Parents tell of heartbreaking decision to donate kidneys and heart valves of their ‘hero’ twin son who lived for only 100 minutes
Teddy, who had a healthy twin, died from anencephaly hours after birth
His kidneys were given to adult man 233 miles away in Leeds, who was suffering from renal failure
Family set up fundraising page in son’s honour to help bereaved parents
The brave parents of a twin boy who was alive for just 100 minutes have described how their son became Britain’s youngest organ donor when his kidneys were transplanted to a complete stranger.
Jess Evans, 28, and Mike Houlston, 30, were told during pregnancy that their son Teddy would be born with a fatal brain condition, but were determined that his life would not be wasted.
So they asked medics in Cardiff to carry out pioneering surgery on their baby. Hours later, Teddy’s kidneys and heart valves had been removed and his organs had been transported 233 miles away, where they were given to a man suffering from renal failure.
Speaking about his son’s incredible donation, Mr Houlston told the Daily Mirror: ‘He lived and died a hero. It’s impossible to explain how proud we are of him.’
They found out the babies were boys and decided to name them after one another: Teddy Noah Houlston and Noah Teddy Houlston.
However, medics soon delivered some devastating news. Teddy was suffering from anencephaly, a rare condition meaning he would likely not live for even one day after birth.
The condition usually begins in the early stages of pregnancy and means the neural tube which forms the baby’s skull does not fold over the top of the head.
This means the baby will be born without a brain, or spinal chord. Those with the condition are usually blind, deaf, unconscious, and unable to feel pain.
The couple were offered the option to abort their son, but they never considered it.
Speaking on ITV’s This Morning, Mr Houlston said: ‘We didn’t want to hear any of that. It was never an option for us. We were determined that Teddy was going to have that place in our family.’
TEDDY’S TEDDY: HOW THEIR SON’S TREASURED HEARTBEAT LIVES ON
When Miss Evans was 30 weeks pregnant, she and Mr Houlston visit a local hospital in Penarth where they heard Teddy’s heart beating.
Knowing how precious that sound was, Teddy’s parents decided to find a way that they could keep that heartbeat forever.
So the couple had the recording stitched inside a cuddly blue teddy bear. Now, when the teddy is squeezed, Teddy’s heartbeat can be heard.
The blue teddy bear now has pride of place in Noah and Billie’s toy box.
Miss Evans added that the doctors had rarely seen pregnancies of this kind go to full term.
She told ITV: ‘A very high percentage of these are aborted. There is no potential for any kind of quality of life at all, so not many carry full term.’
She added: ‘We thought even if we had a moment with him, or 10 minutes, or an hour, that time was the most precious thing we would ever experience.’
The couple then decided that they wanted Teddy to live on in the best way that he could – giving the gift of life to another person.
But medics told the couple that it wasn’t possible. There had not been a transplant involving Teddy’s condition for more than ten years and planning organ donation during pregnancy is complex and rare.
Miss Evans and Mr Houlston were also warned that Teddy might not even be born alive or would be too small for the procedure to take place.
But, amazingly, Teddy was born conscious and breathing, joining his twin in his mother’s arms 34 minutes later. He weighed just 4lb 5oz.
During the few hours that he was alive, the brothers were reunited outside the womb. As his brother was laid beside him, Noah opened his eyes for the first time. Teddy was also pictured reaching out for his mother’s hand and wrapping his tiny fingers around her.
‘We were always told that Teddy would probably be unconscious when he was born, but he made noises and he was moving – he was very much conscious,’ Mr Houlston told ITV.
‘As soon as Teddy was next to Noah, you could tell that they could sense each other. Noah kind of reached… The first time Noah opened his eyes was when he saw Teddy.’
The family then had some bittersweet moments with their twin sons. Minutes after Teddy died, he was taken into theatre at the Cardiff hospital.
Teddy’s tiny kidneys, which would have measured around two inches long – less than half the size of the typical adult – were immediately extracted and sent away from the hospital to be given to the recipient.
During a procedure which took place 233 miles away at St James’s University Hospital in Leeds, Teddy’s kidneys were then stitched inside the patient. The family has since exchanged letters with the recipient, who is said to be alive and well.
The heart valves, which are tissue rather than organs, were also donated. Details about the heart valves cannot be disclosed for confidentiality reasons.
The couple’s decision to donate Teddy’s organs following his death last year made him the country’s youngest organ donor. The previous youngest donor was a five-day-old girl who was never publicly identified.
Ms Evans said: ‘It helps us so much to know he has helped someone else and helped doctors realise donation from small babies is possible and is something people like us want to make happen.’
HOW CAN A CHILD’S KIDNEYS BE USED TO SAVE AN ADULT?
When Teddy passed away just 100 minutes after being born, his kidneys and heart valves were donated to an adult man with renal failure.
The patient, who has not been identified, has now fully recovered – but how can a baby’s organs save an adult?
At birth Teddy’s kidneys would have been just two inches long, less than half the length of adult male kidneys.
But despite their tiny size they will have been fully functioning from 37 weeks old.
This means that the kidneys, along with the liver, heart and lungs, can be donated from newborns into adults.
Incredibly the organs will continue growing inside the adult patient, eventually becoming three-quarters of adult size.