It’s been more than two months since Joel Regal lost the mother of his children, and there are days when he still couldn’t accept that the woman who shared his dreams is no longer around.
Joel’s story is one of the most heartbreaking yet hopeful Father’s Day stories we encountered in recent weeks. It’s about how life sometimes springs the most terrible tragedies on the unsuspecting, and how we miraculously find the heart and willpower to stand up and move forward despite the odds.
Joel’s wife, April Regal, died a day after giving birth to triplets via emergency caesarian section. Before Jia Aamari, Jayce Aliyah, and Jashwi Adaliah came into their lives, it was just the couple building their dreams for the future. But Joel was told April suffered from heart enlargement, which would eventually lead to her untimely demise. April was 28.
News of his wife’s ailment came as a shock to Joel and their family, he admitted in an interview with Teleradyo host Winnie Cordero. His wife had never missed any of her checkups and had no history of heart disease. In fact, April was in high spirits when he last went home to Paete, Laguna, where April was staying. Joel works in a factory and lives in a boarding house in Sta. Rosa. He would come home on weekends to spend time with his wife. They were also aware that they were having triplets.
Joel and April were both aware they having triplets. But five days after the news, Joel got a call from his wife who told him she was having difficulty breathing. April, then eight months pregnant, was immediately rushed to the hospital. Joel, who was then at work, rushed home as soon as he can.
When the expectant dad arrived at the hospital, his wife was already on oxygen support. That was when he found out April had suffered from heart enlargement and lung complications. “Hinang-hina na daw po ang katawan nya,” Joel recalls the doctor telling him. “So kung gagawin ang operation, pati ang mga bata pwedeng mawala.”
On March 20, April gave birth to the triplets. Joel remembers last seeing his wife alive when she was being brought from the operating room to the intensive care unit (ICU). “Lumaban ka mahal,” he remembers crying out to her. “Aantayin ka namin ng mga anak mo. Kaya mo yan, marami pa tayong pangarap.”
That day, he posted a status on his Facebook page asking family and friends to storm the heavens with prayers. “Pero yun na talaga ang tadhana ng Dyos sa amin, wala na po akong magagawa,” Joel tells Cordero who is in the ABS-CBN studio while the camera shows the father at home gently rocking a cradle that contained his daughter Jia Aamari. Jayce Aliyah was then sound asleep, and Jashwi Adaliah was with his mother-in-law taking a bath.
The Regal babies were born premature. They had to stay in an incubator for a day and had to spend a week at the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Joel happily shares that all three are doing well and their weight has tripled over the last three months. Each of the infants weighed 1.9 kilos when they were born, and now each are 4.6 kilos-heavy.
They are being fed breastmilk, which Joel collects from generous donors around Laguna. He says the breast milk helped a lot in keeping his babies healthy. They only resort to milk formula whenever they run out of breast milk. “Mababait po ang mga nagdo-donate. Pag pini-pickup ko ang breast milk, may kasamang diaper or mga damit,” he says smiling. Joel would happily post updates about his daughters who, he says, are getting prettier by the day. They sport matching clothes and ribbons and bring delight to everyone who meets them.
April’s family members have been alternately taking care of the babies, and Joel cannot thank them enough for their sacrifice, especially when he has to be at work. “Kailangan pong mag-work kasi ako lang ang susuporta sa (mga anak ko),” he says. The father of three stays at his Sta. Rosa boarding house during weekdays, and comes home to Paete on Saturdays after collecting the breast milk donations.
While it’s hard for Joel to completely grasp why things happened the way they did, the father of three says he remains hopeful and positive because God has been using so many people to show them his bountiful love and grace.
There are times when the pain of missing his wife is a lot to bear. But there are times Joel would see his daughters smiling or giggling out of the blue, and he could only imagine April keeping them company and playing with them. “Kinakausap ko siya palagi kapag nasa room kami [ng mga bata],” he says. He would assure his late wife he will always be there for the children. “Ma, wag kang mag-alala,” he would tell her, “Di ko papabayaan ang mga anak mo.”
Those who wish to send financial assistance for the triplets may do so via Joel Regal's GCash Account 09515408031 or his BDO Savings Account Number 010110101626.
Photos courtesy of Joel Regal