One woman in Brazil was nine weeks pregnant with twins when she started to feel sharp, piercing pains in her head and neck. Frankielen da Silva Zampoli Padilha called her husband at work in desperation, pleading for him to come rush her to the hospital.
"She said her head was killing her," her husband Muriel said. "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."
Of course, the worried husband left work to drive Frankielen to the hospital. But before they arrived, his 21 year-old wife lost consciousness. The doctors later diagnosed her with severe bleeding in her brain. Frankielen suffered a cerebral hemorrhage, followed by a stroke.
She had severe bleeding in her brain, leaving her brain dead
Nine weeks is still too early for a pregnancy; most fetuses this young are still at high risk of miscarriage. The doctors expected the babies to die once their mother was pronounced brain dead.
"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," Muriel said.
While Muriel dealt with the impending loss of his wife and his unborn children, the doctors predicted the babies' hearts would stop after about three days.
The medical team and Muriel watched a miracle unfold
"Frankielen's organs were all intact and working as if she was still with us," explained Dr. Dalton Rivabem, head of the Neurological ICU at the hospital where Frankielen was staying. "We (made) the decision to keep her alive to save her unborn children. And every day we watched them grow normally."
He said that, much to everyone's surprise, the babies were "clinging to life."
The doctors, nurses and caretakers took on the role of nurturing the babies, still growing in the womb.
"We decorated the area around Frankielen's bed," said Erika Chechan, the hospital's chaplain. "The ICU was filled with love, affection and encouragement for the babies and their family to succeed. We said, 'we love you' every day they were here."
Caregivers and hospital staff even played music and sang songs for the growing babies.
The babies were born 123 days later
Frankielen was seven months pregnant - four of those months she had been on life support - when she gave birth via caesarean section to a beautiful boy and girl.
Ana Vitoria, was 3 pounds and her twin brother, Asaph was 2.8 pounds. They were born in February and were discharged in May after spending three months in incubators being carefully monitered by the hospital's staff.
While Muriel was heartbroken over the loss of his wife, he said the birth of his children was nothing short of a miracle.
Frankielen's mother was full of joy to have her two grandchildren with her
"I'm so proud of my daughter," she said. "It's been hard losing her but she was a warrior right until the end, protecting her beautiful children and giving them life until the day she finally died." Grandma will be helping to take care of the twins and the Padilha's other child while Muriel works to support his family.
After an incredible journey, the twins were able to join their father and two-year-old big sister at home.
Along with keeping her two babies alive, Frankielen's organs were donated, which saved two more lives.
A mother's love truly extends beyond death, and Frankielen proved that.