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Gray's Donation

Thursday, July 16, 2015 - 05:52 PM

Thomas Gray (Photo Credit: Mark Walpole)
A donation leads Sarah and Ross Gray to places we rarely get a chance to see. In this surprising journey, they gain a view of science that is redemptive, fussy facts that are tender, and parts of a loved one that add up to something unexpected.

Before he was even born, Sarah and Ross knew that their son Thomas wouldn’t live long. But as they let go of him, they made a decision that reverberated through a world that they never bothered to think about. Years later, after a couple awkward phone calls and an unexpected family road trip, they managed to meet the people and places for whom Thomas’ short life was an altogether different kind of gift.



Since we first aired this segment, some exciting things have happened in the Gray's world. Our producer Tracie Hunte sat down with Sarah Gray to get the low-down on what's new. Check it out here: 




More in:

Comments [113]

Meg from Mesilla, NM

I have my students listen to this podcast and write a reflection essay. The impact it has on them is remarkable. I with I could share the essays with the Gray family for them to feel the support and compassion.

Dec. 14 2017 12:38 PM
Ellen Castle from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL

This story just blew me away. I shared it during my family's Thanksgiving dinner and got all choked up, so powerful! I think it is my favorite story too. It has meaning beyond the power of organ donation. We all have power to affect other people's lives. If we want a kind and compassionate world, we must be thoughtful about the ripples we create. Thank you Sarah and Ross for sharing your story.

Dec. 07 2017 10:31 AM
Robert bergeron

I do not have the words to express the importance your story had upon me. I had a child in 1973 with simular anomalies. I think about her daily often with a deep feeling of guilt and remorse. Your story brought me a sense of peace. Thank you for the journey you took and for sharing. I will try to get your book.

Nov. 21 2017 10:43 PM
Mark from Chicago, IL

IF anyone is looking for more on the story or from more on her personal perspective, she talks about it in this Moth podcast episode

Oct. 13 2017 12:30 PM
Charlotte from England

This was such a beautifully told story and a wonderful journey of discovery for the Grays. I had never really thought about the importance of organ donation and the longevity of research science, but i have started to understand more that life goes on!
I had never considered donating my brain, it has always seemed too personal a body part to give away.
Since listening to the show, I have been inspired by your story and have signed up to my local brain bank to donate my brain when i die. I really hope that what i offer can contribute to further scientific research in some way. Thank you Radiolab, forever an inspiration!

Jul. 28 2017 05:07 AM
Shenaya from Mountain View, California

In a subsequent show, you ask what is your favorite episode. This is mine. For so many reasons. Thank you.

Dec. 29 2016 09:24 PM
HarperOne, an imprint of HarperCollins

If you're touched by Sarah and Thomas's story and want to hear more, Sarah's new book, A Life Everlasting, is coming soon and tells their story in moving detail:

May. 20 2016 01:01 PM
Laura from Annapolis

Thank you Sarah and Ross for sharing your life with others. I really loved what you had to say about Thomas being a colleague or partner in the research and especially the last image of a boat on the ocean - and you are the ocean not the boat. I'm deeply moved by your family.

May. 14 2016 11:40 AM
Alicia from New York

To Thomas's parents:

I am sorry for your loss.


As the relative of someone who lost an eye to a retinoblastoma as a baby, I thank you.

As someone who was born with an inherited eye disease, I thank you.

As someone can see better than her mother ever could thanks to advances in medical research, I thank you.

As a future mother to children who will see better than I ever could thanks to advances in medical research, I thank you.

As a current PhD student in molecular genetics, I thank you.

Mar. 02 2016 04:30 PM
liz from phila,pa

Thank you for this story- it made me cry. I am awaiting contact from some of the recipients of my son's donations. I have heard from two people so far- the liver and a kidney recipient. If possible, I would like to follow the traces of my son as well. I wish I could talk to the mom in this story.

Nov. 09 2015 02:45 PM
Tammy from Flagstaff, AZ

What a touching and beautiful story of faith in action. Thanks to the Rosses - in a world where Christians do not always show the image of Christ, you have shown His love in a tangible way. Blessings on your family.

Nov. 07 2015 10:44 AM
Eric Darst from Colorado

Extraordinary storytelling of ordinary lives made powerful by simple but profound gestures. The path that the Ross family took is a measure of compassion and kindness that has redirected me, that has given me certainty of hope and resolve to give grace. Thank you.

Oct. 25 2015 09:30 AM
Andy from MA

Jad & the whole Radiolab gang really outdid themselves with this particular effort. Radiolab's ability to identify a story and get the ones who experienced it to tell it the way they do is amazing.

The last few minutes of the show with Sarah's metaphor, the music, right down to Sarah's last word, were radio gold.

Oct. 12 2015 02:05 PM
Tess from Newcastle Australia

I love Radiolab shows and I've never made a comment beforeI am moved to after listening to this show. It was very insightful about the nature of life! Thank you for producing it and thanks to the family for sharing their story.

Oct. 07 2015 07:08 AM
Heather from Utah

Loved this! My favorite by far! I loved the persistent of Mrs. Gray determined find out what she could about her dear child. This opened my eyes to the importantance of being a doner and how it can benefit us all. Thank you!

