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Nurse Donates Uterus to a Stranger

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by Melissa Mills Melissa Mills, BSN (Member) Writer Innovator Verified

Melissa Mills has 20 years experience as a BSN and specializes in Health and Wellness Writing, Leadership.

9 Followers; 108 Articles; 21,421 Visitors; 266 Posts

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Would you endure a nine-hour surgery to give your uterus to a complete stranger? One nurse did. Learn more about her story and the work being done at Baylor University in Dallas, Texas.

Nurse Donates Uterus to a Stranger

Being involved in experimental care isn’t new territory for many nurses. However, donating spare body parts seems a bit rarer. For Heather Bankos, a neonatal nurse, donating her uterus came after she gave birth to three children of her own. Not only did she undergo the surgical procedure, but she also paid for her flight to Dallas, all with the hope that doctors can successfully transplant her uterus into another woman’s body for childbearing.

Similar Procedures

Uterine transplants have been successfully performed in Sweden. In 2014, a woman gave birth to a baby boy with the help of a donor uterus. The woman and her partner endured the transplant surgery, but also they had to go through other procedures, like in vitro fertilization (IVF). This process is standard for those who have difficulty getting pregnant and combines drugs and surgery to assist with fertilization and implantation. Past uterine transplants used donors genetically related to the recipient. However, the 2014 operation varied, because not only was the donor not related, but she was also over the age of 60 and had undergone menopause.

The child was born a bit prematurely, at about 32 weeks gestation because of pre-eclampsia and an abnormal fetal heart rate. The father of the baby spoke with reporters shortly after the child’s birth in 2014 and stated, “He’s no different than any other child, but he will have a good story to tell.”

Uterine Transplant Clinical Trial

Bankos had the operation as part of a clinical trial at Baylor University in Dallas, Texas. The University started the study in 2016 and was quickly overwhelmed with women willing to donate. In fact, in just two weeks, they received over 200 inquiries about how to give. Today, the wait list includes hundreds of interested women from almost all 50 states across the country. The trial hasn’t only had a significant amount of interest, and there’s been success, too.

Two babies were born at Baylor, which is part of Baylor Scott & White to uterine transplant recipients. The first mother, who had zero chance of having a baby without this trial, shared her story and stated, “Our main incentive was for the science, and to think about the 16-year old girl who gets this diagnosis, and she doesn’t have to hear what I heard when I was 16. She’s going to have options, no matter what happens.” These live births prove that the procedure can be replicated and is a viable fertility option for other women.

The surgery that Bankos had removed the uterus robotically, which decreases recovery and minimizes the length of the incision. However, the procedure itself took about nine hours, which is almost twice as long as the conventional method. Dr. Johannesson, a medical director, and gynecologic surgeon at Baylor, explained that the uterus is an excellent organ to give away because once you’re done with it, you don’t need it anymore.

Understanding the Ethics

As with every social issue, there are a few ethical challenges to consider around uterine transplants. Getting a uterus isn’t life-saving. At this time, it’s only done during clinical trials but will likely come with a hefty bill once it’s officially approved. Of course, whether or not insurance companies will cover the cost of the surgery is yet to be seen.

There are alternatives, such as adoption and surrogacy, but anyone who’s carried a biological child to term can probably relate that there are some differences. Currently, there are no documented risks for children born after a uterine transplant. Those who donate can be educated on all known risks of hysterectomy. So, it does seem that the majority of the considerations have to do with time, cost, and the fact that it’s not a life-saving procedure.

What do you think about uterine transplants? Would you be willing to give yours to someone who couldn’t have children? Do you feel that other options, like adoption and surrogacy, should be used first?

Tell us your thoughts below.

Melissa is a professor, medical writer, and business owner. She has been a nurse for over 20 years and enjoys combining her nursing knowledge and passion for the written word. She is available for writing, editing, and coaching services. You can see more of her work at www.melissamills.net.

9 Followers; 108 Articles; 21,421 Visitors; 266 Posts

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Snatchedwig has 11 years experience as a CNA, LPN and specializes in Medsurg.

1 Follower; 635 Visitors; 111 Posts

Wow thats interesting. The wonders of todays medicine. Sweet of that nurse. I wonder would this eventually have a potentiality for a business such as surrogacy. $

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JadedCPN has 13 years experience as a BSN, RN and specializes in Pediatrics, Pediatric Float, PICU, NICU.

1 Follower; 6,763 Visitors; 641 Posts

As someone who has never and will never want kids, I would gladly give up my uterus to someone who did! 

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TriciaJ has 37 years experience as a ASN, RN and specializes in Psych, Corrections, Med-Surg, Ambulatory.

10 Followers; 32,881 Visitors; 3,141 Posts

From late-stage abortions to uterine transplants is quite the reproductive gamut.  I can understand wanting one's own biological child and I can understand not wanting to have a child at all.  But looking at the big picture, I can't help thinking that life would be simpler if we just found better ways to look after the children who already exist.

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zeeblebrox has 1 years experience as a BSN and specializes in neuro/trauma ortho/trauma.

948 Visitors; 12 Posts

I would love to donate my uterus.  I have no use for it why shouldn't someone who would want to use it have it.

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amoLucia specializes in LTC.

45,406 Visitors; 5,022 Posts

2 hours ago, JadedCPN said:

As someone who has never and will never want kids, I would gladly give up my uterus to someone who did! 

Same here.

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2,608 Visitors; 483 Posts

I don't like this. What about the recovery and hormonal issues of surgical menopause? Infection? etc

Plus, can we cure the issues already at hand before we create new issues to contend with? Also, as someone else said, can we take care of the children already overflowing orphanages?

People are starting to treat babies like puppies/kittens. That's not how this works. SMH

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not.done.yet has 8 years experience as a MSN, RN and specializes in Critical Care; Cardiac; Professional Development.

4 Followers; 43,789 Visitors; 5,400 Posts

I would absolutely without hesitate donate my very healthy uterus to a mother yearning for a child and wanting to experience pregnancy.

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Crystal-Wings has 4 years experience as a LVN.

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I think it's a bit ridiculous. If you want to have a child THAT badly, why does it have to be yours biologically? Why do you have to carry the baby? There are literally THOUSANDS of children that are in foster care or orphanages that are waiting to be adopted and loved. 

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Leader25 has 35 years experience.

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They are welcome to this old bag,for  a fee of course.There is no free lunch,but if you want it ,you can have it .

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Ladyscrubs has 36+ years experience and specializes in Nursey stuff.

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Would not hurt to research anti-rejection meds effects on fetal development since I would hazard a guess that Immunosuppressive therapy would have to be maintained throughout the pregnancy.  Consider also the long term drug effects on the organ transplant recipient.

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