Sarah was happily pregnant with twins when she attended the ultrasound clinic for her second
sonogram three months into her pregnancy. What she was told during that routine sonogram
was devastating for Sarah and her husband, one of the twins had developed a fatal birth defect
called anencephaly, where a section of the brain has not formed due to a hole in the skull.
Sarah’s doctor advised that the baby would either die in utero or within minutes to days of
being born. Sarah was given the option of a selective reduction abortion where the terminal
baby would be aborted and the healthy twin would remain, but with this procedure there are
risks to both the second twin and the mother, as a result of the risks the couple declined the
abortion and agreed to carry both twins to full term.
Sarah had named both twins, the healthy child was Callum and the terminal child was Thomas.
Sarah wanted Thomas’s brief life to mean something, to have some kind of positive impact.
She looked into donating his organs and went about organising this but was met with initial
rejection when the Washington Regional Transplant Community (WRTC) contacted her to
explain that Thomas’s organs would most likely be too small for transplant. Sarah was initially
shocked and saddened but was advised by WRTC that Thomas would be a good candidate to
donate for research. This filled Sarah with a new sense of optimism, she was able to see
Thomas no longer as just a victim of a disease but as a possible key to unlocking medical
On March 23, 2010 both of the twins were born alive but Thomas as expected passed away in
his mother’s arms six days later. Thomas’s cord blood was donated to Duke University; his
Liver went to a cell-therapy company called Cytonet. His corneas went to the Schepens Eye
Research Institute which is part of the esteemed Harvard Medical School and his retinas went
to the University of Pennsylvania.
As the years passed Sarah had a yearning desire to know what had come of her son’s donation.
She ended up getting in contact with Dr Arupa Ganguly of the University of Pennsylvania who
confirmed that she had received the donation and was using the samples to study
retinoblastoma, a deadly cancer of the retina that affects children under the age of five.
Sarah went on to visit all four of the facilities that the donations were sent to and got a great
understanding of the vital work these medical research companies do and exactly how
important and life changing these donations are, her son’s life has left behind an amazing
legacy for the advancement of greater medical treatments to help millions worldwide.
Thomas’s short life by no means is insignificant, but in fact one of the most significant lives to
grace this planet.
Watch Sarah share her video below or go direct to the TED website.