"This was no nightmare. This was reality," the devastated husband said. "I was watching my wife slipping away from me just weeks after coming back from our honeymoon."
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on January 14, 2020. It has since been updated.
Michael Herz was looking forward to stepping into a new year and a new life with his new bride but he saw that dream and his beloved wife slip away from his hands - and all he could do was shed tears of despair.
While online dating platforms have a reputation for being frivolous when love is destined to enter your life it does find a way. After chatting with her for a few months, Michael knew that he has found the one. He fell in love with Saima the moment he set his eyes on her and couldn't wait to make her a part of his life. "As soon as I saw her in real life, I fell in love," he said.
They met each other for the first time on September 15, 2015, and sparks flew instantly. So engrossed and comfortable were they, talking and being with each other they forgot about their dinner reservations. A second date happened, and before they knew it, a year later, Michael proposed to Saima. They said "I do" on August 26, 2018, in front of 150 guests, reports The Sun.
"I absolutely bawled my eyes out when I saw Saima in her dress. She looked beautiful," said Michael. "We got married under a canopy made from my mum’s wedding dress, so that was really special." Soon they left for their honeymoon and had the time of their lives.
They weren't even over the honeymoon when Saima, a nursery manager, started showing symptoms that resembled the flu. "Paracetamol and rest was what was prescribed as Saima just had flu-like symptoms," Michael wrote for JustGiving. "I thought there was genuinely nothing to worry about."
The next day, she seemed to recover as she believed that it was nothing more than the flu. She left for work and what happened next was a nightmare for them both. He got a call from Saima's colleagues and things did not look nice. "I got a call from Saima’s work telling me that she wasn’t feeling great and she wasn’t making sense when she was talking," he wrote. "...I jumped into my car and drove to pick up my wife from work as any man would. She barely recognized me. She was in a zombie-like state, frail and confused. I knew at that moment that something was terribly wrong so I rushed her to the nearest hospital."
The newlywed bride's health started declining fast. "Saima collapsed in my arms in the hospital and I knew things were taking a turn for the worse as soon as the fits/seizures and alarms were going off around us. This was no nightmare. This was reality. I was watching my wife slipping away from me just weeks after coming back from our honeymoon," Michael wrote.
At the hospital, "I told her that I loved her and begged her to stay awake – but then her eyes rolled back and she stopped responding," Michael said. "At that point, I just fell to my knees, crying in the middle of the hospital." After running numerous tests, Saima was diagnosed with encephalitis. Everything that the doctors tried failed to bring her back.
"Her heart was only beating because she was hooked up to a machine. If they turned it off, she’d have very little chance..." Michael said. "Saima was so strong and elegant and never asked anybody for anything. I knew she would have hated being in a vegetative state, having me as her round-the-clock carer. In the end, we agreed with the doctors to let her go, and so her family and I gathered around her bedside and the machine was turned off."
Michael lost his wife in December 2018 and his hopes of starting a new life with the new year remained unfulfilled. But he wanted to bid a heartfelt goodbye to her. Therefore, he recollected that there was one wish Saima often talked about - wearing her wedding gown again. She absolutely adored it and never got a chance to wear it after their wedding. He decided to fulfil this wish of Saima's one last time.
Looking at her, lifeless, in her wedding gown filled Michael with crippling pain but he wanted her to have what she always wanted to. He said, "She was buried in her wedding dress, which she’d always said she wanted to wear again one day." During his last goodbyes to Saima, Michael said, "I gave her a kiss and told her I loved her and that I’d make her proud."
However, he is determined to not let Saima's expiration go in vain. He has started a campaign to raise funds and awareness so that more research can be done on the medical condition that took his wife away from him. "I needed to do something to turn this horrendous tragedy into a potential positive for other people,” said Michael. "...More research will mean that people like Saima don’t just disappear. It’s such a dangerous condition as it’s not like it’s caused by any one thing you can avoid doing. In Saima’s case, doctors don’t even know what triggered it."
Michael has planned to cycle 200 miles from his wedding venue to London’s Buckingham Palace, with 30 riders who knew the couple. Michael added, "I want to raise as much money as possible so we one day have better drugs and treatments to fight this. And I decided to end up at Buckingham Palace, because I wanted somewhere literally fit for a queen, as that’s what Saima was to me."