Hope from tragedy

Thomas Gray lived six days, but his life has lasting impact

Sarah Gray, above, looks over some of the research information about the donated retinas from her late son, Thomas, as her son Callum looks on during a recent visit to the University of Pennsylvania’s Anatomy Chemistry Building in Philadelphia. (David Maialetti/TNS)

There was a compelling story in April 5’s Seattle Times.  The story discusses Sarah Gray who gave birth to twins, knowing that one of those twins, Thomas, was not going to survive.  Thomas died at six days.

To try and pull some goodness out of this tragedy Sarah donated his eyes, his liver along with umbilical-cord blood for medical research purposes.

What made this story compelling is that Sarah followed up with the research institutions to find out what had occurred because of the donations.  She travelled to and met directly with researcher’s that had had access to Thomas’ tissue, was able to see the research reports and other findings directly attributable to that tissue, and was able to also see the growing list of citations for the next level of research projects that in essence were extensions to that original work with Thomas’ tissue.

James Zieske the senior scientist at an Eye Institute at Harvard Medical School told Sarah:

“Your visit helped to remind me that all the eyes we receive are an incredibly generous gift from someone who loved and cared about the person who provided the eyes. I thank you for reminding me of this.”

James also told Sarah that Thomas’ cornea was used in a study that might one day cure corneal blindness.

This article again reminded me of the breadth of work occurring in the biomedical research field, the breakthroughs that are happening every day – and the total reliance of science on both the generosity and support of the public for this work.

We are all beholding, to Thomas and his family for the gift that they made.  As we are also beholding to the millions of individuals who through these most intimate and sacred donations have contributed to the knowledge that we all now totally rely on.

Thank you

Ken Gordon

Executive Director