The Unprecedented Sacrifice of Keri Young #AtoZChallenge

“We said hello and goodbye to our sweet Eva yesterday. She was so perfect in her own little way.”

It was perhaps one of the most heartbreaking status messages one could expect to see on Facebook. Keri Young and her husband were overjoyed when they found out they were going to have a baby. But the happiness soon turned to sorrow when an ultrasound scan done at 19 weeks revealed that the child had anencephaly, a condition where the baby is born without a portion of its brain, making it impossible to survive after birth.

“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,” Keri Young had announced back then on Facebook. The common protocol under such circumstances is to induce an early labour and end the pregnancy but Keri had other plans.

Faith in Humanity - When medical scans confirmed that the child growing inside Keri Young had anencephaly, a condition which made it impossible for the child to survive after birth, Keri took the amazing decision to carry on with the pregnancy, suffering both the physical  risks and emotional trauma till full term so that the healthy organs of her baby Eva could be donated to save the lives of other babies.

Well aware that there would be more complications for herself under these conditions, Keri Young chose to continue her pregnancy. Her reason for doing so? She wanted to be able to donate the healthy organs of her daughter so that other suffering babies could lead a normal life. 

Organ donations from newborns is extremely rare with just 21 known organ donors less than a week old recorded between 2008 and 2013. Organs which were capable of being donated included her kidneys, liver, heart valves and possibly pancreas.

The emotional stress of taking this pregnancy to full term knowing she would have to say goodbye was tortuous but neither she nor her husband Royce gave in, even as Eva kicked from within (her brainstem was intact).

Worse was to follow.

Faith in Humanity - When medical scans confirmed that the child growing inside Keri Young had anencephaly, a condition which made it impossible for the child to survive after birth, Keri took the amazing decision to carry on with the pregnancy, suffering both the physical  risks and emotional trauma till full term so that the healthy organs of her baby Eva could be donated to save the lives of other babies.

As seen in the image, one of the complications was that Keri Young was retaining more fluid  compared to other mothers at her stage in the pregnancy; this was because the foetus within her was unable to swallow amniotic fluid like normal healthy ones. At 36 weeks of pregnancy, Keri's belly measured 42 weeks forcing doctors to consider an early Caeserean section. But the Youngs resisted because they knew the best chance was if Eva reached 5 pounds which meant holding on for just a week longer.

(Author's note - The pictures below were taken by the photographer the family had arranged to be there the day Eva was delivered so that Youngs could capture the few minutes they had planned with their child. You may want to grab some tissues from here on in. )

Shortly after Keri Young made it to week 37, she felt the movements decrease inside her one day. She tried the methods taught to her but there was nothing. Rushed to the hospital in tears, ultrasound tests confirmed the couple's worst nightmare - there was no heartbeat. Eva Young had lasted for so long against all odds only to die at the last moment, making most of her organs now unfit for donation.

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The Youngs had done everything possible and chosen an extra-ordinarily heroic path just to ensure children elsewhere would be saved but had lost. Even though they knew Eva would not last long after birth, they had looked forward to having her alive with them for at least a few moments and this final betrayal broke them down there in the hospital.

Faith in Humanity - Keri Young made an amazing sacrifice and carried her terminally ill baby to term for donating her organs to help other children
Moments after Keri and Royce Young's worst fears
were confirmed - that Eva had passed away. 

Even as the couple openly wept beside each other, the doctors induced labour now with no alternative left. 

However, there was still one twist left in the tale and once it began, events unfolded quickly after Keri started to feel a pain through her body, letting her know it was time to deliver.

  • At 12.30 pm, Keri's doctor, Dr Pinard, arrived. 
  • At 12.33 pm, Keri's phone rang.
  • At 12.35 pm, Keri's phone rang again.
  • At 12.37 pm, Eva Grace Young was born.
  • At 12.38 pm, Royce Young cut her umbilical cord.
  • At 12.40 pm, Royce's phone rang.
  • At 12.41 pm, a text came on Royce's phone.  

Faith in Humanity - Keri Young made an amazing sacrifice and carried her terminally ill baby to term for donating her organs to help other children
Eva Grace Young being handed over for the first time to her mother, Keri Young

On seeing the message and name on the call list, Royce started to call back but Dr Pinard asked him to stay with his child while she called the number. Moments after she had left, Dr Pinard came back inside the room and stood at the foot end of Keri's bed.

“They have a recipient for Eva’s eyes.” she said simply. Royce and Keri burst into tears once more, happy ones this time around as the nurses cleaned Eva up before handing her back to her parents, wearing the hat Keri had knitted to protect her child's exposed head.

Eva Young became the youngest person in the state of Oklahoma to donate an eye (she donated two). The organization who had called the Youngs, LifeShare now has an infant organ donation plan they have formed which they share with other organ procurement organizations in USA.

They call it the Eva Protocol.

Author's note:

Of all the posts I wrote for this A to Z Challenge, this was the one that really broke me emotionally. And this is why I needed to share it with you all. And none of the words I have written here compare to the heartbreaking yet inspiring post that Keri's husband, Royce wrote here which I beseech you to read.

This is part of my #AtoZChallenge where I will be focusing on Real Life Heroes of Kindness and Compassion.
The list for this year's (2018) Heroes of Kindness can be found here.

Of course, I have been tracking these lovely human beings for years now and have found children as young as six years old and old women in their eighties from across the world who will restore your faith in humanity. You can find the entire list of Real-life Heroes of Kindness and Compassion here.


  1. Oh my God! Such a story! Brave couple. I can't imagine what they must have gone through.

  2. This was heartbreaking. And yet, so inspiring too.

  3. Hmmm - that was much too tragic for me to deal with. Very brave parents both.

  4. That is painful yet so heroic! Bless the Young's

  5. This one touched my heart. Full of emotions. I could literally feel the pain.

  6. O how difficult it would have been to be happy and sad at the same time . It was nice to know about Eva protocol

  7. Emotional and touching!

  8. What a phenomenal story, and what brave parents. I hope they are blessed with many healthy babies in the years to come.

    1. Meant to add a link: 2nd last letter of the alphabet in the 2018 A to Z Blogging Challenge. Y is for Yes!

  9. This was such a heartbreaking story! The parents were so brave despite having to deal with the pain of losing their child.

  10. I have no words to express on this story doc.

  11. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  12. A very brave decision by the parents. So inspiring.

  13. Very nice post really ! I apperciate your blog Thanks for sharing,keep sharing more blogs.


  14. Okay, I mustn't be crying in office like this.

    This breaks my heart, but I so admire the strength of the parents.

  15. This is so so brave of the parents to want to take their pregnancy to full term just so that they could donate. Noble indeed. and so happy to know they finally had a chance to do just that.

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