Brave mum to gift organs of unborn tot with same fatal condition as baby Teddy
The inspirational mother of a baby who may only live a matter of minutes after birth has spoken of how she has been given hope and support by the family of the youngest UK organ donor.
Elisha McGill is pregnant with her third child - a baby she has called Annie - but was told the devastating news she has the rare, fatal condition anencephaly.
Elisha and husband Dermot (36), from Aghadowey near Coleraine, made the brave decision that they hope to donate vital organs after their daughter is born.
Speaking 18 days before her due date, Elisha revealed she had been "given hope" by a couple from Cardiff, who donated the kidneys of their baby boy Teddy, who had the same condition as Annie.
Jess Evans and Mike Houlston, whose son Teddy lived less than two hours while his twin Noah survived, got in contact after reading about their experience online.
"They are just amazing people," Elisha told the Belfast Telegraph.
"Teddy has left such a positive legacy. They were able to see our Facebook page and they contacted us to offer advice and guidance, which was just lovely of them. For them to talk in public was very much a message of hope and has encouraged us that it can be done."
Elisha and Dermot, a fabricator/welder who also restores old rally cars, are also parents of two boys Ollie (2) and Bobby (1). They are now preparing for the birth of their only daughter - and to lose her in a short period of time. But they are determined her life, however short, will not be wasted.
"We have been preparing ourselves from December 1, when we were told the diagnosis, to what lies ahead in 18 days. Time is a great healer and to have that time to prepare yourself mentally and physically is important. We see it as a celebration of Annie. It will be emotional, but we hope it gives hope to other families."
The brave couple have also praised the medical teams in the Northern Trust and the specialist nurse who has helped prepare them for the organ donation.
Every year around 15 people in Northern Ireland die waiting for an organ transplant.
"They have gone above and beyond and we have built up a special relationship with the specialist nurse," she said. They have also received support from around the globe.
"We have had many private messages from all parts of the world asking and praying for our Annie, which is very heart touching for Dermot and myself. I can't believe that she hasn't been born yet, but is helping to raise awareness around the world about anecephaly and organ donation."
And Elisha, a facilities manager with Sodexo, has continued to post updates of her journey and campaign online.
In one touching post, she said: "Sometimes you just wish that you could be told you will have a set amount of time with Annie, so you can prepare better to make the most of that time and prepare for all the emotions that will follow.
"Our doctor is so amazing and always puts things into perspective for us and simply replied: 'Do you know how long you will live?' But I guess that's not possible. God will decide that one and I'm sure Annie will keep fighting with all her might until then."
Despite the emotional journey Elisha said the family remained strong. "I couldn't be any prouder of my husband, my baby girl Annie and our two boys Ollie and Bobby and really hope that this will help others who may have to face what we are going through in the future."
The McGills are focused on raising awareness of anencephaly and have set up a Facebook site 'Anencephaly Follow Our Journey From the Start Lets Get More Support Out There'.
Anencephaly is an abnormal development of the brain and skull in the first weeks of pregnancy. The upper part of the brain and skull cap are missing and the lower part of the brain and the base of the skull are not properly formed. If you would like to donate, visit www.justgiving.com/the-mcgills/