Stories of Donation
The Thomas Gray Story
When Sarah Gray went in for her second ultrasound, she was 12 weeks pregnant with twin boys and filled with anticipation about the family she, and her husband Ross, were starting. Unfortunately, the doctor told them what no parent wants to hear: one of their developing sons was healthy, but the other had anencephaly, a birth defect that inhibits the brain and skull from fully developing. Sarah was told to prepare as babies with anencephaly typically only live hours or days after birth.
While Sarah and Ross let the news of their developing twins sink in, Sarah realized she wanted to make the most of her son’s life as well as his death. After doing her research and talking to professionals about all options, Sarah pursued the possibility of organ, eye and tissue donation. At first, she knew little about the process and criteria for donation. But after reaching out to her local organ procurement organization, and learning how to create a legacy for her son, she found hope.
On March 23, 2010, the twins – Thomas and Callum – were born to the delight of their loving parents. Although Thomas was not expected to live more than 24 hours, his parents were able to take him home with his healthy twin brother Callum. After six days of being surrounded by the continuous love and embrace of his parents and brother, Thomas Gray passed away. But his legacy was just starting…
Thomas’s tiny, fragile body was not large enough to support viable organs for transplantation, however, donation for scientific research was a perfect fit. Blood, organs, tissues and eyes were donated to several highly-respected researchers who were not only trying to find the cause of and cure for anencephaly, but also corneal blindness, retinoblastoma and urea cycle disorder.
Looking back, Sarah says she got through those difficult days knowing that Thomas’s donation may help touch the lives of countless others.
One year after his death, Sarah decided to do something that no other donor parent had; she contacted the scientists who received eyes and tissue from Thomas. She wanted them to know about the tiny child who provided their research with that “one-in-a-million infant donation” and those perfect, pristine samples that could lead to a medical breakthrough. Researchers at Duke University, Harvard University, the University of Pennsylvania, as well as cell therapy company, Cytonet, opened their doors, arms and hearts to Sarah, Ross and Callum, creating a unique and special bond that continues today. Sarah has gained a sense of peace knowing her son’s gifts are leading to new cures, treatments, and ideas not yet known to science and medicine. Although small and fragile, Thomas’s short life is creating a better world for people he will never meet. And that is a legacy that will last forever.
The Carey Hughley, III Story
Carey Hughley, III was a gifted young man whose life was cut short when he was just 21 years of age. Early on, he excelled as a competitive swimmer where he achieved National Top Sixteen Rankings in the 50-yard breast stroke and the 50-yard freestyle. As a teenager, he was a member of the 1994 State (NC) Championship team and as the anchor swimmer of the 200-yard freestyle relay team made history by setting a record that stood the test of the time. His impact in competitive swimming was felt so deeply that in 1997 after his death, the local Summer Swim League dedicated the season’s championship swim meet to his memory.
As Carey matured, he developed a passion for reading which was matched only by his passion for writing. Composing music, playing the base guitar and photography were also honed and added to his arsenal of creative outlets. It was the pursuit of creative expression that led Carey to Virginia to pursue a degree in music and producing. He amassed an impressive collection of essays, poems, photographs and songs, several of which were highlighted in the book, III Gifts: poems and photographs published posthumously.
Carey was called to fill a number of leadership roles. Because he was always guided by a sense of compassion and altruism, each role he filled was elevated to that of a servant leader. In retrospect, his choice to register as an organ, eye and tissue donor at the age of 16 seems very natural. The fact that his choice persuaded many members of his family to do the same followed and to this day, his mother and sister continue to advocate vociferously for organ donation. Carey, III is survived by his dad, Carey, Jr.; his mom, Alice and his sister, Alisa.