On what would have been their son's first birthday, the family of the youngest organ donor in the United Kingdom are sharing the story of their son's short life to encourage others to become organ donors.
Hours after being born, Teddy Houlston became the youngest organ donor in the U.K. last year, when doctors were able to successfully transplant his kidneys and other organs. The kidneys helped save the life of a recipient, according to the National Health Service.
Teddy's parents, Jess and Mike Houlston, are now sharing their decision to designate their newborn son as an organ donor in the hopes other people will not be afraid to sign up to be organ donors.
"Following Teddy's diagnosis we had some time to acclimatise to what might happen, therefore we decided early on as a family that we would want to go ahead with the pregnancy and donate his organs if this was possible," Jess Houlston said on the NHS website.
Jess Houlston learned that Teddy had a life-threatening diagnosis when she was just 12 weeks pregnant with twin boys. She and her husband learned that due to a condition called anencephaly, Teddy would be born without parts of the brain and skull and likely only survive for a few hours to days.
Teddy's twin brother Noah did not have the same condition and was born healthy.
"When we found out he wasn’t going to survive, it was obviously crushing, soul-destroying," Jess Houlston, of Cardiff, said in a video for the Cardiff and Vale University Health Board.
Jess Houlston said she had grown up hearing about the importance of being an organ donor from her mother and immediately thought about the option for Teddy.
"It was helping us that he could go on and live through someone else," said Jess Houlston. "It was the only positive thing that could have come out of here."
She said that despite the outcome, she was simply eager to meet Teddy.
"We just wanted to meet him, we wanted to meet him alive, we knew he was never going to be coming home with us," she said. "But those few minutes we had were just the most amazing few minutes that we'll ever have."
The day that Teddy was born, the family was able to bond with both Teddy and Noah in the hospital for hours. When Teddy died a few hours after being born, Jess Houlston said the family was able to cope by knowing he could end up helping others.
"There was so much sadness and so much joy as well that he had just achieved something that we didn’t think was going to happen," Jess Houlston said.
The boy's kidneys were able to be transplanted into an adult recipient, helping save that person's life, according to the NHS.
"He couldn't have done more for us," Mike Houlston told reporters. "We just couldn't have wished for any more, we had such precious two hours with him, that we couldn't ever, ever forget, that we couldn't wish for more. He was truly a hero to us."
The couple and many in the medical community are hoping that in sharing Teddy's story on what would have been his first birthday, others will be encouraged to think about signing up as an organ donor.
Dr. Paul Murphy, National Clinical Lead for Organ Donation at NHS Blood and Transplant, said the family was "an inspiration to us all."
"In telling Teddy’s story Mike and Jess demand that everyone, young and old, follows their example," Murphy said in a statement. "Put simply they say, 'Do it for Teddy.'"
The need for organ donors remains an issue in both the U.K. and U.S. In the U.K., there are approximately 7,000 people waiting for an organ transplant, while in the U.S. 78,566 people are on the active organ transplant waiting list.