“It breathes new life into her,” Oklahoma’s first newborn organ donor continues to make a difference

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OKLAHOMA CITY - Many people want to make a difference during their time on this earth - but what do you do if your time is less than 15 hours? That's the difficult decision one family faced before their daughter was even born.

Now, Oklahoma's first newborn organ donor is still changing the world.

Abbey Ahern is a mom of five beautiful little girls. One of them is no longer with them physically but living on in their hearts.

"She was chubby and precious, and everything about her was so perfect - except for the top of her head, which was the anencephaly," Ahern said.

Anencephaly is when an embryo develops without a major part of the brain, skull and scalp.

The Ahearns learned of Annie's diagnosis at a 19-week checkup. Doctors said the little girl was incompatible with life.

"That's when our worlds just crashed," Ahern said.

The family knew they'd have to make the most of the time they had with her, cherishing the nearly-15 hours she survived.

"Dylan read her a book called 'Heaven is for Real,'" Ahern said. "It was just a really sweet way for her to let her sister know where she was going."

It was an understandably difficult time for the family, but they chose to make the most of it.

"I just had this idea on my heart from before Annie was even born that her birthday was supposed to be bigger than our sadness," Ahern said.

Before Annie was born, the Aherns asked several doctors about donating Annie's organs. To their surprise, it was something that had never been done before.

When Annie was born, plans were in place to make her a trailblazer - the first newborn infant organ donor.

Due to low oxygen levels during her short life, her organs weren't viable for transplant. Instead, they were donated for medical research.

"It was really difficult in the beginning because I wanted to see this 6-year-old girl playing soccer because she had kidneys from my daughter," Ahern said.

Ahern found comfort in the fact Annie will be changing countless lives not only due to the research - but also by changing policy.

Typically, babies under 5 pounds can't donate their organs, but Ahern said the policy isn't a good fit for babies with Annie's condition because so much of babies' weight is carried in their head.

The family is now working to ensure other babies like Annie can be donors as well, making a difference on this earth - even though she's no longer here.

"It breathes new life into her," Ahern said.

Friday night, the Aherns will continue on with Annie's mission. At 7 p.m., they will be holding a fundraising event at Aloft Hotel in downtown Oklahoma City.

All proceeds will go to 'The Spero Project,' a local organization that helps folks in need. For more information, visit shineokc.com.

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