Mum Decides to Carry Baby with No Brain to Full Term to Donate Organs


keri_young

A young American mother has decided to carry her terminally-ill baby daughter to full term – knowing the child will live only a few hours – so that her organs can be donated to those who need them.

Keri Young and her husband Royce went for an ultra-sound scan at 19 weeks to find out their baby’s sex but were devastated to learn that the child had a terminal condition known as anencephaly.

The baby, who they named Eva, will be born without a fully-developed brain and is expected to die within hours of her birth.

Mr and Mrs Young weighed whether to induce an early pregnancy and move on with their lives but decided instead to take the pregnancy to full-term so that the child’s organs could be donated.

“This is our daughter’s perfect heart. She has perfect feet and perfect hands. She has perfect kidneys, perfect lungs and a perfect liver. Sadly, she doesn’t have a perfect brain.”

“We found out recently she has anencephaly and is terminal. Faced with terrible options we have decided to continue the pregnancy to full term so Eva, which literally means life, can grow strong and give life to multiple people through organ donation.”

keri_young
We got to see our girl in 4D this afternoon. It was so, so amazing. She has chubby cheeks and long fingers and toes.

“This was not an easy decision. For the next 20 weeks I will feel her kick, have the hiccups and we’ll be able to hear her perfect heart beating all while knowing we’ll only get a few short hours with her when she’s born.”

Doctors told the couple that the baby’s heart valves could be donated to someone who needed them, along with her kidneys, liver and possibly her pancreas. Her lungs could also be donated for scientific research. 

In a series of Facebook posts, Mrs Young describes how she and her husband wrestled with the decision. 

“The reality of feeling her kick for 20 weeks was very much settling in. Strangers excitedly asking me about my stomach and friends not knowing how to treat us was devastating to think about.”

“Eva will have life even though it will be short. She’ll donate anything she can and do more in her time on earth than I ever will.”

The baby is due on May 7.

In recent Facebook posts keri shares some raw and honest thoughts on how she came to her decision with Eva.

It’s long but I married a writer so whatever. 

We don’t like to tell a ton of people when we’re having the big 19-week ultrasound. We love the surprise of “It’s a boy!” or “It’s a girl!” so very few people know. Usually just a few close friends. Monday, as we were leaving our church after dropping Harrison off at MDO we saw one of our dear friends that knew where we were headed. We rolled down the window and were very excitedly talking about our ultrasound. The last thing I said to her was, “I hope it has a brain.” 

Yes, really.

A few months ago during the last presidential debate the topic of late-term abortion came up. We all remember how much controversy that stirred up. I’m pro-life. That has not changed and I guess after this it really isn’t changing. But a few days after the debate I read a very thoughtful article on what it’s really like to have a late-term abortion. It tested me and it made me realize some people choose abortion for more reasons than an unplanned or unwanted pregnancy. I immediately messaged a few of my closest friends because I wanted their thoughts. We all agreed, we’re pro-life at any stage of life. My exact words were, “If I were put in this position, I’d want that baby alive and healthy for as long as possible. So if that means carrying the baby to 40 weeks, I’d take it. And from a practical standpoint, organs! I’d love knowing my baby’s heart was still beating, even in another baby’s body.” 

Yes, really. 

Many months ago I came across a story of a woman who lost her baby and still chose to pump so she could donate her milk. I remember telling Royce how amazing that was and I hoped to never experience that but if I did, I’d want to do pump and donate my milk as well. 

Yes, really. 

Those are three things that have happened to me in the last six months that you can read and think, “Well of course this is the direction they’re heading.” But truthfully, we didn’t hear the news on Monday and immediately think about carrying on with the pregnancy. Sure, I asked my doctor about donating her organs but when our specialist told us she wasn’t sure if that was possible, I was relieved. I was searching for any reason to make it “okay” to induce early. At one point we asked our doctor how this would effect me physically and she said I might bleed a little more than usual but it should be like any other delivery. I desperately grasped onto that thinking this was our way out, we don’t have to continue the pregnancy. 

Those first 24 hours were the hardest of our lives. I couldn’t eat and when I finally did I didn’t keep it down. We were exhausted but couldn’t sleep and when we thought we had no tears left we cried and cried again. We had some pretty awful thoughts running through our minds but we made a pact with each other that it was a judgment free time and we could say whatever we were thinking without consequence. So we did. Everything from,

“There’s no way God exists” to “We’re going to spend all this money on prenatal care and labor and delivery and not take baby home.” 

That night when we were trying to sleep a close friend sent me a story about the first person with anencephaly to donate organs in the state of Oklahoma. We read it. If you’re reading this from Oklahoma, I’m sure you’ve read it by now too. Everyone I’ve talked to has said it was inspiring to read their story. For us, it wasn’t. It was sad and it was our new reality. It didn’t make us feel hopeful. After reading it Royce said his desire to continue the pregnancy was lower. I felt the same way. Continuing the pregnancy meant we would have mourn the loss of a child. We’d have to have a funeral… for a baby. OUR baby. We went to bed dreading our meeting the next day.