Sep. 29 2015 08:18 PM
Faith Hall-Glenn from Vienna, Austria

That was such a beautiful story. From a scientific perspective, these patients are heroes because they help us advance science, and hopefully we can cure the very conditions that caused their unfortunate demise.

Sep. 18 2015 05:22 AM
Suzy Kahraman from Reno, NV

Amazing :)

Sep. 15 2015 02:20 PM

This was sad....And beautiful to hear at the same time. That these gifts, no matter how small they appear... They truly impact lives everywhere and will do so for years to come... I can't imagine the grief... I can't imagine the pain... But the Grays... And the doctors who are working with Thomas' donation are so full of grace and respect.

Love in my heart goes out to them and I hope Thomas' brother is doing great.

Sep. 14 2015 10:19 PM
Pam from Honolulu

A touching story and a courageous family. Thank you for sharing your lives with us.

Sep. 10 2015 03:52 AM
Dr V from Hershey

As the dad of a (now) 16 year old who would have died without a bone marrow transplant (fortunately from his big brother), I can only start to imagine what the Gray's journey must have been.

As a teacher of responsible conduct of research for biomedical PhD students, this should be required hearing for anyone working with human materials, lest they forget that there is a deeply personal story that comes with each of these precious gifts.

Thank you Mr and Mrs Gray for sharing your powerful journey and story.

Sep. 08 2015 10:17 PM
Amy from Nebraska

My husband carries the gene for retinoblastoma. I was utterly floored to hear such a rare disease mentioned. My first child dodged the bullet and doesn't have the gene, but as we are trying for many number two, all I can think about is the possibility of cancer. Flights to Philadelphia, my newborn losing eyebrows with chemo... So. A very personal thank you to the Grays and other donors who made their loss our gain. The treatments I dread are only available because someone lost a little one. Never thought to be thankful for that. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for helping us. God bless.

Sep. 03 2015 07:57 PM
J from Saskatoon

a beautiful story full of resolve for this mourning mama..
I couldn't agree more that life isn't 'just' or 'good' to good people.. and this sense of karma isn't always around..
but beautiful things can surely come out of dark places & situations that people have to go through.

Sep. 02 2015 01:20 PM
lisa from Bozeman MT

My heart and admiration to the Gray Family. Your strength and the love of your sons has made a impact on so many and now on even more with the sharing of this beautiful bittersweet experience.

Aug. 30 2015 12:10 AM
felix Tannenbaum from Denver

For the Gray Family and for the folks at radio lab: I type this at my desk tears streaming down my face. It is something important and fine to be able to reach across time and space and communicate the joy and sorrow and wonder of this life, and you all have done it very well. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Aug. 28 2015 06:46 PM
Tamara from California


You are such a courageous and strong person! You have gone on a journey that not too many people would go. You touched so many hearts.

Thank you for showing me how to be a better person. God bless you and your family.

With love,


Aug. 24 2015 01:04 AM
Eugene Najera from Austin TX

I have listened to this episode several time and the story/narration was incredible. Thanks!!

Aug. 20 2015 12:28 PM
Ainda from Queens

I'm not particularly religious. I'm completely in favor of organ donation at any age. I'm a liberal. I support what this family has done. However, I found the narration style a bit awkward and morbid.

Aug. 15 2015 11:40 PM

This episode is exactly why I love tuning into RadioLab's podcasts. I really can't add anything more to what others have already said. I can really only echo some of the words or phrases: redemption, grace, bawling, amazing, beautiful, love, mystery, science.

Aug. 15 2015 09:28 AM
Jim from Birmingham, UK

This episode is truly marvellous, Radiolab have done a lot of great work over the years and this is up there with "26 weeks 6 days". If you haven't heard that one then go find it right now! Similar(ish) subject matter too.

Aug. 06 2015 09:15 AM
steve from Sydney Aust

A really beautiful story from such a tragic event. The Grays not only showed great courage when their child passed away by donating for the greater good but by trying to find out what happened to their baby and how important the donation might have been they are an inspiration for all those that may face a similar situation. Thank you to the Gray family and Radiolab.

Aug. 05 2015 05:43 AM
Hachemi from Houghton, MI

The end credits were beautiful. I definitely teared up there. Thanks for the amazing story, Gray family and Radiolab.

Aug. 04 2015 10:07 PM
C Peterson from Seattle

Thank you to the Gray family for their beautiful story. I listened to it at work, crying at my desk.

Before hearing their story, I could not even fathom the loss of a baby. After hearing it, feel like I have a tiny, microscopic insight into what they went through, (they did an exceptional job of explaining their feelings) and what brought them comfort.

I am so happy that the Grays discovered how precious and valuable their selfless donation was. It is easy to think of science as sterile or even faceless, but the interviews with researchers reminded me how much composure the job requires, sometimes in spite of highly emotionally charged material.

Thomas will bring so much knowledge and progress in so many fields. He will be a pebble in a pond... an ever widening ripple as those in the research community continue to build, learn and progress on the knowledge they gather.

