No parent wants to hear that something is wrong with her baby or that her unborn child might not survive more than a few days. Sarah Gray got this heartbreaking news when she was pregnant with twins six years ago. What’s remarkable about Sarah’s story is how she took a devastating tragedy, and turned it into something positive that’s benefited and inspired countless people.
When Sarah and her husband Ross found out that their unborn son, Thomas, was diagnosed with anencephaly, a serious birth defect in which a baby is born without parts of the brain and skull, they had to come to terms with the fact that their son would not survive long after birth.“After processing this shocking and horrible news, my husband and I decided we wanted our son’s death—and life—to have meaning,” says Sarah. “In the weeks before I gave birth to my twin sons, I arranged to donate Thomas’s organs to medical research so that his life would benefit others.”
Thomas and Callum were born in 2010 and the family never expected Thomas to survive long after birth, or to be able to take him home. Fortunately, Sarah and her family were able to spend a few precious days with both of their sons before Thomas passed away. The family worked through the Washington Regional Transplant Community (WRTC) to arrange to have Thomas’s body transported to Children’s National Health System so that surgeons could recover his eyes in order to have them contributed for medical research.Dr. Sophia Smith, MD
, was the emergency department doctor who made it possible when she approved the urgent use of an operating room. Sarah and Dr. Smith recently met for the first time. “Before meeting Sarah, all I knew was that she and her husband had a desire to donate and I was happy to help make it happen,” notes Dr. Smith. “They saw their child’s life going away, but also saw the future for other kids’ lives to be touched and altered for the better.”
“Every person processes tragedy differently, but for me and my family, we wanted closure and to meet the people and research labs who have benefited from Thomas’s organ and tissue donations,” Sarah notes. “Over the past few years, we have set up meetings with the organizations that received his donated tissue and organs. The experience changed our lives, and the lives of those we’ve met.”
This journey sparked what Sarah calls a “scientific odyssey” that led her and her family to some of the most prestigious scientific facilities in the country. “Even though Thomas didn’t live for a more than a few days, the gift his donations made to medical science have made a huge different in the lives of so many people,” says Sarah. “In our eyes, he has gone to Harvard, Duke, and the University of Pennsylvania. His life has great meaning and these visits helped us realize that. This has helped our healing process.”
Sarah recently released her first book titled “A Life Everlasting: The Extraordinary Story of One Boy’s Gift to Medical Science.” The book shares more intimate details about her story and her family’s journey to recovery from tragedy. “I hope my story helps families in similar situations know that tragedy doesn’t have to be unproductive. Thomas’s death was the worst time in my life, but after taking time to process, we’ve turned this tragedy into something beautiful,” says Sarah. “I hope others can find the peace we have through sharing our story.
Callum Gray, Thomas’s twin, is a thriving 6-year-old who just started first grade, and the Gray family recently welcomed a new edition -- 3-month-old Jocelyn -- to their growing family.
To learn more about Sarah’s story, visit her website: http://sarahgray.com/.