Stacie Napoli had rituals for every ultrasound she underwent. She held a St. Anthony medal given to her by her mother, prayed to St. Gerard and held a holy card from her grandfather's funeral.
"You've never found anyone who wanted children as much as she did," said her mother, Kerri Livermore.
Napoli, who served in Iraq and was a 17-year veteran of the West Allis Police Department, died Monday just moments after giving birth to twins.
As word spread, the department was inundated with condolences and offers of support. A special fund to help the family had already raised more than $20,000 by Tuesday evening. Many donors had never met Napoli, but were heartbroken.
Napoli, 39, died of a pulmonary embolism -- a sudden blockage of a major blood vessel in the lungs, usually by a blood clot -- after giving birth by Caesarean section at West Allis Memorial Hospital, according to a medical examiner's report.
The twins, Parker and Ellie, are in intensive care but doing well, said Livermore, of Greenfield. Ellie weighed 2 pounds 4 ounces; Parker weighed 1 pound 15 ounces, she said.
They're a little bigger than your hand, but not much, she said.
Napoli, of Hartland, had been admitted to the hospital on Jan. 22 for preterm labor. A Caesarean section was scheduled for Feb. 16 because of premature labor, at 27 weeks and 1 day. The babies were delivered and, while Napoli was being moved from the operating room, she suffered the embolism, the report said. Her husband, Jeff Pollack, was at her side.
"I just want people to know how good of a person she was," he said Tuesday. "With her job, she took a lot of pride in what she did. She cared about what she did, helping people."
Pulmonary embolism in itself is not rare, according to Karen Domagalski, operations manager in the medical examiner's office. However, pulmonary embolism due to childbirth is rare.
"Pregnancy in general is a risk factor for pulmonary emboli, as well as surgery," she said in an email. "We do not see very many of these cases; this is the first I have seen in childbirth in the seven years I have been here."
One of the physicians in the office, who has done "multiple autopsies," said it was the first case of this type that he had seen, she added.
Screaming with joy
Married for almost three years, Napoli and her husband were ready to begin a family.
She called her mother screaming with the news of a positive pregnancy test. "She was screaming so loud ... when it said 'yes,' her husband had to close the windows," Livermore said.
Napoli spent the last five weeks of her life in the hospital, her mother said. She did everything she could think of to help bring her babies closer to their due date, which was at the end of May.
"She wouldn't move her leg because she thought it would give the babies one more hour," her mother said.
Napoli had asked for the St. Anthony medal before she went into the delivery room, but it couldn't be found, Livermore said. It was later found in her bed.
She never got to see her children, her mother said.
"They whisked them away," Livermore said. "But I think she knew that they were OK."
She added, "She may not have seen them, but she experienced the feeling of being a mother."
Livermore, a geriatric nurse, has been able to care for the babies in the neonatal intensive care unit.
"When I touch them, I feel her," she said. "So I have that. We have part of her, so we're lucky in that way. And the babies are so beautiful."
Napoli was a 1992 graduate of Cudahy High School, her mother said, and attended Ripon College on an ROTC scholarship. She served for 18 months in Iraq beginning in 2001. Her Army division built lookout towers. Napoli was injured when logs fell on one of her feet. After being treated, she went back to Iraq, her mother said.
Napoli was a 17-year veteran on the force, West Allis Police Chief Charles Padgett said in a news release. Most recently, she was assigned to the Sensitive Crimes Unit. On Tuesday, officers were wearing a black band across their badge to honor Napoli.
Moved by the story of a woman many had never met, people donated money and offered messages of comfort to her family. A family friend set up a fund online to help raise money for the family. With a goal of $50,000, the Remembering Stacie Napoli fund had reached $22,500 by Tuesday evening.
"The twins' father, Jeff Pollack, lost his best friend and soul-mate," the site said, "and two children merely hours old, lost a mother with whom they only knew for a short matter of moments."
Many donors left touching messages.
"I don't know this young lady...but was devastated by her story. I would like to help any way I can," one said.
"How overwhelmingly sad," said another. "I can't begin to understand the conflicting emotions laid on the hearts of Stacie's family."
Yet another wrote, "Just a stranger and fellow twin mommy who cannot stop crying. God bless. I am so sorry."
One woman wrote in with the offer to donate breast milk.
The West Allis Police Department noted in a message on the fund site that if donors wanted to send checks, instead of donating electronically, they could be made payable to: Community Improvement Foundation, with "In Memory of Stacie Napoli" in the memo line. They may be sent to the West Allis Police Department, c/o Capt. Steve Beyer, 11301 W. Lincoln Ave.,West Allis, WI 53227.
Funeral arrangements are pending. Besides her mother, husband and twins, Napoli is survived by two sisters, Angela Livermore of Milwaukee and Trisha Adams of South Milwaukee.
To donate to the family's fund, visit gofundme.com
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McClatchy-Tribune News Service