Thank you to each member of the Gray family, and to the researchers who make the very best use of an unimaginable situation. Thank you Radiolab for sharing. Amazing and touching.

Aug. 03 2015 02:55 PM
LV from Sacramento

Thanks for a great story!

Aug. 03 2015 11:57 AM
Snooks from Cinti.,OH

Thank you to the Gray family for sharing their journey which answered many of my haunting questions surrounding the death of my full-term son, Christian 48 years ago. While we requested an autopsy to determine the cause of death, there was no emphasis on organ and tissue donation. I knew for a few hours that my son had passed away before he was born and I would offered Christian to help another child. My granddaughter is a NICU nurse at a top children's hospital...need I say anything about the wee lives she cares for who will benefit from research done with Thomas's donations! God bless you!

Aug. 03 2015 10:57 AM
monique from los angeles

I have listened to this episode three times now. I don't think I have ever been so moved by a podcast. While I have always been a donor it was really lovely to hear the details of how some of what we leave behind helps.

Aug. 02 2015 03:12 PM

For those looking for the song at the end of the podcast, I just heard back from someone at WNYC, and she said:

"The piece of music that was at the end of Gray's Donation was a combination of music created by the show mixed with music from Stars Of The Lid. I hope this helps!"

So, mystery solved, but no song for us (besides the original Stars of the Lid song). At least I won't obsess over how to find it :-)

Jul. 31 2015 12:02 PM
Keily G from UK

I echo the comments from everyone else - and I too would love to know what the haunting music is at the end of the podcast - I have also tweeted you a couple times but no joy! Please let us know so that we can enjoy it again :)

Jul. 31 2015 03:56 AM
Tom from Belgium

This was an incredibly beautiful episode, thank you. The way the parents deal/dealt with the ‘issue’ (by lack of a better word, very sorry) and the way they eloquently spoke about it, is truly inspiring and thought-provoking.

Jul. 31 2015 03:06 AM
coryke from Phoenix

Thank you for such a beautiful story.

Jul. 30 2015 12:26 PM
Callum from Kyoto

I also really want to know where the final piano music comes from. Someone on Spotify has made a playlist but to date (July 30th) it has no recent additions for the last episode, I will try contacting them.

Jad and Robert please, please include track listing with episode uploads.

Thanks for all the great work.

Jul. 29 2015 09:08 PM

Yes Max, one thousand times this: what is this beautiful piece of music? This podcast was so powerful, and the music so perfect, that I'd dearly love to buy and listen to the whole thing. The iOS app Shazam hasn't been able to identify it for me (it keeps telling me it's a piece by "Stars of the Lid", but I have all of their music, and it's not the song that Shazam thinks it is).

Can anyone help? Radiolab people?

Jul. 29 2015 08:48 PM

What's the name of the ending music or song played at the end of this episode? The calm and rhythmic soothing tone with a slow piano. Beautiful.

Jul. 29 2015 10:42 AM
M Sharron from CT

Both as a mother and a mother of identical twins, I was moved beyond words at how Sara & Ross navigated this journey. The feelings & image evoked when (& how) Sara said she felt powerful is something I will not forget for a long time. I will keep Sara, Ross & Callum in my thoughts for an extraordinary life's journey ahead.

Jul. 29 2015 09:34 AM
Lawrence Weir

Republicans attacking Planned parenthood for embryo tissue donation need to listen to this

Jul. 29 2015 01:39 AM

Thanks Peggy !!!

Jul. 28 2015 06:38 PM
peggy gotthold from Miami, FL USA

To PANCHO FROM MEXICO. POWERFUL IS THE LAST WORD. It was a POWERFUL piece. thank you, Radiolab!!!

Jul. 28 2015 04:08 PM
Poncho from Mexico

Beautiful story. An amazing story telling. Its a funny felling, like warm an fuzzy but with a tad of sadness and pain.

Now I need a favor from some one. Im Mexican and I love to listen to many podcasts, first because a love the stories, the spoken word, and also because it helps me to improve my English, with accents, vocabulary, lexicon, etc. But in this episode, the final word of the mother, I cannot understand it, and its killing me !! I fell like a miss the grand finale, the word that defines the whole thing. So if some one can please help me with this final word:

"it has made me feel _____ "

Jul. 28 2015 03:19 PM
Anne Satchell from Lititz, PA

Powerful episode of courage and strength. Thank you for sharing.

Jul. 28 2015 02:06 PM

Bravo. This episode moved me beyond.

Jul. 28 2015 11:45 AM

Thank you Radiolab for airing this story and to the Gray's for sharing a part of their family's life. I am so glad I opened this morning's mail to find this podcast. Our child "Daniel" lived 16 days after being delivered premature at 23 weeks to save my wife's life. The difficult decisions that are made between patients and doctors cannot be understated. I sensed in Sarah and Ross Gray many of the feelings of loss that I still carry 30 years later and also including a sense of being connected in a deeper and clearer manner to the world around me and the good people seeking to make it a better place.

Jul. 28 2015 08:38 AM
SocaKing from San Francisco

Touching, moving, inspiring. There is hope in Humanity.
Great job Jad & Robert!!

