Being an organ donor means you can give someone the gift of life after your death. And in the case of a Brazilian woman who donated her uterus, it meant giving another woman the gift of motherhood.
The first baby born after a uterus transplant from a deceased donor is now a year old, but the world is just now hearing about this incredible transplant story as the details of their gestation and birth were published this week in the medical journal Lancet.
The story is making headlines around the world because while babies have been born after uterus transplants from living donors before, this is the first time a transplant from a deceased donor has been successful.
This is huge, because as the doctors behind the transplant note, this opens "a path to healthy pregnancy for all women with uterine factor infertility, without need of living donors or live donor surgery."
The donor was a 45-year-old who died from a subarachnoid haemorrhage, a type of stroke. She had three children, all of whom were born vaginally. This made her a good candidate as a uterus donor.
Her uterus was transplanted into a 32-year-old woman who was born without a uterus. The Associated Press reports that the woman (a psychologist) was initially apprehensive about the transplant according to the transplant team's lead doctor, Dr. Dani Ejzenberg, but is now living proof that this can be done.
"This was the most important thing in her life," Ejzenberg said. "Now she comes in to show us the baby and she is so happy."
The 32-year-old did a round of IVF four months before the transplant, which resulted in several embryos. The were cryopreserved, and seven months after the transplant the woman became pregnant after the first single embryo transfer.
The pregnancy went well and at 36 weeks the woman welcomed a baby girl by c-section. The doctors removed the transplanted uterus at the same time so that the mother could stop taking anti-rejection drugs.
This success story is certainly encouraging for researchers, and now the Brazilian team is planning two more uterus transplants from deceased donors as part of their study.
While a few transplants from living donors have resulted in births, being able to accept organs from deceased donors would make more uteruses available.
There is no doubt that the 32-year-old who is now parenting a healthy 1-year-old girl will never forget the fellow mother she never met. While organ donation usual saves lives, in this case, it helped create a new one and gave a family a life they thought they might never have.