A Mother's Decision To Donate Her Son's Organs | KERA News

A Mother's Decision To Donate Her Son's Organs

Oct 10, 2016

Imagine learning in the months before giving birth to twins that one of your sons had a fatal condition. That’s exactly what happened to Sarah Gray – who decided to donate her son Thomas’ organs to research after he died at six days old.

On Think, Krys Boyd talked with Gray about that experience, which she writes about in “A Life Everlasting: The Extraordinary Story of One Boy’s Gift to Medical Science.”

The KERA Interview

Sarah Gray on …

… her visit to the lab that received Thomas’ corneas: 

“[Dr. James Zieske, professor of ophthalmology at Harvard lab] said infant corneas are like gold. They are so valuable because of their potential to regenerate in the lab … And he said, ‘We are likely still studying his cornea cells right now. They are probably in this room right now.’ That was so important for me to hear, because I had wondered, ‘Are these corneas just kind of like thrown on a shelf and collecting dust with thousands of other corneas or are they really special?’ And I learned that they were extremely special”   

... the importance of donations to medical research:

“How do you think cures and treatments are developed? If these researchers do not have this tissue, this research cannot be done. There’s a bottleneck. I learned through meeting Dr. [Arupa] Ganguly and some of the other doctors I spoke to when I was writing this book that there is also a waiting list for tissue for research. Dr. Ganguly waited eight years for a sample of retina, and Thomas was able to provide that tissue after six years. But what if she had got that earlier? Maybe her research would be six years ahead of where it is right now. I think it’s a shame that there’s a waiting list on both sides.”  

…. how she got the idea to visit the labs:                          

“Ross (her husband) and I were invited to grief counseling through the organ procurement organization. That was such an eye opener, because we met about 15 other grieving families. They had only lost their loved ones a few months earlier. They were saying, ‘Oh yes, my daughter died in a car accident, and we donated her lungs, and we’ve already received letters of thanks from the recipient.’ And I was like wow that must be so satisfying … So I asked the organ procurement group, ‘Can I write a letter to the researcher? Can I do what these people are doing?’ And they kind of were like, ‘Well, we don’t really have something like this.’”