Jul. 28 2015 03:25 AM
Ernie Rutledge from Fresno, CA

Is there a coincidence between the Planned Parent Hood's selling of unborn babies organs and the release of this timely Radiolab about the donation of this child's organs? Is NPR trying to "spin" this unveiling of PPH's profit motive with NPR's sympathetic(?) concern for PPH plight? Just asking. Hum?

Jul. 27 2015 10:17 PM
Lewis from Lincoln, NE

what happened to the "At(ch) NPR" in the opening sound bite??

Jul. 27 2015 08:59 PM
Gena from California

The amount of grace that the Gray family demonstrated and that we got to witness, vicariously, was something to behold. I've been a longtime Radiolab listener, and this episode pushed me to comment. What an amazing piece of reporting. I had to fight back tears throughout the episode, only to become undone at Callum's "reading" of the credits. Bravo, Jad and Robert, and all involved. This was one fantastic episode; you have a lot to be proud of.

Jul. 27 2015 07:08 PM
Betsy Spitzer from Minneapolis, MN

Ok, so I'm listening to this at work, on my headphones, sobbing. What an amazing family. Oh and now Callum is reading the credits. Great. I'm a blubbering mess.

Jul. 27 2015 02:33 PM
Kim Toothman from Columbus Ohio

28 years ago I was told my 26 week old son,in utero, had defects to his urinary system that were incompatible with life. My 15 month old son, who suffered from the same defect although not as severe, was scheduled to have his right kidney removed 2 weeks after we got the news about our baby. I was not given a choice and carried my son to term knowing he was going to die soon after birth. I asked about donating his organs, but was unable to do so due to the underdevelopment of his lungs. This story was so touching to me - I'm so happy for Sarah and Ross that they were able to take such a tragic situation and find some redemption. I remember when my son died in my arms, I held him long after he had died, and asked for him the next day, knowing I would never see him again. And what a beautiful picture of Thomas. I have a portrait of Michael hanging in our family room - I cried and smiled all through the story.

Jul. 27 2015 01:43 PM
Special Delivery Book from California

Thank you for this story. We are a nonprofit who provides a children’s grief support book for those who have lost a sibling. It is free and you can find it here:

“As a family who has been through a loss, we created Special Delivery with our deepest sympathies for other families who have experienced at-risk pregnancies and births. We hope that the book will help parents explain their special pregnancy to their children. It provides a springboard for families to talk about their own baby and for siblings to ask questions, raising awareness of the different things that can happen after a baby is born, especially if that baby spends some time in the NICU or passes away.”

Jul. 26 2015 10:41 PM
lhilbert from Dresden, Germany

Having worked in a medical research lab, which frequently received human lungs that were unfit for organ transplantation, this podcast was particularly meaningful to me.

I do remember discussing the (anonymized, of course) medical histories received with the rejected organs. Especially for samples coming from young persons, it leaves a feeling of depression, imagining their lives ending before they could live their time.

In our project's situation, we were entirely disconnected from any personal information relating to the organs - which is a good thing with respect to privacy. This podcast, however, gave answers to the thoughts going through my head, what it means to work with tissues that a few days before were still in a breathing, walking, living person.

Thank you for this.

Jul. 26 2015 03:51 PM
Jane from West Coast, USA

I was moved to tears after this story, but perhaps by a different reason from many. For 25 years, I was a biomedical researcher, and I was one of those people who regularly opened up styrofoam mailing containers in my lab to discover a vial of blood, or a piece of an organ, donated either by a sick child or that child's family. I know that feeling, put so perfectly by the researcher who received Thomas' retina: you hope for a sample to come, because you need for your experiments to progress, but you are so torn because you know that this container came to you after a tragedy, and it somehow seems wrong to be happy about its arrival. In all those years, my highest highs were linked to experimental success using some of those samples--somehow validating both the science and that person's life, all at once. One sample also brought my lowest low of my career, after I inadvertently pushed the wrong button on a machine and, within seconds, destroyed the DNA in that sample that I hoped to use for months to come. Fifteen years later and it still makes me ill.

I no longer work in biomedical research. Our lab head retired and, with research funding levels still at rock bottom, I found myself competing for jobs with recent college grads who were cheap labor, despite lack of experience. Six months later, and I still miss it terribly. The story today reminded me just how much.

Jul. 26 2015 03:41 PM
David S Roane from Johnson City, Tn

I want the authors (and others) to know that we listened to Gray's Donation in our adult Sunday school class this morning at First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethon (Tenn). The response was robust, profound, and at times moving. The discussion focused on the lack a fairness in the world, and the value of connectedness and trust in the good of humanity. Thank you for creating this thought-provoking episode and for demonstrating the power of courage, pluck and commitment to our common good.

Jul. 26 2015 01:28 PM
Gurukarm Khalsa from Massachusetts

I have just finished listening to this episode, and as a mother, am so deeply touched by the story of this family. The decision they made to donate their baby's organs and tissues means that he - a tiny six-day-old being - and they, have done more good in the world than most people take the opportunity to do in their entire lives. I am grateful and inspired to have heard their tale.

