Nine weeks into her pregnancy, 21-year-old Frankielen da Silva Zampoli Padilha suffered a severe stroke. She died officially in October of last year. In a shocking surprise to her husband, family, and doctors, however, her unborn twins were still growing and thriving. Though brain dead, the doctors kept her body alive long enough to deliver.
Brain Dead Mom Gives Birth To Twins
Tragedy struck for the Padilha of Brazil last year when soon-to-be-mom Frankielen suffered a severe cerebral hemorrhage. The doctors pronounced her brain dead in October 2020 – there was nothing more they could do for her. Nine weeks pregnant at the time, they were sure that her unborn twins would suffer the same fate. In what can only be described as a miracle, however, the babies were still alive. What’s more, they were still growing and thriving, despite their mother being technically dead. (1)
“We did an ultrasound on the embryos thinking they would be failing in the womb but to our surprise they were clinging to life,” explained Dr. Dalton Rivabem, head of neurological ICU. “Frankielen’s organs were all intact and working as if she was still with us. We took the decision to keep her alive to save her unborn children. And every day we watched them grow normally.”
The family and doctors decided to keep her organs functional until the babies were able to be delivered. They kept her body alive for 123 days, approximately four months, which is the longest an officially “dead” mother has been kept alive to deliver the babies. Her twins were born via c-section, a birth that their father describes as a miracle.
“I Won’t Be Coming Home”
One day last October, Frankielen called her husband urgently asking him to come home from work. She had a sharp pain in the back of her neck and her head was hurting so badly she thought she was going to collapse. She was in tears, crying, shaking, dizzy, and vomiting from the pain. Her husband rushed her to the hospital.
“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”,” he recalled. “Then she passed out and those were the last words she spoke to me and the last time I saw her alive.”
After three days of trying to save Frankielen with various drugs and antibiotics, the doctors thought for sure the babies wouldn’t survive. As we know, they were wrong.
The twins, one girl, and one boy, were born weighing 1.4kg and 1.3 kg respectively. Their health was just the same as any premature babies of the same age. Of course, the family is devastated at losing their daughter, sister, and wife, but they are overjoyed that her legacy can live on through her children.
“I’m so proud of my daughter. 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.” said her mother.
The doctors, nurses, and all the hospital staff took turns throughout the pregnancy singing to, talking to, and caressing Frankielen’s baby bump. They, along with the family, did their best to fill the room with as much love as possible for the healthy development of the babies. Thousands of Brazilians donated to the family, which the babies’ father is now using some of that money to renovate their home. Now, he needs a home to accommodate the couple’s two-year-old daughter as well as the twins. Everyone, including the doctors and hospital staff, cried when the babies were born.
“Frankielen has appeared to me on many occasions especially when I was despairing and crying out for God to bring her back to me,” said her husband. “One night she sat on my bed and said: “Baby I can’t come back to you anymore. 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”.”
Though still tragic, the family finds comfort and joy in the newest members of their family.
What Is Brain Death?
Brain death, also known as being brain dead, is when something traumatic occurs to a human’s brain. It is irreversible, so while their body may still be functioning, there is nothing that can be done to bring them back to life. They require a life support machine to keep their heart and therefore the rest of their body functioning. Brain death can be caused by (2):
- Cardiac arrest
- Heart attack
- Blood clot
- Severe head injury
- Brain hemorrhage (brain bleed)
- Certain infections
- A brain tumor
This is not the same as being in a coma or vegetative state, because there is no brain function whatsoever. Unfortunately, there is nothing that can be done to save someone once they are brain dead.
- “Brain dead pregnant woman, 21, was kept alive for 123 days – the longest period ever – before delivering healthy twins via a ‘miracle’ caesarean section.” Daily Mail. Alexandra Thompson, Janet Tappin Coelho. July 11, 2017.
- “Brain death.” NHS