New born baby Teddy Houlston who tragically lived for less than two hours became Britain’s youngest ever organ donor last year, it has now emerged. Doctors at Cardiff’s University Hospital of Wales carried out pioneering surgery just minutes after the baby’s death to retrieve his kidneys. This has now helped to save the life of an adult with kidney failure.
Parents Jess Evans and Mike Houlston from Cardiff are hopeful that the success of Teddy’s operation will spur other parents to give consent for organ donation in similar circumstances, as the opt out deadline of December 1st nears. “He lived and died a hero. It is impossible to explain how proud we are of him,” said father Houlston.
Unfortunately, Teddy suffered a rare brain condition, anencephaly, which stops the brain and skull from developing properly. A major portion of the brain is missing, and with very few exceptions, babies with the condition are usually still born or die within minutes of birth. Evans was carrying twins when she was told at 12 weeks pregnant the terrible news. Abortion was offered, but after considering the options, the couple decided to continue with the pregnancy. “We thought that even if we had a moment with him, or 10 minutes, or an hour, that time was the most precious thing that we would ever experience.”
While for many parents even contemplating organ donation can be extremely difficult, for Teddy’s, it seemed a logical way to “help them grieve”. Although it is usually medical professionals who will first broach the subject, due to the unusual circumstances of the pregnancy, it was the couple that first suggested it. Doctors originally told them that the procedure would not be possible, because Teddy was very young.
Specialist nurse from NHS Blood and Transplant Angharad Griffiths, however, said that while Teddy’s transplant proved “challenging”, she has “every belief” that similar donations from very young donors can successfully be carried out in the future. She also added, “I know that Jess and Mike firmly believe that this is something they would like other families to be offered if they are in a similar position. The choice for organ donation for them was a natural decision. They just believe that families should be given the choice and it should be something considered by all families in any similar circumstances.”