Jul. 25 2015 05:05 PM
Manny Giannarakis from Sydney, Australia

Wonderful piece. Moved me to tears. Your stories, and the way in which you both deliver them, make the world a brighter place and more importantly they empower and enrich your listeners in ways that are impossible to articulate. Thank You!

Jul. 25 2015 09:47 AM
Thomas Marino from Quakertown, PA

I was moved so much I wrote this quote down. All I can say is wow!

I used to think the universe treated people the way it should. Now I don't really believe that. But I do believe that there are really amazing, kind people in the world......

I felt I was a boat on the ocean and was rocky and choppy with waves. I had this feeling, I'm not the boat. I'm the ocean. The decisions I make are changing other people as opposed to the boat being slapped in the waves all the time.

It has made me feel...........POWERFUL!

Sara Gray, Radio Lab podcast 7/16/2015

Jul. 25 2015 06:48 AM
Bill L from Philadelphia

I listened to this while making my 2 year old twins pancakes this morning. I cried the entire time. Tonight I replayed it for my wife and again cried for the entire story. I just want to hug the Grays. What amazing people. Without going into great detail, if it wasn't for people like the Grays willing to construct some purpose out of a horrific personal tragedy my 3 wonderful and healthy children would never have been born. I could never say thank you enough.

Jul. 24 2015 09:55 PM
Marie from St. Augustine, FL

What a moving story, and so beautifully done! Hearing Thomas' brother and mother reading the ending credits was very powerful and I admit I sobbed straight through. Deep respect to these parents who showed great wisdom and bravery.

Jul. 24 2015 12:16 PM
Kasey from New York City

Great story! So helpful for those who feel strange or unsure about checking that organ donor's box. So happy you guys made this one. Keep up the great work!

Always listening,

Jul. 24 2015 11:54 AM
Dthomson1 from Houston, TX

Fantastic piece.

Jul. 24 2015 11:00 AM
Steve Wilkus from New Jersy

Thanks, again, to Radio Lab to a very well produced story of great meaning. Theys always make me think about things again and deeper.
It reminds me of a medical case that Dr. C. Everit Koop (later the surgen general during the emergence of AIDS) in which a Hasidic couple gave birth to conjoined twins. It was medically clear that only one could survive and leaving them conjoined would kill them both. The religious thinking behind the decision to separate them was deeply considered and delt with conflicting interpretations of Jewish law.
The case is well discussed at

Jul. 24 2015 10:21 AM
Stephanie from Stockton, CA

Extremely well done. I am nearly speechless, I had to take a moment to pause after this episode. I became a big fan of RadioLab six months ago and I quickly exhausted the archive, now I wait on the edge of my seat for each new episode. I have never been as moved as I was today. Anyone considering organ donation should give this a listen. I was moved to the point of tears. Keep up the excellent work.

Jul. 23 2015 05:31 PM
J. Todd Leffar from VA

Whether the priests that Sarah and Ross consulted with were right or wrong, I firmly believe that God had the final word in the whole journey:

* Sarah's placenta shifted, taking the decision out of her and her husband's hands, which meant that Thomas was able to be born with his brother.

* Sarah and Ross were able to welcome Thomas into this world and spend time with their precious little boy, even if it was only for a few days.

* And I presume that Thomas' organs were even more useful to the researchers since he was full-term.

Jul. 23 2015 03:57 PM
Zoe from Wisconsin

WOW. I have exhausted the abundant store of Radiolab broadcasts and routinely check back for new posts. I have also gone to in-person lectures. It is clear that Radiolab has had a marked effect on my life, but never like this. Radiolab, I was also born a twin. My twin was my genetically identical counterpart, as well. Midway through the pregnancy, my mother also got the news that she was having twins, then that one was different from the other. My mother was also made aware that one twin had developed a very rare neural tube defect: anencephaly. The odds of this unfortunate situation are astronomically small. So small, in fact, that my mother had frequent ultrasounds (in 1992, this was unheard of) and had medical teams from all over the world coming to study her (and, well, us). My mother was also faced with the impossible choice of aborting Twin B or risk Twin B harming/killing the healthy one. She grappled with the decision and with her faith, seeking priests' opinions, as well. Most opined that she should abort and that anything else would be selfish, yet she chose to take the risk. With the knowledge that she would die, Twin B was named Angelica, and I was named Zoe, meaning "the miracle of life," because I r Angelica lived only one day, as life outside of the womb is unsustainable for 100% of babies anancephaly thus far. Although I was alive and well, my parents were still mourning the loss of a child. My christening was also my sister's funeral. My birth caused her death. People have always made comments implying that we never really had a chance to get to know her/become attached, so they don't understand the loss, but even 22 years later I still feel a deep sense of forlorn yearning--my mother, even more so. Somehow it gives me peace that Thomas lives on in literal ways. For us, Angelica lives on through me. Although we may never find meaning in her death, I feel my life is that much more meaningful. I live the life she cannot and became the person she could not. Her epitaph reads, "In our arms for moments, in our hearts forever." Thanks for sharing!

