MYRNA BROWN, HOST: Today is Thursday, October 6th.
Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day.
Good morning. I’m Myrna Brown.
PAUL BUTLER, HOST: And I’m Paul Butler. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: life-giving transplants.
And when we say life-giving, we mean life at the very start. According to a recent story in the Journal of the American Medical Association Surgery, one out of every 500 women is unable to carry a child because of an absent or abnormal uterus. For some, this can mean a lifetime of longing. But now, there’s hope.
BROWN: In 2017, Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, Texas, celebrated a first: The first baby to be born in the United States to a mother with a transplanted uterus.
AUDIO: [First baby to be born post-uterus transplant, crying/c-section/operating room noise]
Baylor is now the world’s largest uterus transplant program: 23 transplants and 15 delivered babies.
BUTLER: The organs come from both deceased and living donors. WORLD Correspondent Whitney Williams sat down with the most recent living donor in the United States, donor number 21. Here’s her story.
AUDIO: [Snow family fawning over 3rd baby]
WHITNEY WILLIAMS, CORRESPONDENT: When Stephanie Snow and her husband, Rob, brought their third child home from the birthing center, they felt their family was finally complete. House full, hearts full, and pockets, well, definitely not as full as they used to be. The Snows decided they were done having children.
So when Stephanie heard about an opportunity to donate her uterus to a woman born without one, she jumped at the chance…
SNOW: I think babies being born is one of the ways that we see that the Lord is still at work in our world.
Though Snow admits her decision to donate wasn’t purely altruistic at first.
SNOW: One of the surgeons in our pre op interviews, he just asked me what was my reason for donating. And I told him, man, I don't want to have any more children biologically. I would love to be done having a period. He said, ‘that's not a good enough reason,’
The surgeon told Snow that donating her uterus wasn’t something to take lightly. It was a massive, irreversible life choice. And it would be costly. Not so much from a financial standpoint—the recipient would be covering her medical expenses—but physically. This is a fairly new procedure, so there isn’t a large body of research concerning the potential side-effects and complications associated with donation. And the transplant might not even go anywhere. In the US, there have been just 37 successful transplants. Only 80 worldwide.
The Snows prayed, sought wise counsel, and continued forward…deciding to let God shut the door if it wasn’t right. He didn’t.
SNOW: You do a lot of imaging, CAT scan, MRI, chest X ray, they just want to see the inside of your body and make sure your blood vessels are right. And lots of other things are correct. So I went in for the imaging really just thinking Lord, either You made my body able to donate or you didn't…So it all looked good.
Snow’s surgery wasn’t nearly as intense as what the recipient would endure, but still …
SNOW: It was 12 hours long, which is very long.
In addition to removing Snow’s uterus, the surgeon also removed the vessels that supply blood to the uterus, Snow’s fallopian tubes, her cervix, and the vaginal cuff.
SNOW: They just have to be very precise when they're trying to take something out to reuse it somewhere else.
Complications for Snow included lasting heel pain, most likely due to her feet being in stirrups, motionless for such a long period of time.
SNOW: And I think that I ended up with some just kind of minor nerve damage around my bladder, that I kind of had to relearn how to pee.
Snow admits the recovery was frustrating at times, but she didn’t stay frustrated.
SNOW: I just remember thinking, especially after the surgery, and I'm struggling with a catheter and just annoyed that like my body wasn't doing what I wanted it to that the woman who received my uterus. I imagine that she's cried lots of tears about not being able to have a baby. And I didn't have to worry about ‘Can I get pregnant? Will I get pregnant? How's this gonna go?’ And that was a good perspective to think ‘I can do this small thing, and it might have helped someone who is struggling.’
Snow knows the decision to donate a uterus isn’t for everyone. For instance, some Christians have convictions about permanently ending one’s ability to have a child, while others have ethical concerns about in vitro fertilization—the recipient cannot get pregnant naturally, so it’s either IVF or embryo adoption.
Snow struggled through those concerns herself. But she hopes that her decision to make child birth possible for someone else honors the Lord
SNOW: I think that the advances of modern medicine can be a great gift, and a way for us to connect with people in a way for the Lord to overcome some of the effects of sin in our broken world. And we have a God that cares for the vulnerable, that seeks to ease suffering…and uses all sorts of people in all sorts of places to do that.
But Snow knows it’s not a done deal for her recipient. Even today, two years post donation, all she knows is that the transplant was successful and that the woman is still in the process of trying to achieve pregnancy.
SNOW: I just spent a lot of time praying and asking the Lord like, what happens If the answer is still no for this woman?
Snow has to leave it in God’s hands …
SNOW: I really just settled on: I know that however it ends up, God is good and loving, and that he cares for that woman way more than I ever could. And he has a plan for how her life will go. And it's one that will hopefully reveal himself to her through whatever road that looks like.
Snow hopes to one day meet her recipient, give her a hug, and use their special connection as a way to share the love of Christ with her if she doesn’t already know him. But even if that doesn’t happen, Snow feels grateful to be part of such an exciting medical breakthrough.
SNOW: It just feels like a miracle. All organ transplantation feels insanely miraculous. And a song that the Lord brought to mind, I don't even know all of the words to it. But one line of it says, And I’ll probably cry. (pause, tearful) You turn (pause, tearful) ‘You turn graves into gardens.’ Just think that the Lord could take a place where no growth or no life could happen. And make it into a place where new life can begin is incredible.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Whitney Williams in Waxahachie, Texas.
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