On the way to their ultrasound, Keri and Royce Young no doubt chatted happily about the possibility of welcoming a baby boy or girl into the world. But as they stared at the monitor, their joy turned to despair. Something was desperately wrong with their baby. And while most couples would break down, the Youngs decided there and then to do the bravest thing possible.
Keri and Royce live in Oklahoma City. The couple have been together for 15 years, eight of which they have been man and wife. They have a strong bond and describe each other as “best friends.”
In August 2014 the Youngs welcomed their first baby, a son called Harrison. However, their family didn’t feel complete, so the pair continued to try for more children. Then, in late 2016, the couple discovered they were expecting child number two.
They initially wanted to keep their pregnancy secret from their loved ones, and the plan was to surprise friends and family with the news when they had discovered the baby’s sex. So in December 2016, Keri and Royce attended a 19-week scan, eager to learn if they were having a boy or a girl.
However, the revelation that they would be having a daughter was greatly overshadowed by another piece of news. Doctors told the couple that their unborn baby had a condition called anencephaly. This meant that although her heart, lungs and liver were fully formed, part of her brain was missing.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the defect affects three out of every 10,000 pregnancies in America. Sadly, there’s no known cure, and the Youngs were given the devastating news that their baby would die after birth.
Doctors then gave the couple the option to terminate their pregnancy. However, as Keri was pro-life, abortion was not an option. So after agonizing over their decision for 24 hours, the couple decided to do the most selfless thing imaginable.
Keri made the tough choice to carry the baby to full term. The couple named their child Eva, which simply means “life.” That’s because the Youngs intended for their baby to become an organ donor and save the lives of other infants.
“For the next 20 weeks I will feel her kick, have the hiccups and we’ll be able to hear her perfect heart beating, all while knowing we’ll only get a few short hours with her when she’s born,” Keri wrote in a moving Facebook post in 2016. “We’re choosing to try and see the positives in this situation and cherish our time with Eva, and be grateful for the impact she will have on the world in the short amount of time she’ll spend in it.”
In fact, doctors discovered that Eva’s heart would not be suitable to donate. However, her four heart valves were viable, as were her liver, kidneys and potentially her pancreas. Her lungs could also be donated to medical research.
As Keri and Royce came to terms with their daunting reality, they began to reach out on social media. Using their Facebook pages, both would update friends and family on Eva’s progress and their emotional journey. And in February 2017, Royce posted the most beautiful tribute to his wife.
“The other night, before I left for New Orleans, I was watching my beautiful wife sleep peacefully on the couch,” he wrote. “I looked at her laying there, her belly big with our daughter kicking away, a daughter that won’t live more than a few days, and it just overwhelmed me of how incredible this woman is.”
Royce spoke candidly about how he’d met a young boy in need of a liver transplant. The encounter confirmed to him that he and Keri were doing the right thing. Moreover, he described how witnessing his wife’s inspirational reaction to their situation was like “watching a superhero find her superpowers.”
“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,” Royce said of his wife. “It’s one of the most powerful things I’ve ever experienced.”
However, Royce went on to admit how tough the coming weeks would be for the family. “We’re getting closer to the finish line,” he wrote. “And while it’s going to be amazing to run through that tape and meet Eva, it comes at a cost. We’ll go to the hospital for a birth, and go home without a baby.”
Royce also reflected on all of the things that Eva would miss out on. “I want my daughter to be perfect. I want her to blow out her candles on her first birthday. I want to watch her bang her head on our coffee table trying to learn to walk. I want her to run up a cell phone bill texting boys. I want to walk her down an aisle. I want to change it all so, so badly. But I can’t,” he said.
Finally, Royce finished his moving post with one final tribute to Keri. “She’s incredible… remarkable,” he gushed. “She’s cut from a different cloth, combining wit, beauty, courage, silliness, character and integrity into one spectacular woman. And somehow, she’s my wife.”
In the days following Royce’s admission, more than 15,000 people liked his heart-wrenching post, and it was shared over 5,500 times. On top of everything, the couple were consoled by hundreds of well-wishers who praised their selflessness.
As Keri’s due date – May 7, 2017 – approaches, the Youngs have continued to update their followers. Little Eva is developing as well as can be, and her parents are still managing to see the positives. Now, Keri and Royce are just looking forward to holding their little girl in their arms. No matter how long they get with her.
However, when that testing day comes along, it will no doubt be the hardest the Youngs have ever faced. But hopefully, Eva’s legacy will comfort them. Because their daughter will save more lives in her short time on Earth than most people will in their entire lifetimes.