'My newborn baby will die, but I hope it can save others'
Mum says she's determined to give birth and donate organs
A brave mother has told how she and her husband are planning to allow their unborn baby - diagnosed with a severe life-limiting abnormality - to be born so they can donate its organs to other sick infants.
Eilisha and Dermot McGill say they are also determined to give a parents' love to their baby, no matter how short their time together.
Elisha is currently 18 weeks pregnant but the couple, from Aghadowey near Coleraine, have been told by medics that when the baby is born it might only live for minutes.
They were also told that in the UK the vast majority of parents of babies also diagnosed with the rare condition anencephaly - meaning the foetus is growing inside the womb without part of its skull - opt to take the heartbreaking decision to terminate the pregancy.
However, the McGills decided 30-year-old Elisha should carry their child through to 36 weeks when it can be delivered earlier than the full-term, and they hope to be able to donate vital organs.
Elisha, a facilities manager with Sodexo, and 36-year-old Dermot, a fabricator/welder who also restores old rally cars, have two young sons - Ollie (22 months) and Bobby (9 months).
She is currently off on maternity leave to try to give "Baby McGill" as good a chance of surviving to 36 weeks.
"We are hoping for the best, our aim is to keep the baby safe and get to 36 weeks," Elisha said.
She said babies with anencephaly often died during birth, and if they lived it is only for a few hours.
"We hope to be able to cuddle our baby and love it until it passes away naturally and hopefully let parts of him or her live on in other babies," said Elisha.
Medics have told her that if the baby was taken to term it will die during birth, and if it lives it would only be for a few hours. Elisha said her own research showed that the longest a baby in the world had lived with the condition was nine months.
The couple received news of the diagnosis during a scan last month.
Elisha said the baby has started kicking inside the womb in recent days and added: "I am feeling OK and we are remaining positive that I can carry the baby to 36 weeks because then its heart valves can be donated. If the baby doesn't make it to the 36 weeks then it is unable to donate them, so we are taking every day as it comes."
The McGills are striving to raise awareness of the condition and have set up a Facebook site called 'Anencephaly Follow Our Journey From Start Lets Get More Support Out There', and by yesterday it had almost 1,000 likes.
They are posting regular bulletins on the progress of Baby McGill and their campaign.
And they also hope to set up a support group to raise awareness of the condition across Ireland in conjunction with spina bifida charity Shine. Funds raised on a justgiving page will go to that. She said : "Baby McGill truly is a little fighter, heart beating strong, has gotten so big and has started giving little kicks to mammy which is honestly the best feeling in the world.
"We're now at the 18-week stage which means halfway through for us as the latest plan is to deliver baby at 36 weeks around the start of May. It's very emotional as we are so proud that our baby is fighting away, but at the same time we are 18 weeks closer to 'hello', which means 'goodbye' isn't far away and the unknown is very scary.
"But we remain positive and we know that our little baby will make us so proud in what they are going to achieve and how they will help other babies and families.
"We are hoping that in the next few weeks we will know the sex of our baby and can't wait to tell the world their name."
And she added: "We want our wee baby who has no chance of life to give a life to others.
"I've asked for a Caesarian section as I want every possible chance to hold my wee baby for as long as it lives. It could be seconds, minutes, hours or days."
- To donate to Elisha and Dermot McGill's anencephaly support group, working with Shine, log on to www.justgiving.com/the-mcgills or text anen90 and the amount you wish to give to 70070.
Anencephaly is an abnormal development of the brain and skull which occurs during the first weeks of pregnancy. The upper part of the brain and its protective skull cap are missing and the lower part of the brain and the base of the skull are not properly formed. It is always a fatal condition. Anencephaly is due to failure of the basic part of the brain to form during the first 24 days after conception. It occurs in about one in a thousand pregnancies. Anencephaly may be detected as early as 12 weeks into the pregnancy. Anencephaly is totally untreatable. Most babies are stillborn or die soon after birth.