Jul. 23 2015 02:02 PM
Kurt Wiesenberger from Charlotte, NC

Wonderful story. I was very moved. Keep it up!

Jul. 23 2015 10:38 AM

On May 9, 2015 my son received a double lung transplant (cystic fibrosis) at Duke. I am grateful to the donor family who made such a generous gift. The Gray's put a face and a voice to the gift of donation. My gratitude to them and to my son's donor and his family is deep and heartfelt.

Thank you, Radio Lab, for bringing this story and handling it with the gentle touch and reverence it deserved.

Jul. 22 2015 01:46 PM
Karen Peterson from Eagle River, AK

This was such a very touching story and my most favorite episode to date. Like so many others, I was so very touched by the sacrifice that Thomas' parents made and by the kindness shown to them by the researchers. Many times driving into work I almost wanted to sob in my military uniform; thank heavens I looked presentable going through the gate.

Jul. 22 2015 10:39 AM
Toby from Dayton, OH

Congratulations, Radiolab... I'm pretty sure that's the first time that the ending credits ever made me cry.

Thanks for all you do.

Jul. 22 2015 08:18 AM
Sally Fazal from Oakville, Ontario

Thank you for this wonderful episode. The comments of this young mother at the end moved me very much and the courage and optimism both she and her husband showed is a wonderful life-affirming example. Great work.

Jul. 21 2015 10:48 PM
Kathryn from Cincinnati, OH

This was a wonderful story, one of the best episodes, ever. It is good to hear that those who received the samples were so respectful and grateful, and the parents so understanding of the good that came from their son's life through the emotional trauma that they endured.

And Robert should note that *something* is discovered in all research, even if that discovery is an unexpected outcome. As long as the donation wasn't lost to someone leaving it out of the fridge, whatever research was done there is always a discovery, even if the discovery is "oh, lets not pursue that path further."

Jul. 21 2015 11:01 AM
Kristin from Natick, MA

This was a deeply moving episode. My sister-in-law, a 35 year old mother to two very young children, died nearly three weeks ago. It was sudden and unexpected, and our family is struggling to adjust to a life without her. She was a donor. Although the pain is fresh, and we will never get over this deep loss, it is a small consolation to know that she will be helping so many others...

Thank you for sharing your story.

Jul. 21 2015 10:01 AM
J Deane

Transcripts please!! This American Life does them and it's most helpful.

Jul. 21 2015 04:24 AM
Jennifer Howard from California

The Mother's comments at the end moved me to tears... and also moved through me like some profound grasping of a fundamental law of the universe. -I LOVE RadioLab!

Jul. 20 2015 10:43 PM
Sonya Winchell from Sacramento, CA

Listening to this interview was quite surreal. My almost 16 year old son died of Sudden Unexplained Death in Childhood (SUDC) in 2012 while sleeping. He was completely healthy, tall and of perfect weight. His autopsy revealed nothing nor a whole exome DNA study. I was able to have his brain and heart sent to Boston Children's Hospital SUDC research center in the hopes that we will eventually know what killed our amazing son. I wish that more reporting would be done on this tragic and sudden way of losing a healthy child over the age of one. The numbers are high and peditricians don't talk about this SIDS for children over age one. Sadly our local paper, The Sacramento Bee, won't touch my story. I'm grateful for the Gray's forward thinking.

Jul. 20 2015 10:23 PM
sepiae from Germany

And Scotus from Kansas City, MO (I presume there was a mkistake made in the addressing) -
even though you won't be spending more time on it: there's no turning this around. I understand the principle well enough, thank you. I do take issue with it's implementing, and with your apparent blessing of this implementing. You ended your comment with
'In Gray's Donation there was absolutely an intention to kill the sick fetus. It would not have been an accident or unintended, and therefore there is no double effect, and is morally indefensible.'
While elaborations on the PDE are always helpful to those who don't understand it, I'm *outraged* about it being dragged into this case, about the Catholic church's, a representative's or anyone else's attempt to add both conflict and pain to parents who're already afflicted with both enough. It appears that Catholicism cannot do without suffering, and without adding suffering to suffering. There's a name for that.
Meanwhile Sarah's decision and journey is an anti-thesis to this.
As for you, it is too easy to simply state that your opponent doesn't understand. Not with those words you ended your comment with. It simply won't fly!

Jul. 20 2015 12:45 PM
Daphne from Washington, DC

Just a beautiful story. I'm really glad I was able to hear it.

Jul. 20 2015 11:22 AM
Tom G from Wisconsin

The narrative reveals the interplay between love, mystery, science and discovery. This paints a compelling story of the forces and the factors that compound the complexity of everyday life.

Tip of the hat, certainly, to the parents and the producers of the story. Those who "build in" and "add on" political or religious objectives may have missed the essential purity of the story itself.

Sometimes it is wise to let the swords of judgment rest and listen to such stories from the heart. For they reveal truths only found in the active practice of love and compassion.

Jul. 20 2015 09:04 AM
Tom G from Wisconsin

The narrative reveals the interplay between love, mystery, science and discovery. This paints a compelling story of the forces and the factors that compound the complexity of everyday life.

