Royce and Keri Young have been through more in the past four months than most people will experience in a lifetime. The expectant couple, who are already parents to a 2-year-old named Harrison, found out during their 19-week ultrasound that their daughter had anencephaly and would be born without a brain. When they learned of their daughter’s fate back in February, Keri asked her doctors another difficult question: Would carrying her daughter to term mean she could donate her daughter’s organs to someone in need? The answer turned out to be yes.
It was then that Royce wrote a touching tribute to his wife on Facebook, which quickly went viral:
“I was a spectator to my own life, watching a superhero find her superpowers,” he shared. “In literally the worst moment of her life, finding out her baby was going to die, it took her less than a minute to think of someone else and how her selflessness could help. It’s one of the most powerful things I’ve ever experienced.”
In the months that followed, the Youngs tried (as much as any parents could) to prepare themselves for a life without their daughter, doing everything they could to bring her as close to full-term as possible, in order to better the chances of donating her organs. On April 17, Eva was born. Shortly after, Keri posted a photo on Instagram, along with a heartbreaking message:
“We said hello and goodbye to our sweet Eva yesterday. She was so perfect in her own little way. I’ll be sharing more about her incredible story later.”
Earlier this week, Royce took to Medium to share the details of what happened in the final hours of Eva’s life, and his account of the heartbreak he and his wife endured is, in a word, unfathomable. Royce writes that the weeks leading up to Eva’s birth were filled with a flurry of preparation for maximizing their time with Eva, while ensuring that all of her organs that could be donated, would be. Timing was critical.
“There were plans and contingency plans, and contingency plans for the contingency plans,” he wrote. “I wanted a tangible outcome. I wanted to be able to meet and hug and shake the hand of the person my daughter saved … I couldn’t dream about what my daughter would grow up to be, so I fantasized about the difference she could make,” he wrote.
And then the universe delivered an unthinkable blow: After the Youngs grew concerned by the lack of movement Eva had been making one day, they rushed to the hospital.
“They brought in a better ultrasound machine,” Royce recalls. “Keri and I had seen enough ultrasounds to immediately know. There was no heartbeat. Eva was gone before we ever got to meet her.”
Royce relays every moment in heartbreaking detail, as he and his wife tried to come to grips with what had happened:
“I wanted to watch her die, because that would mean that I got to watch her live,” he wrote. “Think about that one for a second. Now it was all gone. I longed for just five minutes with her, heck, five seconds with her.”
Even more tragic was being told that because Eva was stillborn, there was no chance of donating her organs.
Keri delivered Eva the next day and in their darkest moments a phone call came: It was from LifeShare, the donation group they had been working with throughout Keri’s pregnancy. To their surprise, their doctor said: “I’m on the phone with LifeShare,” as a smile cracking through on her face. “They have a recipient for Eva’s eyes.”
That moment was one of the happiest of Royce’s life, he now shares.
“I buried my head in my arms and sobbed harder than I ever have,” he wrote. “Keri put her hands over her face and did the same. Happy tears.”
While things certainly didn’t go as the Youngs had so desperately wished, there is still a small glimmer of hope for them.
“I can’t ever hold my daughter again,” notes Royce. “I can’t ever talk to her or hear her giggle. But I can dream about looking into her eyes for the first time one day, and finding out what color they are.”