti, from Tondu, South Wales, woke up feeling ill—but she didn’t think much of it at the time.
“I’d not felt good earlier that day, but I’d put it down to a bad cold,” she told the Daily Mail. “After dosing up on medication, I was determined to go and get my festive shopping done.”
She went out to a nearby department store with her daughter, Bianca. But in the middle of Christmas shopping, her illness suddenly became much worse.
“I felt like everything was closing in around me.”
But things only got worse. The next morning, her other daughter, Alanna, couldn’t even recognize her mother—her entire face had become extremely swollen. Doctors examined her and she was rushed to the hospital.
They soon discovered the cause: she had an abscess on her tooth which triggered sepsis, causing her inflammation.
Most troublingly, her tongue had become so swollen she was unable to breathe—and doctors had to administer a coma.
Her family waited by her bedside, and it pained them to see their mother like this:
“When I went in and saw her like that I just broke down. Covered in wires, she looked nothing like Mum,” Bianca told the Daily Mail. “She was so swollen she looked like the Elephant Man.”
As days passed with no signs of recovery, everyone was growing gravely concerned.
“It was touch and go whether she would pull through or not,” Bianca wrote. “It was a very harrowing time for us all.”
Not sure what else to do, a nurse suggested an idea of how they could possibly help.
“Her hearing had come back slightly,” Bianca recalled.
“So the nurse suggested we play Mum some of her favorite music, to let her know we were there.”
Her daughters agreed to give it a shot. And there was no guessing who their mom’s favorite musician was: David Bowie. Maria was a huge fan of the late great rock star, something she passed down to her children.
So they booted up one of Bowie’s classic songs, “Starman,” and played it at her bedside.
But they never could’ve imagined what happened next.
Maria had been laying perfectly still for four days. But as Bowie began singing, Maria began moving her arms—as if waving along to the music.
“As soon as he started singing and mum heard his voice, her arms started swaying in front,” Bianca told the Daily Mail.
The family was in tears—and took the response as a sign that things would turn around.
“It was like she was at a Bowie concert in her dreams, and for us it gave us hope that she was going to be okay.”
For the next few days, the family kept playing Bowie classics to Maria—and reportedly she kept responding to the music the same way.
It seemed like the music was the best medicine: only three days after the first Bowie track, doctors announced that Maria was ready to come out of the coma.
Was her miraculous recovery all thanks to Ziggy Stardust himself?
Maria seemed to think so—as soon as she awoke from the coma, she looked around for the deceased musician.
“When she came to, the first person she asked for was Bowie, not her daughters of her partner,” Bianca joked. “She’d forgotten Bowie had died the previous January, so when we told her she was crying her eyes out.”
Eventually, Maria came to terms with Bowie’s death, again, and finally thanked her still-alive family and medical team.
“I can’t thank the doctors and nurses in ICU and my family enough for all they did for me,” she told the Daily Mail. “They were amazing.”
But still, she’s not surprised by the role Bowie had in waking her up. Her daughters say that it was just Bowie—similar artists like T. Rex and Adam Ant got no response from her.
“I’ve always adored Bowie, so I’m not surprised,” Maria told the Daily Mail.
Miraculously, Maria even made it out of the hospital in time for Christmas.
“Doctors were astounded, as they didn’t think she would pull through,” Bianca told the Daily Mail.
“Having everyone together at home was very special.”
And in honor of the life-saving music, and as a way to give back and raise awareness about sepsis, the family plans to hold a David Bowie theme party next year to raise money for the UK Sepsis Trust, as well as Morriston Hospital.
It’s a testament to the power of David Bowie that nearly two years after his death, he’s still having a pretty major influence on people’s lives with his music. Even for coma patients, his songs are irresistible.
As Bowie once sang, “Wake up, you sleepyhead/put on some clothes, shake off your bed.”