This I Know: Sarah Gray

Sarah Gray, SOC/MA '14, director of marketing and public affairs, American Association of Tissue Banks, on organ donation

Photo­graphy by
Jeff Watts

Sarah Gray and her son Callum

Q. How did you come to believe in the importance of organ, eye,  and tissue donation?

A. My husband and I learned that I was pregnant with identical twins when I was halfway through my degree at American. When I was about three months along, we learned one of the twins had a fatal birth defect, anencephaly, and would not survive. It was a very difficult time. It was hard to feel happy about having a baby, and it was also hard to feel sad. It was a time of suffering.

I tried to think of a way to ease the suffering or find some meaning, and I thought of organ donation. My mother and I approached Washington Regional Transplant Community to ask if this was possible. But a lot of babies just don't need hearts or lungs that are that small. We couldn't donate for transplant, but we could donate to research.

Thomas was the sick twin and Callum, who is now four, was healthy. The day they were born, we weren't sure if Thomas was going to survive. He lived for five days, so we were able to take him home. In a lot of ways, he seemed like a healthy baby. He would cuddle us and fall asleep in our arms. But he started having seizures. He died at home.

Thomas's liver went to a research center in North Carolina, his retinas went to the University of Pennsylvania, and his corneas went to Harvard University Schepens Eye Research Institute. I learned that Duke University was doing research on anencephaly, and they said they would be grateful to receive his cord blood.

It is awesome to be able to brag about Thomas. Moms like to brag about their kids, and when you have a child who dies, there is mostly pity. People feel sorry for you or they don't want to talk about it. It's really nice to have a happy reason to talk about Thomas's life. I like to say my son got into Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania and Duke. It's a source of pride.