Broken heart syndrome: Is it real?

Broken heart death

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- This week, a British couple who had been married more than 70 years died within just four minutes of each other, in separate hospitals, just three miles apart.

People who’ve been married for decades believe it has more to do with true love than mere coincidence. 

Jim and Rebecca Bradford have been married for 63 years now. 

“We grow together and that's the way it should be,” said Jim.

“And I don't know how both would react if something happens to one of the other. Because 63 years of togetherness is a long time,” added Rebecca.

The St. Petersburg couple now live at the Masonic Home of Florida in St. Petersburg. They’ve shared so much, their lives -- now so intertwined -- that they figuratively and in some ways literally, can't imagine living without each other.

“I cannot,” said Jim, “Because I've been through so much now, that I cannot be with her. I wouldn't know what else to do.” 

“I will lose my half,” said Rebecca, “When Jim's gone, part of me will be gone, too. And that's the part that wants to live. That will be gone.”

And so it was with Wilf and Vera Russell, the British pair who captured the hearts of social media users around the world this week.

After 70 years of marriage, the Russells passed away within minutes of each other, unaware the other was also dying.

“The heart can give up,” said Dr. Siva Kumar, a cardiologist at Tampa General Hospital whom we spoke with recently about broken heart syndrome. “We see it every other month. A couple of patients a month,” he said.

Relatives say Vera Russell did have a broken heart. Wilf, diagnosed with dementia, no longer recognized her.

But that had been a year ago.

Wilf died at 6:50 a.m. Wednesday, and although she had no way of knowing her lifelong love had passed, Vera died four minutes later at a hospital three miles away. 

On social media, people like Cherie wrote, "It's like it was the plan all along."

"Some things just can't be explained," added Apricot.

And Mark said, "It could be proof that there is more to life after death."

The Bradfords certainly hope that's true. 

“I believe the good Lord had a place for them and they were ready to go. And he took them together. Because they had been together,” said Jim.

“God knows what you can stand. What you can go through. And what's best for you,” added Rebecca, “And for them, it was best they were together.”

© 2017 WTSP-TV


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