A mother carries her terminally ill baby, comforted by the beauty of donating life

When Keri Young found out her daughter would not survive long after birth, she set her mind to doing a brave and generous thing.

Keri Young sleeping, photographed by her husband. Royce Young | Facebook

As a woman, how do you respond when you go in for that telling anatomy ultrasound to find out all about your baby’s development thus far, only to be told that your child will not survive more than a couple days, at most, after birth? Most of us would fall into utter despair as feelings of sadness, anger, and fear blinded us to anything other than the tragedy of our infant’s life cut terribly short.

Few, if any of us, would respond the way Keri Young did, and almost immediately think of the other lives our child’s precious organs might save. According to a Facebook post by Royce, Keri’s adoring husband, “[L]iterally 30 seconds after our doctor told us our baby doesn’t have a brain, somehow through full body ugly crying, Keri looked up and asked, if the baby died after carrying to full term, ‘can we donate her organs?’”

Day 1...DUNZO. We're all smiling but one of us is real tired. (It's Harrison.) #ohana 🌺

A post shared by Keri Young (@keriyoung) on

The Youngs, who have a two-year-old son, found out in December that the little girl growing inside Keri has anencephaly, a condition in which a baby’s brain and skull do not fully develop in utero. The heartbreaking result, when the baby is carried to term, is a stillbirth or lifespan of only a few hours or days. Few things are more devastating to a parent than such a diagnosis.

We’re pro-life at any stage of life. I want that baby alive and healthy for as long as possible.”

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Still, Keri, who is pro-life and wanted to have her child no matter what, made it clear that she would not be taking advantage of her options for early induction. Ironically, she explained that mere months before finding out about her daughter’s condition, she’d discussed with friends her pro-life stance, particularly in cases of terminally ill fetuses. “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.’” Little did she know she would soon be living out those very words.

 

Ultra sound of Keri and Royce Young’s baby, December 2016. Royce Young | Facebook

The day following the ultrasound, the couple met with Lifeshare of Oklahoma, an organ procurement organization, to discuss the likelihood of donating their little girl’s organs. They were told that the baby’s heart valves, kidneys, liver and possibly pancreas would be eligible for donation, in addition to her lungs’ usability for research. Still, they were understandably heartbroken over the inevitable loss of their own child’s life, despite knowing the indispensability of her precious body parts.

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It wasn’t until meeting with their pastor that same day that they were hit with the gravity of how valuable their daughter’s short life would be. He told them, “In your daughter’s 24 hours of life she might save 50 lives. She’s going to be a very busy girl, you know.” By the time Royce and Keri left that meeting, they were confident in the choice to grant their daughter every second of life she could seize. “We were continuing on with the pregnancy,” Keri said. “[She] 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.”

Although the Youngs attend church and are grounded in their faith, Keri makes it clear that this choice was not a result of religious convictions but, despite their hesitation, was simply the right thing to do. “This is life. Everyone has it. Everyone deserves it.”

The Youngs have blessed us by openly sharing their journey on social media, inspiring followers with their strength and even adorable silliness every step of the way. Fittingly, they’ve decided to call their baby girl Eva, a Hebrew name meaning life. Somehow, amidst the agony of knowing that the infant she will birth will not survive, Keri is fixing her eyes on the healing her baby’s existence will bring to others. Is there anything more selfless than gracefully accepting and awaiting the loss of one’s own child for the sake of the life others will gain because of it?

Royce, an incredibly talented writer, could not have been more on point in his moving description of his generous, life-giving spouse: “She’s incredible. She’s remarkable. She’s cut from a different cloth, combining wit, beauty, courage, silliness, character and integrity into one spectacular woman. And somehow, she’s my wife.”

Elizabeth Pardi
Elizabeth Pardi
Elizabeth Pardi is a New York-born, Virginia-raised, Ohio-dwelling freelancer. She spends her days laughing, learning and running her way through life with her superstar spouse and their charmingly passionate one-year-old.