Sarah and Ross Gray were elated when they learned she was pregnant with identical twins, but the results of a subsequent ultrasound promptly dampened their joy. It revealed the devastating news that one twin had anencephaly, a fatal brain defect, and would survive only a few days at best. In a completely honest and moving account Gray shares how she prepared for bringing home a healthy baby, Callum, while steeling herself for the heartache of losing her other child, Thomas. But during the months leading up to giving birth she was determined to find some kind of positive meaning to this tragedy. After considerable reflection and research, Gray and her husband made the decision to donate Thomas’ organs and tissues.
Although these donations gave purpose to his short life, Gray's need to find out more steadily grew. She knew little more than where Thomas’ tissues had been sent. But how were they used and did they advance the work of the researchers who received them? In order to find the answers, Gray pursued a unique and unprecedented quest where she visited each institution and spoke directly with the researchers that acquired Thomas’ eyes, liver, and cord blood.
At times her story is utterly heartrending but mostly it’s one of hope, inspiration and awareness. Her candor makes for a stirring and thought-provoking book. Included throughout the memoir are the exceptional stories of several other donor families. Gray wants their experiences to encourage others to view donation for research as an option.
She goes on to explain that research-only donations are desperately needed by scientists whose work can lead to treatments or cures. However, because of financial repercussions, organ and tissue procurement is performed chiefly for transplants, not as recovery for research. She considers it her duty to advocate for change when it comes to donation alternatives. Gray’s journey has given her the opportunity to learn of recent advances in the medical field and so she hopes that by sharing a few of these amazing breakthroughs others will come to realize the important benefits of donating for research. Gray concludes her book by providing a list of resources for those wanting more information.
Check out A Life Everlasting by Sarah Gray on the VBPL catalog. I also highly recommend Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, a well-written and incredible story on medical research and ethics.
Review by Diane B.