The incredible story of baby Eva Grace: the superhero who never lived.

My wife Keri and I went in for the standard 19-week anatomy scan of our second child. As a parent, you think that appointment is all about finding out boy or girl, but it’s about a whole lot more.

In our case, our daughter was diagnosed with a rare birth defect called anencephaly — some 3 in 10,000 pregnancies rare. The phrase our doctor used in explaining it was "incompatible with life," which looks as terrible in words as it sounds. The child fails to develop the frontal lobe of the brain or the top of their skull. The chance of survival is 0%. We sat in a doctor’s office, five months before our daughter was to be born, knowing she would die.

The options weren’t great. There was (a) inducing early, which in effect was terminating the pregnancy or (b) continuing the pregnancy to full term.


Within a minute or so of finding out, Keri asked if we could donate the baby’s organs if we went to full term. It was on her heart and mind, but we left the doctor and still spent the next 48 hours deciding what we were going to do. It was excruciating. We considered terminating. We had to. Were we capable of taking on the weight of the 20 weeks ahead? In our minds, we were intentionally taking on the loss of a child, rather than the loss of a pregnancy. And, yes, there is a difference.

We decided to continue, and we chose the name Eva for our girl, which means "giver of life."

The mission was simple: get Eva to full term, welcome her into this world to die, and let her give the gift of life to some other hurting family.

It was a practical approach, with an objective for an already settled ending point. We met with an organ procurement organization called LifeShare of Oklahoma and found out we’d be the eighth family in the state to donate the organs of an infant.

There wasn’t much of a precedent or process in place because, until only recently, most parents of anencephalic babies didn’t know it was an option. There’s this weird gray area involved because, even without a brain, these babies can’t be declared brain dead. Her heart would need to stop beating, leaving a finite window of, let’s call it, "opportunity," to recover her kidneys, liver, and maybe pancreas and heart valves. We asked about other things, like her eyes or corneas, but LifeShare told us they’d never done that before, even with an adult.

All photos by Mitzi Aylor/Alyor Photography. Used with the permission of Royce Young.

Part of the difficulty of the decision to carry on was the physical pregnancy and the mental burden of carrying a baby for 20 more weeks knowing she would die. The kicks and punches to Keri’s bladder served as a constant reminder of what was inside. (Yes, Eva kicked like any other baby; her brainstem was complete, which is what controls basic motor functions. I know, we had a hard time wrapping our minds around it too.) She feared people asking what she was having or the due date or if the nursery was ready.

What we unexpectedly found, though, was joy in the pregnancy. We happily talked about our sweet Eva, and day by day, our love for her grew. We got excited to be her parents.

I think a big part of that was connected to the decision we made to continue on, which was empowering. She had a name, an identity, and a purpose. The idea of choice in pregnancy is a complicated one, and one I kind of want to avoid here. Wherever you fall, just know, we were empowered by our decision, our responsibility to be Eva’s mom and dad for as long as we could. We went from seeing the pregnancy as a vehicle to help others to looking forward to holding her, kissing her, telling her about her brother, and being her parents.

The time we’d have was completely unknown, with it ranging anywhere from five seconds to five minutes to five hours to, in some more optimistic estimates, five days.

We decided to have a planned C-section. We wanted to maximize our chances of seeing Eva alive and be able to control as many variables as possible.

There wouldn’t be any surprise labor in the middle of the night. We could have our first child Harrison there to meet his sister and grandparents ready to hold their granddaughter even if she was only alive for an hour or so. We wanted to do what was best for our girl. That’s what parents do.

As the date neared, the meetings and appointments cranked up. We had what everyone called the "Big Meeting," a gathering at Baptist Hospital of about 30 people that included multiple people from LifeShare, NICU nurses and doctors, neonatologists, and other "Very Important Hospital People." We were the first infant organ donor ever at Baptist, and they were developing a protocol on the fly. There were plans and contingency plans and contingency plans for the contingency plans.

