It's the most horrifying thing that can happen to a pregnant woman: carrying your child to term only to deliver a stillborn. It's unimaginable. Though, as scary as it is to think about, it's a monstrous reality some women face. The day before her scheduled c-section, Deanna Slifka had no indication something was wrong. She felt her baby move. She thought everything was fine. But during delivery, the baby's heart inexplicably stopped and the doctors could not revive her. Needless to say, Slifka and her husband were wracked with grief. Though what they decided to do next may come as a shock to many.
They got a call asking if they would donate their infant daughter's tissue or organs. They were stunned but said, "Yes."
It was probably something that they never thought about. Why would they? They had no indication there would be a problem. "But I knew there had to be more to her life than 39 weeks inside of me," shared Slifkas. "She held not just the potential to save another baby, but to save another parent as well.”
They are a part of a growing number parents who are making the same, incredibly self-less choice to donate the organs and tissue of their babies who die during delivery or soon after. It’s both heartbreaking and heartwarming.
Still, harvesting organs from patients this small is rare. Many hospitals do not do it. However, organizations like Lifebanc arranged for the Slifkas to donate their daughter's heart valves, which went to two other babies. And doctors are pushing for more neonatal donations. In addition to helping with the donor shortage, they say the cells of these newborns are special because they may hold the key to understanding the start of diseases like diabetes.
Most can’t imagine having to make that decision on what should have been one of the happiest days of your life, but perhaps it can help with healing. As Slifka said, this gave her daughter's life meaning beyond just her time in gestation. In a way, this allows her to live on. At the same time, it is answering the prayers of a parent with a child in need of a transplant. It’s a great sacrifice and gift.
Do you think this should be an option for parents who lose a child during delivery?
Image via normanack/Flickr