Methodist Women's Hospital says a young mother's legacy lives on through her newborn son, and her pledge to be an organ donor.
It's an extraordinary story...and a very rare case.
Karla Perez, 22, collapsed at her Waterloo home in early February.
"Karla was at home, noticed she had a headache and needed to lay down and take a nap. She woke up later that evening around 10:30 or 11 and noticed the headache had become progressively worse and told her family she needed to go to the hospital." said Dr. Todd Lovgren, a Maternal-Fetal Medicine Doctor at Methodist Women's Hospital.
She appeared to have suffered a stroke. A CT scan revealed a brain bleed. The same day she arrived at Methodist Women's Hospital, doctors discovered clinical brain death.
Karla's family agreed to keep Karla's body alive, until her son Angel could be born.
"At 22 weeks a baby can't survive outside of the uterus or outside of the womb and so if we were going to give baby Angel any chance of survival we were going to have to prolong Karla’s pregnancy as long as possible with the minimum being possibly 24 weeks" Dr. Lovgren said.
WOWT's Malorie Maddox sat down with Karla's parents for an exclusive interview.
Her mother says the journey has been incredibly difficult.
"I was here with her day and night, the two months that she spent here. Day and night." said Berta Jimenez.
Berta, and her husband Modesto, say they spoke to Karla before her stroke about her second pregnancy. They told her they would be there for her.
"I was going to be with her during delivery, just like I was with her other daughter." said Berta.
In Karla's first pregnancy, she didn't have complications. Her daughter Genesis is almost three. This time, it was too much for her to bear.
"I never thought I was going to go through, through this." said Berta.
Karla hung on as long as she could.
On April 4th, her condition worsened, and the decision was made to proceed with a C-section.
Angel was born at 2 lbs. 12.6 oz., and was immediately admitted to the NICU where he continues to grow.
"When Angel was born, he had some initial respiratory struggles and wasn't effective enough to be breathing on his own. " said Dr. Brady Kerr, with the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. "We had to put a breathing tube in in the delivery room, stabilized him and brought him to the ICU."
"He’s been very stable really since. We took his breathing tube out, He remains on a nasal devise now to breathe and he’s on a full feeding tube."
His grandmother, Berta, has been by his side ever since. Also by Angel's side-a small blanket with his mother's smell to bring him comfort.
"Thank God. He's doing very well. He's growing and I'm very happy about it." said Berta. "I come to see him every day. I get him dressed, I give him baths, I change him, I hold him."
It took a team of more than 100 doctors, nurses, and staff at Methodist Health to get Karla through this.
It's extremely rare. In fact, there have only been 33 cases reported in the literature of women kept on somatic support until delivery, worldwide, since 1982.
"I have no words for the attention and how they took very good care of my daughter." said Berta.
Karla's family is close. They have been by each others sides through this entire ordeal.
"We're a very united family. My husband is always with me. We've been married for 24 years." said Berta. "I mean, I do get sad. I try to think that she's not dead, she's somewhere else."
One thing is certain. Karla's legacy lives on.
"She left me two little seeds and part of her and of course she gave life to three more people, so I'm proud as can be." said Berta.
Karla donated her organs...saving three more lives.
On April 4th, two angels came into this world.