March 09, 2021
DALLAS — Dreams of becoming a mother came true at Medical City Dallas for a stage three cervical cancer survivor and hysterectomy patient thanks to the generosity of a Medical City Plano healthcare hero, who volunteered to be a surrogate.
“I can’t believe a complete stranger would do something so selfless and generous — she is truly a healthcare hero in so many ways,” says new mother, Erica Gray of Dallas. “We are absolutely overcome with joy and gratitude. Because of this amazing caregiver, we now have this precious baby we have dreamed of for so long.”
Gray was diagnosed with cervical cancer seven years ago, at age 27, and immediately sought the expertise of Medical City Plano gynecologic oncologist Thomas Heffernan, MD. Faced with a decision that would prevent her from carrying a baby, but could save her life, Gray underwent a hysterectomy.
“I knew it was going to be difficult to have kids no matter what we did down the road,” says Gray. “Everything gets affected when you do chemotherapy and radiation. I just wanted it taken care of and I trusted Dr. Heffernan to the full extent, so we decided to go with a radical hysterectomy.”
Seven years later, when Dr. Heffernan mentioned a cancer patient’s desire to have a biological child, his long-time surgical tech, Kasia Birdwell, voiced interest in helping. The women met for dinner in August of 2019 with their husbands and immediately formed a friendship.
“I knew we were going to walk into something special, but I didn’t know we would build such an awesome relationship,” says Gray.
“The timing was crazy. Our first embryo transplant was cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Birdwell.
Despite the challenges of elective healthcare during a pandemic and Birdwell’s ongoing responsibilities at work, school and home, both families successfully navigated COVID-19 safety protocols to a successful pregnancy in June 2020.
“Kasia is super woman. She is a mom of two, married, juggling work and nursing school. How she balances all of this and carried a child for us is incredible,” Gray says.
On March 4 at 10:34pm, Kasia Birdwell gave birth to a healthy 8 pound, 14 ounce baby boy named Richard Edwin Gray V at Medical City Dallas, to cheers and tears in the delivery room.
“Kasia’s willingness to help the Gray family is a testament to all of our healthcare heroes who have sacrificed so much the past year to give hope to others,” says Grace Mooken, MD, Medical City Dallas physician to both Gray and Birdwell and attending OB/GYN at the delivery.
“Medical City is all about putting the patient first. Not only is Erica a patient, she is a good friend. She is a survivor who has been through so much. And for me being able to put her first and help her make this family, it has been an incredible journey and I am so excited for them to be together,” says Birdwell.