The process was going to be delicate, and to be frank, it seemed increasingly unlikely that it would work. There were a lot of things that were going to need to go just right, even with the intricate plans that were being put in place. It was made clear to us over and over and over again how if Eva’s kidneys or liver didn’t go directly for transplant, they would go to research, and infant organ research is incredibly valuable.

But I wanted a tangible outcome. I wanted to be able to meet and hug and shake the hand of the person my daughter saved.

I couldn’t dream about what my daughter would grow up to be, so I fantasized about the difference she could make.

What if the person who got her kidneys became president? What if her liver went to a little boy and he goes on to win the Heisman Trophy? I was writing the "30 for 30" script in my mind every night as I went to sleep. It was something to hold onto; it was the kind of hope I wrapped up with both arms. Research was nothing more than a fail-safe to me, a Plan B that I didn’t want any part of.

There were some concerns from the hospital's ethics team about Eva and our plans. As I explained to them — and to anyone else out there who has this idea that we grew a daughter just for her organs — Eva was a terminal child. And as her parents, we elected to make her an organ donor. That’s it. She would be born, live an indefinite amount of time, and then we were choosing to donate her organs.

Then suddenly, we were in the two-week window. In two weeks, we’d be prepping to welcome our baby girl into the world and preparing to say goodbye to her.

I planned on sitting down that day to write Eva a letter, like I did before Harrison was born to give him on his 18th birthday. She’d never read it, but I was going to read it to her. Keri didn’t feel Eva move much that morning, but we both brushed it off and went to lunch. We came home, put Harrison down for a nap, and Keri sat down in her favorite spot and prodded Eva to move. She wouldn’t.

We started to worry. Keri got up, walked around, drank cold water, ate some sugary stuff. She sat back down and waited. Maybe that was something? We decided to go to the hospital. We held on to hope that we were just being overly anxious and didn’t take any bags.

We arrived, and a nurse looked for a heartbeat on the doppler: nothing. Not unusual; it was sometimes hard to find because of the extra fluid. They brought in a bedside ultrasound machine and looked. It seemed that maybe there was a flicker of cardiac activity. They told us to get ready to rush in for a C-section.

I just remember repeating, "I’m not ready I’m not ready I’m not ready I’m not ready." I was supposed to have two more weeks. What about the plan? What about Harrison? What about Eva’s aunts and uncles and grandparents? What if they couldn’t make it in time? What about her letter?

They brought in a better ultrasound machine. Keri and I had seen enough ultrasounds to immediately know: There was no heartbeat. Eva was gone before we ever got to meet her. The brain controls steady heart functions, and Eva’s finally gave out.

Keri rolled onto her side and put both hands over her face and let out one of those raw, visceral sobbing bursts. I stood silently shaking my head.

We had tried to do everything right, tried to think of others, tried to take every possible step to make this work, and it didn’t. No organ donation. Not even for research, our fail-safe. We felt cheated.

The word I still have circling in my head is disappointment. That doesn’t really do it justice because it’s profound disappointment. The kind of disappointment that will sneak up on me at different times, like when I’m mowing the yard or rocking Harrison or driving to a game.

Since there was no reason to control variables anymore, the doctors induced Keri into labor. The rest of Sunday and into Monday morning were the darkest, most painful hours of our lives. We had previously come to terms with the outcome and had almost found a joy in the purpose of our daughter’s life. We had looked forward to meeting her and loving her. We knew we’d hurt from her loss, but there was hope in the difference she was making. We had heard from recipients of organ donation that were so encouraging and uplifting.

But the deal got altered. It felt like we were letting everyone down. (I know how ridiculous that sounds.) I felt embarrassed because all that positivity about saving lives wasn’t happening now. (I know how ridiculous that sounds.)

