He Only Lived Six Days Outside the Womb, But Baby Thomas is Helping Cure Cancer

National   Nancy Flanders   Apr 2, 2015   |   10:08AM    Washington, DC

(LiveActionNews) — Thomas Gray’s life only lasted six days after his birth. Six days. But five years later, he is still making a remarkable difference in the world. His family recently took a journey across several states to discover just how much of an impact their son is having – and the story will leave you in tears. To tell it, we have to start at the beginning.

Sarah and Ross Gray were expecting identical twin boys when they were told that one of the boys had anencephaly and was missing part of his brain. He would die at birth. Heartbroken, the Grays decided to carry both boys to term.

As reported by Philly.com, on March 23, 2010, Thomas and Callum Gray were born in Virginia. Callum was completely healthy; Thomas was just as doctors had diagnosed. Not knowing how long they had with Thomas, Gray and her husband treated him as any other child. She nursed him. They held him. They loved him.  They got to have him for six days. But then they gave him to the world.

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While still pregnant, Gray had researched organ and tissue donation. And within a few hours of his death, Thomas’ eyes and liver, along with umbilical cord blood from both boys were donated to science. Yet the couple didn’t know exactly how their son’s precious donations were being used. So recently, Gray set out on a mission.

She contacted the Schepens Eye Research Institute in Boston which is affiliated with Harvard Medical School and is where Thomas’ corneas were sent. She asked for a tour, and met with James Zieske, Senior Scientist. While there, she learned that the eyes of infants are extremely important to researchers because of their strong regenerative properties. She also discovered that Thomas’ corneas were used in research that could someday help cure corneal blindness.

Next, Gray, along with her husband and Callum, went to the Duke Center for Human Genetics in Durham, N.C. There they learned that despite being identical twins, the cord blood from the boys had differences – and this discovery could someday help prevent anencephaly in other babies.

Then the family went on to visit Cytonet, a biotech company. It was Cytonet that used Thomas’ liver to figure out the best temperature for freezing liver tissue.

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The couple thought their journey would end there. But then Gray learned at a conference that the Old Dominion Eye Bank in Virginia had shipped Thomas’ retinas to Philadelphia. She was shocked that she never knew this, and immediately contacted the University of Pennsylvania. The University had used the donation to help in research for a cure for retinoblastoma, the most common form of eye cancer in children. But that wasn’t it. A couple of days after learning this, Arupa Ganguly, a genetics professor at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania contacted Gray.

“It is almost impossible to obtain normal retina from a child,” Ganguly wrote. “The sample from Thomas is extremely precious for us.”

Ganguly and the Grays met last week in person. The couple had the opportunity to view the log book with the handwritten note, marking the arrival of Thomas’ retinas at the lab. They also received a copy of the Fed Ex packing slip which Gray told Philly.com she would “treasure like a war medal.”

Thomas’ retina tissue is so rare that Ganguly and her team have saved it for future research. Five years after their son died, he is still helping science search for cures.

“The way I see it,” Gray told Philly.com, “our son got into Harvard, Duke, and Penn. He has a job. He is relevant to the world. I only hope my life can be as relevant.”

LifeNews Note: Nancy is a work at home mom who writes about parenting, special needs children, and the right to life. She is the lucky mother of two spirited little girls, one who has cystic fibrosis, and she spends any free moment she can find fundraising for a cure for CF. You can read her personal blog at www.ChronicAdmissions.com. Reprinted from Live Action News.