Mother Carries Dying Baby To Term To Donate Organs And Give Other Infants A Chance

When Krysta Davis was 18 weeks pregnant, she was informed that the child she was carrying had been diagnosed with anencephaly, a rare condition that occurs during embryonic development in which an infant is missing a portion of the brain, skull, and scalp.

David, 23, and her boyfriend, Derek Lovett, 26, were told that their daughter, who they planned on naming Rylei Arcadia Diane Lovett, would live at most a few minutes after birth. “It was definitely shocking. It was a huge heartbreak knowing that we’d miscarried previously and were having complications with this pregnancy. It was really hard to take in,” Davis, who had suffered a miscarriage in 2017, told PEOPLE.

The couple was given two options, either induce labor immediately or carry the baby to term and donate the infant’s organs. “[The doctor] said babies with anencephaly don’t tend to survive birth let alone cord-cutting. There was no outcome where she would be able to survive on her own for very long if at all,” Davis said.

The couple, who live in Cleveland, Tennessee, decided that if they were unable to bring their child home, they would ensure that other parents didn't endure losing a child. Therefore, Davis carried Rylei to term, delivering the baby on Christmas Eve at 40 weeks and two days.  “She came out star-gazing. She was born face-up,” Davis says. “It was the most overwhelming feeling of love that I’ve ever felt in my life. Laying eyes on her, I never knew that I could love someone so much. It was insane.”

Unexpectedly, Rylei survived for a whole week after her birth. Davis and Lovett accompanied their daughter at the hospital during that time until Rylei finally let go on New Year’s Eve. Davis says that Rylei didn’t cry at all while she was alive but let out a small cry on the final day when she had difficulty breathing. “It’s like she was fighting to give us more time. It was amazing,” Davis said. “She surprised everyone by being alive for that week.”

The couple was grateful that they were able to have the time they did with their child. “It was absolutely amazing going from knowing we were maybe going to get 30 minutes with her at most to having a week with her was more than we could have ever expected or imagined,” Davis added. “We were able to fit an entire lifetime of love into that one week with her that wasn’t promised to begin with. She just smiled the whole time. She was such a good baby.”

After Rylei passed on, her heart valves were given to two children and her lungs were given to a research hospital. “It’s been really hard coming to terms with the fact that she’s really gone. But it’s also been a great month that we’ve got to share her story,” Davis said. “It’s helped a lot to be able to help other women in our situation and hear their stories. It warms our hearts to know that [Rylei’s life] will give two other babies a second chance at life.”

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According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), babies born with anencephaly are generally blind, deaf, unaware of their surroundings and unable to feel pain. Although some babies with anencephaly may still possess a main brain stem, they do not have a functioning cerebrum that would give them an awareness of their surroundings. In the United States, anencephaly occurs in about 1 out of every 10,000 births. Research shows that, overall, female babies are more likely to be affected by the disorder.

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