On top of it all, the ultimate kick in the gut: We wouldn’t even see her alive. I struggled with the idea of Eva’s existence and her humanity all along, about whether a terminal diagnosis made her dead already. I clung to knowing her humanity would be validated to me when I saw her as a living, breathing human being. I wanted to watch her die because that would mean I got to watch her live. I longed for just five minutes with her — heck, five seconds with her. All of that practical stuff about organ donation was irrelevant to me now. I just wanted to hold my baby girl and see her chest move up and down. I just wanted to be her daddy, if only for a few seconds.

Eva came surprisingly quick on Monday. Keri forced me to go get some lunch  —  a sad, lonely lunch featuring me taking bites of chicken fingers in between sobs  —  and I got back to the hospital around noon. Keri sat up and felt some pain. Then she felt another shot of pain ring through her body. Our photographer had just arrived and was setting up. Keri started to panic and asked for nurses to come in. They checked her, and it was time to have a baby. I still wasn’t ready.

At 12:20 we called our family and told them to hurry.

At 12:30, our doctor, Dr. Pinard, arrived.

At 12:33 and 12:35, Laurie from LifeShare tried calling Keri.

At 12:37, Eva Grace Young was born. I cut her umbilical cord at 12:38.

My phone rang at 12:40 and 12:41, and then a text came. It was Laurie from LifeShare. "Hey Royce, it’s Laurie . Will you give me a call when you get a chance? I think I have some good news for you."

Keri and I held each other and cried as the nurses cleaned Eva, and Dr. Pinard called LifeShare for us.

Then, she walked up to the foot of the bed.

"I’m on the phone with LifeShare," Dr. Pinard said, a smile cracking through on her face. "They have a recipient for Eva’s eyes."

It’s weird to say that during probably the worst experience of my life was also maybe the best moment of my life, but I think it was the best moment of my life.

The timing of it all is just something I can’t explain. It wasn’t what we planned or hoped for, but it was everything we needed in that moment. I buried my head in my arms and sobbed harder than I ever have. Keri put her hands over her face and did the same. Happy tears.

This was our reaction when Dr. Pinard told us about Eva’s eyes.

As the nurses handed her to us for the first time, much of the dread and fear was lifted from us and replaced with hope and joy again. Here comes Eva Grace Young, the superhero she was always meant to be.

None of it went as we planned. We’re trying to rest on knowing we did the best we could. We always said we wanted to limit our regret, and I think in 20 years or so, as we reflect on this, there’s not much we’d change.

We’re proud to be Eva’s parents. We’re thrilled with the impact she’s made. People from around the world have sent us messages telling us they’ve signed up to be organ donors because of Eva.

Eva’s the first ever —  not baby, but person — in the state of Oklahoma to donate a whole eye, and she donated two.

Because of her, LifeShare has made connections in other states to set up eye transplants for the future. They have an infant organ donation plan they now are working with sharing with other organ procurement organizations in Colorado and Texas. They call it the Eva Protocol.

I keep thinking about looking into her eyes some day, but more than anything, I think about her eyes seeing her mom, dad, and brother.

We always wondered things about Eva, like what color her hair would be, if she’d have Harrison’s nose, if she’d have dimples like her mama, or what color her eyes would be. In the time we spent with her, one eye was just a little bit open, and I fought the temptation to peek. I can’t ever hold my daughter again. I can’t ever talk to her or hear her giggle. But I can dream about looking into her eyes for the first time one day and finding out what color they are.

This story first appeared on the author's Medium and is reprinted here with permission.

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Judy Vaughan has spent most of her life helping other women, first as the director of House of Ruth, a safe haven for homeless families in East Los Angeles, and later as the Project Coordinator for Women for Guatemala, a solidarity organization committed to raising awareness about human rights abuses.

But in 1996, she decided to take things a step further. A house became available in the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles and she was offered the opportunity to use it to help other women and children. So, in partnership with a group of 13 people who she knew from her years of activism, she decided to make it a transitional residence program for homeless women and their children. They called the program Alexandria House.