Tip of the hat, certainly, to the parents and the producers of the story. Those who "build in" and "add on" political or religious objectives may have missed the essential purity of the story itself.

Sometimes it is wise to let the swords of judgment rest and listen to such stories from the heart. For they reveal truths only found in the active practice of love and compassion.

Jul. 20 2015 09:03 AM
Paige from Thailand

I'm currently going through the procedure to see if I'm an exact match for bone marrow donation. It's a total non-issue for me: if I match, I will donate. However, what is a massive concern for me are the number of people who are shocked by this, as if they wouldn't go through any degree of pain to give something they can afford to give in order to save the life of somebody else. I am saddened immensely by this, and wish there were more publicity about the simple things we can do to save lives, or about giving of the things we don't need even when lives aren't saved. When I recently cut 10 inches / 22 cm of my hair to donate to Lock of Love, many people around me said they could never do something like that. What does this say about society?

They Grays have touched many people - not simply through the donation of their son's organs, but also by serving to inspire others to do such good in the world, even without receiving any benefit aside from the knowledge that they have improved or saved the lives of strangers.

As always, your podcast is timely. Thank you.

Jul. 20 2015 04:24 AM
M. Beery from Gainesville, FL

As a scientist working in Type 1 Diabetes research, this story voiced precisely what I go through whenever we receive a sample for our research. And yes, I am the kind of person who receives a pancreas in a box as part of my job. There is grief at the donor's passing, but also relief in knowing that the donor will continue to help people with their gift. Thank you Radiolab for a beautiful story told with such clarity. I hope this helps others to understand the importance of organ donation.

Jul. 19 2015 10:21 PM
sepiae from Kansas City, MO


I am not going to spend more time on this issue. It is clear that this is a story that affects people deeply. It is not my intention to hurl denunciations but to explain wht the PDE is, which is something about which one of the priests was thoroughly ignorant. Your lack of understanding of the PDE does not invalidate its importance in helping us understand how to act in difficult moral and ethical situations.

Jul. 19 2015 05:31 PM
chamblee54 from Atlanta GA
Here is a blog post inspired by this show. Everyone having a fit about Planned Parenthood should listen to this show.

Jul. 19 2015 04:07 PM

Thanks for this, radiolabs, concurring with most of what the other commentators said.
There was a particular dimension added to it by Sarah being a devout Catholic, making this journey in search of closure, and meeting science, and the good that comes out of this research and her own decisions. That is quite a remarkable transition, and I feel she's found to much more than her faith and the priests advising her could have possibly offered.
Which is why I have to vehemently object to your clarification, Scotus [from Kansas City, MO]. I understand that you're objective seems to be to straighten the record regarding the actual principle, but it doesn't hold up: the child would have died no matter what, and the decision to terminate was to enhance the sibling's chances for survival, which would have also shortened the Thomas' suffering [had it gone that way]. No matter Catholic doctrines, there is *no way* to portrait the prohibition of such an act of mercy, nor indeed even an advise against it, as morally superior! On the very contrary. If this is the church's position, and in fact your own, it is the one that is morally indefensible, as you put it, and your elaborations are an example of redundancy; I find that position intolerable.

Jul. 19 2015 04:42 AM

I love this: "I had felt like I was a boat on an ocean that was rocky and choppy with waves. And I had this feeling that...I'm not the boat. I'm the ocean."

Jul. 19 2015 01:18 AM
Susan from Kennesaw, GA

The Grays' courage and wisdom in the face of a fearful tragedy is inspiring and humbling. And as a life science researcher, I am very heartened that all the people who received baby Thomas's organs took the time to answer the Grays' questions, and by their reactions are so obviously decent and good. Sarah's words at the end ... all I can say is thank you, Sarah, for helping to make the world a better place.

Jul. 19 2015 12:34 AM
factchkr from Levittown, NY

I do not want to hijack a beautiful story, but want to respond to Jacqu Lenhardt from Indian springs and make sure people know that Planned Parenthood is not harvesting organs for profit. They are only donating tissue at the patient's request, and do not sell it. As you heard on the video, fetal tissue is rare and extremely valuable. At some point down the road someone will probably profit from the donation, but it is not the donor or the agency sending the donation to the organ bank. Remember that the people who chose to terminate pregnancies go through emotional pain too. Perhaps they can be consoled by the thought that their actions help others. See and

Jul. 18 2015 05:04 PM
mombrarian from Dayton, OH

Thank you for this beautiful program. 9 years ago I miscarried my 1st pregnancy. It was found to have been anencephalic. As I mourned I was also thankful. It felt like by leaving the world so early, my baby spared me the greater grief of having to decide to terminate or go through what this couple did. Despite now having two beautiful kids, the pain of that loss will last forever. I can only imagine what it must be like for the Grays. Their choice in the face of this tragedy may change the world. Their choice to find out what happened changed their world. The thought that, among other things, Thomas may help prevent anencephaly one day is a gift to all of us whose lives have been touched by it. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Jul. 18 2015 04:50 PM
Rodriguez from USA

The phrase "The mother of this sample" sounds creepy as hell.

