Brazilian Muriel Padilha was on his way to work one day in October last year when he received an urgent phone call from his pregnant wife, Frankielen Zampoli.
“She said her head was killing her,” Padilha told the Daily Mail. “I told her to take a tablet. But she said there was a sharp pain at the back of her neck and it was so strong she felt she was going to collapse.”
Zampoli, pregnant with twins, had a severe brain hemorrhage.
Padilha rushed home, and found his wife shaking, crying and vomiting from the pain. He left their two-year-old daughter, Isa Beatrix with her grandmother, and shaken, packed Zampoli into the car.
“As I drove her to hospital, she said, ‘I want you to be prepared to accept this, because I will be staying there. I won’t be coming home,'” related Padilha to the Daily Mail. “That was the last time she spoke to me, and the last time I saw her alive.”
She lost consciousness before they reached Nosso Senhora do Rocio hospital.
After they arrived, doctors performed a number of tests on Zampoli, but the prognosis was devastating. They diagnosed her with cerebral hemorrhage—severe bleeding on the brain—and she was not going to survive.
The 21-year-old Zampoli was given pain-killers and antibiotics to ease her passing, and she was soon pronounced dead.
Adding to the tragedy, doctors also informed Padilha that his he should make arrangement for his children, because they would not survive.
“They said as soon as their little hearts stopped beating, they would turn off the gadgets and I would be able to bury my wife,” Padilha told the Daily Mail.
Although brain dead, Zampoli’s body was not giving up on her children.
But that was when something miraculous happened. Despite the doomed prognosis and Zampoli lacking any brain activity, her body continued to live on, supporting her babies.
It is called maternal somatic support after brain death, and it occurs in only 2.8% of cases. It usually does not last long, however. Since Padilha’s twins were so young, it was believed unlikely that they would be able to develop enough to survive outside of the womb.
Still, doctor’s and medical staff, as well as Padilha himself, refused to give up on them. They decorated the hospital room, and nightly rubbed Zampoli’s stomach. They also serenaded the young children inside her with live music.
Despite the tender care, however, the stress and anxiety of losing his dearest love, as well as the fear that he might lose his unborn children at any moment took its toll on Padilha’s mental state. A devout Christian, he would regularly cry out and beg God to bring her back to him, and sob for hours.
Even in death his wife was strong.
It was when he was at his darkest that Padilha said his ever-loving and nurturing wife came to him in a dream.
“‘Baby I can’t come back to you anymore,'” Padilha said that his wife told him, according to the Daily Mail. “‘I must stay. I am in a beautiful place now. You’ve got a big mission still to complete. You have to look after our children and you have to be strong and move on and live your life.'”
The message from his wife renewed his strength, and he would need it, as days turned into weeks, and then into months. After 123 days of supporting her unborn children—a new record—doctors were ready to perform a c-section to remove the children. The procedure was routine, and the children were placed into incubation for three months as they were born prematurely.
Without the need to support her children, Zampoli’s body shut down, and she was buried.
Her twins survived and were soon safe and healthy enough to go home.
Three months after the procedure in May, the twins, a boy Asaph, and girl Ana Vitoria, were finally ready to be brought home.
For Padilha though, his wife’s determination to save their children is something he will never forget.
“Thank you for making me happy and giving me so much of your love, I promise that you will never be forgotten,” Padilha wrote to his wife in a Facebook post. “I love you.”