"I had learned from House of Ruth that families who are homeless are often isolated from the surrounding community," Judy says. "So we decided that as part of our mission, we would also be a neighborhood center and offer a number of resources and programs, including an after-school program and ESL classes."

She also decided that, unlike many other shelters in Los Angeles, she would accept mothers with their teenage boys.

"There are very few in Los Angeles [that do] due to what are considered liability issues," Judy explains. "Given the fact that there are (conservatively) 56,000 homeless people and only about 11,000 shelter beds on any one night, agencies can be selective on who they take."

Their Board of Directors had already determined that they should take families that would have difficulties finding a place. Some of these challenges include families with more than two children, immigrant families without legal documents, moms who are pregnant with other small children, families with a member who has a disability [and] families with service dogs.

"Being separated from your son or sons, especially in the early teen years, just adds to the stress that moms who are unhoused are already experiencing," Judy says.

"We were determined to offer women with teenage boys another choice."

Courtesy of Judy Vaughan

Alexandria House also doesn't kick boys out when they turn 18. For example, Judy says they currently have a mom with two daughters (21 and 2) and a son who just turned 18. The family had struggled to find a shelter that would take them all together, and once they found Alexandria House, they worried the boy would be kicked out on his 18th birthday. But, says Judy, "we were not going to ask him to leave because of his age."

Homelessness is a big issue in Los Angeles. "[It] is considered the homeless capital of the United States," Judy says. "The numbers have not changed significantly since 1984 when I was working at the House of Ruth." The COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded the problem. According to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), over 66,000 people in the greater Los Angeles area were experiencing homelessness in 2020, representing a rise of 12.7% compared with the year before.

Each woman who comes to Alexandria House has her own unique story, but some common reasons for ending up homeless include fleeing from a domestic violence or human trafficking situation, aging out of foster care and having no place to go, being priced out of an apartment, losing a job, or experiencing a family emergency with no 'cushion' to pay the rent.

"Homelessness is not a definition; it is a situation that a person finds themselves in, and in fact, it can happen to almost anyone. There are many practices and policies that make it almost impossible to break out of poverty and move out of homelessness."

And that's why Alexandria House exists: to help them move out of it. How long that takes depends on the woman, but according to Judy, families stay an average of 10 months. During that time, the women meet with support staff to identify needs and goals and put a plan of action in place.

A number of services are provided, including free childcare, programs and mentoring for school-age children, free mental health counseling, financial literacy classes and a savings program. They have also started Step Up Sisterhood LA, an entrepreneurial program to support women's dreams of starting their own businesses. "We serve as a support system for as long as a family would like," Judy says, even after they have moved on.

And so far, the program is a resounding success.

92 percent of the 200 families who stayed at Alexandria House have found financial stability and permanent housing — not becoming homeless again.

Since founding Alexandria House 25 years ago, Judy has never lost sight of her mission to join with others and create a vision of a more just society and community. That is why she is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year — and the donation she receives as a nominee will go to Alexandria House and will help grow the new Start-up Sisterhood LA program.

"Alexandria House is such an important part of my life," says Judy. "It has been amazing to watch the children grow up and the moms recreate their lives for themselves and for their families. I have witnessed resiliency, courage, and heroic acts of generosity."

via Hennepin County Sheriff

The verdict in the trial of Derek Chauvin, a former Minnesota police officer convicted of murdering George Floyd, has many breathing a sigh of relief. Even though the disturbing video evidence of Floyd dying under Chauvin's knee is impossible to refute, it's incredibly hard to convict an officer of murder.

The United States judicial system is so preferential to law enforcement that even though the world saw murder in broad daylight, many were skeptical of whether he'd be convicted.

"Most people, I think, believe that it's a slam dunk," David Harris, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh and an expert in policing, told the Washington Post before the trial. "But he said, "the reality of the law and the legal system is, it's just not."

