"I absolutely bawled my eyes out when I saw Saima in her dress. She looked beautiful," he said. But months after that moment, he saw his wife in the same dress, but a painfully different setting.
To spend a lifetime together was what these newlyweds had pictured for themselves, but all that they could share were four months of wedded bliss before death did them apart.
After chatting with her for months online, Michael Herz knew that he had found the woman he wanted to spend the rest of his life with from the moment he set eyes on Saima. "As soon as I saw her in real life, I fell in love," he said.
On their first date in September 2015, they talked for so long that they missed their dinner reservations, and by the second date, there was nothing that could bring them apart.
A year later, Michael proposed to Saima and on August 26, 2018, they took each other as husband and wife in front of 150 guests on their wedding day, according to 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."
Not long after the head-over-heels couple came back from their honeymoon, 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."
Believing that it's nothing more than a cold, Saima felt better the next day and went to work. But a few hours later, Michael got a call from Saima's colleague. "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 recognised 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."
His dear wife's health quickly started declining, and Michael went on to write, "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."
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."
Saima was put into a medically-induced coma and put through tests that eventually diagnosed her 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."
After looking forward to stepping into the new year with the love of his life, Michael lost his partner in December 2018. There was one wish that Michael knew his wife always had since the time their wedding came to an end. He recollected how much she adored her wedding gown and had wanted to wear it again. And the devoted husband decided to make that come true, but only he knew the indescribable pain with which he fulfilled that wish—on the day of her funeral. He said, "She was buried in her wedding dress, which she’d always said she wanted to wear again one day."
For Saima, it was something he was willing to do because she was the one who restored his faith in love after he believed that he would never have a marriage. At the age of 12, Michael lost his mother and his brother in a horrible car crash, which he and his father survived. "Growing up, I had been unsure about relationships and letting somebody in. With what happened to my mum and brother, I was scared to lose another person – but when I met Saima, I fell in love," Michael said. "We were proper sweethearts, doing everything together. She was such a compassionate, beautiful woman, and if one good thing can come out of this horrendous situation then it’s to raise that awareness of encephalitis and help other families."
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." And he has been working tirelessly since her death to raise funds 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."
Along with 30 other riders who knew Saima, Michael is even planning to cycle and cover 200 miles from his wedding venue to London’s Buckingham Palace. He has also set up a campaign to invite donations.
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."