Jul. 18 2015 03:49 PM
Alex from Plainview, NY

I never cry at things like this but it was truly beautiful. Thank you so much for this piece.

Jul. 18 2015 12:55 PM
Garth from Tasmania

I cried, and then I kissed my children. Thank you.

Jul. 18 2015 08:44 AM
NSB from Los Gatos, CA

I see I am not the only one who cried during this one. As a parent of a child who lived in the NICU for almost three months, we witnessed around us the awful pain of babies lost. This story was very moving. It is awkward but slightly comforting to know the amazing work these scientists do despite the fact the opportunities arise out of tragedy. The mom put it beautiful when she said that it added another layer to his life. Amazing!!

Jul. 18 2015 02:50 AM
RR from CT

I don't believe the operational moral quandary is the Principle of Double Effect. As the mom mentioned in the story, it is more likely to have been the Trolley Problem. Which has many iterations but this is the basic issue:
"There is a runaway trolley barreling down the railway tracks. Ahead, on the tracks, there are five people tied up and unable to move. The trolley is headed straight for them. You are standing some distance off in the train yard, next to a lever. If you pull this lever, the trolley will switch to a different set of tracks. However, you notice that there is one person on the side track. You have two options: (1) Do nothing, and the trolley kills the five people on the main track. (2) Pull the lever, diverting the trolley onto the side track where it will kill one person. Which is the correct choice?"

Jul. 17 2015 09:49 PM
Jacqu Lenhardt from Indian springs , n

Interesting timing. I heard this the day after learning that planned parenthood is harvesting organs from abortions. I support organ donation; but no one should profit from abortion, not even science.

Jul. 17 2015 06:46 PM
Scotus from Kansas City, MO

Great story, but there is no way one of the priests should have claimed that it was OK to abort the sick baby in order to save the healthy one or the mother. The example used was completely wrong.

The Principle of the Double Effect does not give permission to do something wrong in order to gain a good. The PDE seeks to clarify whether there is any guilt in an unintended bad action stemming from one's attempt to do good. For example, let's say I hear someone breaking into my house. I'm concerned for the safety of my family, my own safety, and the protection my property. I grab a gun and head toward the area where the noise occurred. If I see the man who has just broken in my house standing in front of me, I do not have moral permission to open fire. This is how the PDE works in a situation like this: I see the man and call for him to put up his hands. Instead, he reaches for his pocket, so I open fire. Now, the PDE does not give me permission to pump six bullets in him with the intent to kill him.

What the PDE does is allow me to use reasonable force to stop someone I believe is trying to harm me or my family. If I shoot him and a bullet strikes an artery and he bleeds out and dies before help arrives, then I have committed no wrong. I did not intend to kill him. That is the double effect. In Gray's Donation there was absolutely an intention to kill the sick fetus. It would not have been an accident or unintended, and therefore there is no double effect, and is morally indefensible.

Jul. 17 2015 05:55 PM
Rebecca G from Seattle

As a Donor Family Services Manager for an eye bank this really hit home. Thank you to you and the family for sharing.

Jul. 17 2015 05:20 PM
Raina from Ohio

This was amazing. Thank you.

Jul. 17 2015 04:10 PM
Corey Crellin from Salt Lake City, UT

Beautiful episode.

Jul. 17 2015 04:02 PM
Yvette Guigueno from Victoria BC

This left me a mess on my way into work. Amazing work.

Jul. 17 2015 03:33 PM
Nicolas from New York City

Thank you for making me cry on my lunch break...yet again RadioLab. Very touching story.

Jul. 17 2015 02:41 PM
Sarah M from British Columbia

I look forward to all of your podcasts but I've never left one completely bawling. What an incredible story of this brave family, and the tragic circumstances that they so willingly gave to others. Blessings to the Gray family.

Jul. 17 2015 02:29 PM
Kieron from Yorkshire

I cried a little, I nearly cried a lot.

That's the most I cried with a smile on my face.

I hope no one I know saw me walking home today.

Jul. 17 2015 01:48 PM
Lauren from SLC, UT

As a parent of a former NICU baby, I was especially touched by this story. I've never thought of the NICU babies who lived being as being tied to the ones who died.. But after listening to the Gray's story, I feel like maybe they are. The care my child received was possible only because of studies like these.

Thank you for sharing the Gray's story.

Jul. 17 2015 01:45 PM
Julian Blow from Saskatchewan, Canada

Had to run to the washroom around the halfway point so my coworkers didn't see me cry.

Jul. 17 2015 01:34 PM
Philly Native from Philadelphia, PA

This is a beautiful story, and wonderfully done, as always. However, just one note - the Philadelphia newspaper is the Inquirer, not the Enquirer, as you have it listed.

Jul. 17 2015 01:12 PM
M.Mellet from Bronx,NY

This story opens my eyes to places and situations I never thought, the loss of a child is always sad, but Gray's Donation story gives me an wide sense of redemption.

Jul. 17 2015 12:44 PM
John Evans from Gaithersburg, MD

As a former employee/current contractor of Children's National, this was a very touching episode. Thank you.

Jul. 17 2015 09:15 AM

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