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2020 was difficult (to say the least). The year was full of life changes, losses, and lessons as we learned to navigate the "new normal." You may have questions about what the changes and challenges of 2020 mean for your taxes. That's where TurboTax Live comes in, making it easy to connect with real tax experts to help with your taxes – or even do them for you, start to finish.

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Julz, hairdresser and salon owner

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Julz had to shut down her salon and go on unemployment benefits for the first time. She also had to figure out how she was going to support herself, her staff and her business during this difficult time. But many other beauty industry professionals didn't have access to the resources they needed, so Julz decided to help.

"My business partner and I began teaching basic financial literacy to other beauty industry professionals," she says. "Transitioning our business from behind the chair to an online academy was a challenge we tackled head-on so that we could move hairdressers into this new space of education, and create a more accessible curriculum to better serve our industry.

Julz connected with a TurboTax Live expert who helped her understand how unemployment affected her taxes and gave her guidance on filing quarterly estimated taxes for her small business. "I was terrified to sit at a computer and tackle this mess of receipts," Julz says, so "it was great to have some virtual handholding to walk me through each question."

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Alana, new mom

Alana welcomed her first child in 2020. "I think my biggest challenge was figuring out how to be a mom, with no guidance," she says. "My original plan was to have my mom by my side, teaching me the ropes, but because of COVID, she wasn't able to come out here."

She was also without a job for most of 2020 and struggled to find something new.

So, Alana took it as a sign: she decided to launch her own business so she could support her new baby, and that's exactly what she did. She started a feel-good company that specializes in creating affirmation card decks — and she's currently in the process of starting a second, video-editing business.

TurboTax Live answered Alana's questions about her taxes and gave her some much-needed advice as she prepared to launch her businesses. Thanks to their "little lift," they provided her with a little emotional support too.

"I got my mom a plane ticket to finally [have her] meet [my daughter] for her first birthday," Alana says. "I was also able to get a new computer," which helped her invest in her new business and work on her video editing skills. "It's helped my family and me so much," she says.


Michael, science teacher

When schools shut down across the country last year, Michael had to learn how to adapt to a virtual classroom.

"As a teacher, I had to completely revamp everything," he says, so that he could keep his students engaged while teaching online. "At the beginning, it was a nightmare because I had no idea. I had to go from A-Z within a couple of weeks."

Michael's TurboTax Live expert answered his questions about how working from home affected his taxes and helped him uncover surprising tax deductions. To top it all off, his expert surprised him with brand new science equipment and supplies, which allowed him to create an entire line of classes on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook. "Now I can truly potentially reach millions of children with my lessons," he says. "I would never have taken that leap if not for the little lift from TurboTax Live."



Ricky, motivational youth speaker

As a motivational speaker, Ricky was used to doing his job in person, but, he says, "when COVID-19 hit, it altered my ability to travel and visit schools in person [because] schools moved to fully virtual or hybrid models."

He knew he had to pivot — so he began offering small virtual group workshops for student leadership groups at middle and high schools.

"This allowed me to work with student leaders to plan how they would continue making a positive impact on their school community," he says. He wasn't sure how being remote would affect his taxes, but TurboTax Live Self-Employed gave him the advice and answers that he needed to keep more money in his pocket at tax time — and the little lift he received from them has helped him serve even more students.

"[It] has been a major blessing," he says "There will be multiple schools and student groups from across the country that I can hold leadership workshops with to empower them with the tools to be inspirational leaders in their school, community, and world."

Plus, he says, it was great knowing he had an expert to help him figure out how being remote affected his taxes. "I felt confident and assured in the process of filing my taxes knowing I had an expert working with me, says Ricky. "There were things my expert knew that I would not have considered when filing on my own."

Filing your taxes doesn't have to be intimidating, especially after a year like 2020. TurboTax Live experts can give you the "little lift" you need to get your taxes done. File with the help of an expert or let an expert file for you! Go to TurboTax Live to get started.