Exactly 24 hours later, we had an appointment with LifeShare of Oklahoma and our new doctor at Baptist to discuss the possibility of donating her organs. Notice I said “her” and not “Eva.” We hadn’t named her yet and I really didn’t want to. Sitting in that meeting was not pleasant. I had a small panic attack and thought the room was going to swallow me up. After a good breather we were back to talking. We learned her whole heart would not be eligible for transplant and that was disappointing. But then we learned her heart valves would be eligible along with her kidneys and liver and maybe pancreas. We could also donate her lungs to research. We’d get the opportunity to meet her recipients if they wanted to meet us.

I walked out of that meeting pretty mad and annoyed. Why did they have to sound so hopeful? I wanted them to say it was a bad idea. 

But at this point I knew what we had to do, I just didn’t want to do it. Royce told me he was behind me in whatever I wanted to do. The reality of feeling her kick for 20 weeks was very much settling in. Strangers excitedly asking me about my stomach and friends not knowing how to treat us was devastating to think about. I told some of my friends I thought it sounded like my own personal hell and why in the world would I want to bring that upon myself?

After we left the meeting we went straight to our church and talked with a pastor. Up to this point no one had given us any advice on what do.

Everyone just said, “Whatever choice you make is the right one.” But we didn’t want to make the choice we knew we needed to make.

We sat down in his office and poured our hearts out. During that meeting I got a phone call and stepped outside to answer it. It was my previous doctor, who delivered Harrison and has since moved, calling to check in on me. She told me that Liz, my new doctor at Lakeside, had said we were going to see if we could donate her organs and it would be the most selfless thing I’d ever do. That was it. I walked back into the room right as Royce was saying he wished he didn’t believe in God. Ha. 

A few minutes later our pastor simply asked, “Royce, how old are you?” 

“Uh, 31.” 

“In your 31 years of life, how many lives have you saved?” 

“Zero.” 

“In your daughter’s 24 hours of life she might save 50 lives. She’s going to be a very busy girl, you know.” Our daughter! We have a daughter! She’s alive! 

But at one point I just said it.

“I don’t wanna.” 

That’s how I felt. I don’t want to do this. I wanted to throw myself on the ground and kick my legs like a two-year-old and just not do it. It took a good long while of talking but finally Royce looked at me like he needed my answer. 

“What are we going to do?” he said. “Just tell me.” 

“You know what we’re going to do,” I said. “We just have to do it. 

I made him shake on it. Decision made. We were continuing on with the pregnancy. Eva will have life even though it will be short. She’ll donate anything she can and do more in her time on earth than I ever will. 

A few more things need to be said about the choice we’ve made. First, this was not a religious decision. Yes, we were and still are influenced by our beliefs but this goes beyond that. This is life. Everyone has it. Everyone deserves it. At one point in the past 72 hours Royce and I talked about how, in a way, we’re a little lucky. We have a definitive answer. We’re not hoping for a miracle. We know she will not live.

But someone else is desperately hoping for a miracle. Their kidneys are failing them. Their liver has betrayed them. They deserve life, and they’re probably praying for it. Eva can be their answer to it.

We still have a million concerns. Will people look at us differently? Will people judge us for what we’ve decided? Will people think we’re doing a brave and courageous thing even though we feel like we’re 2 inches tall? We are now the “thoughts and prayers” people. Oddly, that was hard to see. If you’re wondering, I have reread the story that has since been sent to me a dozen times. I read it with a different perspective and I agree with all of you, it’s inspiring. I’ve opened up to the thought of holding my daughter and watching her die. That’s going to happen. We will leave the hospital without a baby. That is our reality. But we accept it.

I feel the need to say thank you to everyone who has reached out over the past few days. We posted her heart picture on Tuesday and we couldn’t even write that tiny paragraph without breaking down. The comments posted could not have helped us more. We read every single one of them multiple times. We felt those thoughts and prayers and are currently so honored to be the “thoughts and prayers” people. So, thank you. Our family, friends and doctors old and new have been so amazing and we’ll never forget that. The NBA talks about being a brotherhood and it’s so true, we had no idea her little heart picture would go so far and so many people in the community would reach out. 

Finally, this is not over for us. We’ll almost assuredly have doubts on if we’re actually doing the right thing. Or if we can even handle this. May 7th is far away. Please continue to think and pray for us. 

The most incredible part of this story is this startling reality, 

 “Eva will have life even though it will be short. She’ll donate anything she can and do more in her time on earth than I ever will.”


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