Hero Welsh baby boy saved a stranger's life just minutes after he was born

Parents Jess Evans and Mike Houlston from Cardiff with Teddy
Parents Jess Evans and Mike Houlston from Cardiff made the decision to transplant the kidneys and heart valves of Teddy, baby Noah's twin brother after he died shortly after birth -Credit:Collect Unknown

Ten-year-old Noah Houlston is playing his new baby sister the recording of a heartbeat which belonged to Teddy, the twin brother who died the day they were born. The sound was captured and placed in the tummies of two well-worn bears Noah has treasured ever since. She’s transfixed.

“I don’t play it often because I don’t want it to run out,” Noah explains. The rugby-loving lad wiggles the baby’s squidgy foot with breathtaking tenderness. “Bo-Bo,” he coos. “He is besotted,” says his mum, Jess. “Every single night he would ask ‘When can we have another baby?’ He has always been missing something.”

It is 10 years since Noah lost his twin, the baby who changed history when he became Britain’s youngest organ donor aged just 100 minutes. Teddy’s anniversary in April could have been unbearable, but the family had a rainbow to brighten their sadness. You can get more story updates straight to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletters here.

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This week, Jess and her husband Mike invited the Daily Mirror to their Cardiff home to meet their “miracle”. Their beautiful, dark-haired daughter Bodhi, now 13 weeks, who has “filled a void”, the Mirror reported.

“I have felt joy with her in a way I wasn’t able to feel after Teddy,” says Jess, 37. “She is just amazing, I’m enjoying every second.”

And she is comforted by seeing her son in her newborn. She confides: “She has Teddy’s mouth. When she is out for the count, her mouth wide open, she looks just like him. It’s nice, we only have so many minutes-worth of memories of him.”

For Mike, 39, she has brought a sense of wholeness again. “I think you can describe it like a puzzle with a piece that was kind of always missing,” he says. “Teddy will always be here, but with Bodhi it feels almost complete now.”

Teddy’s legacy caused a butterfly effect after Jess and Mike told us his story in April 2015. In response, more than 100,000 people signed the organ donation register, and the Mirror’s Change The Law For Life campaign was launched calling for an organ donation opt-out system. This finally came into force in England in 2020.

Mum Jess Evans holding Teddy's hand
Mum Jess Evans holding Teddy's hand

The couple discovered at the twins’ 12-week scan that Teddy had anencephaly, a fatal congenital brain condition, but bravely decided not to terminate. Knowing if Teddy lived he would likely survive only briefly, they then expressed a truly groundbreaking wish - to donate Teddy’s organs.

Specialist teams were on standby at the birth, and removed his heart valves and 3.8cm kidneys, which were donated to an adult woman.

After so much heartbreak, the Houlstons deserved happiness, yet the journey to their rainbow baby has been devastating at times.

They reveal their complex decision to even try, knowing another baby with anencephaly was a high risk because they had already had one with the condition, was followed by three miscarriages.

And when Bodhi finally arrived, the weeks after her birth became a living nightmare as she developed a mysterious infection. The trauma plunged Jess and Mike back ten years as they found themselves in the same hospital again clutching a pale, unresponsive baby.

Admitting she hasn’t allowed herself to return to those terrifying days until now, Jess reveals the depth of her distress. “Bodhi was so floppy it reminded me of holding Teddy,” she admits. “We had him for five days in a cold cot, and it felt like I was holding him again. I thought she was dead.”

Mike, a technical manager and Jess, an estate agent, who already had a two-year-old daughter, Billie, from a previous relationship, recall the bad news at the twins’ 12-week scan like yesterday. Repeatedly, termination was advised. Despite risk to Noah, the couple resisted.

'We have no regrets'

Doctors initially said organ donation wasn’t possible, but the couple pushed back and won support. “It felt so natural, there wasn’t even a second thought,” says Jess.

The twins arrived on April 22, 2014, and the NHS Blood and Transplant team was ready. The couple cuddled their boys, took photos - Noah reveals one is his phone background today. Then Teddy died. Minutes later, surgery began.

“We have no regrets,” says Mike. “People might not understand this, but we feel lucky it happened the way it did. Teddy opened the doors for so many more organ donations.”

He explains many do not realise family consent is still needed at the point of donation. He adds: “It is important we keep having conversations.”

Faced with planning a funeral, bonding with Noah was a “blur”.

In the years following, Jess could not face another baby because of the risks. But Noah’s persistence helped them make the decision to try three years ago. “We say Noah has missing twin syndrome, he always needs company,” explains Mike.

Parents Jess Evans and Mike Houlston from Cardiff with Jess's daughter Billie, 3 and their son Noah, 1. The couple made the decision to transplant Noah's twin brother Teddy's organs after he died shortly after birth.
Devoted Jess Evans cradles little Teddy

Three early miscarriages followed. One even caused Jess to haemorrhage. “I had given up all hope, really,” she admits.

Even when Jess’s pregnancy with Bodhi continued, every scan was a terrifying hurdle. “There’s a date, there’s a build up,” explains Mike. “Is that going to be the date we find out something’s wrong?”

Jess admits she may have considered termination. “I don’t know,” she hesitates. “I’m older, I think I would have considered a different route this time.”

The pregnancy gradually became enjoyable, but although Bodhi’s birth on February 11 went well, by that evening she became poorly. Mum and daughter were both treated for an infection with antibiotics. However, when they came home, Bodhi deteriorated dramatically.

'I miss Teddy every second'

“Within 12 hours she was nearly unresponsive, so they rushed her back into the children’s hospital,” recalls Jess.

“She was straight back on the drip. They treated her for the herpes virus, antibiotics in case it was an infection, and they tested for meningitis.

“She was whisked off for a lumbar puncture. She had multiple cannulas in her hands and feet as her veins kept collapsing.”

A clear diagnosis was never given, but thankfully she began to recover. Understandably, the couple were devastated. “Just the beeping of the machines took me back to Teddy,” says Jess.

Mike almost broke. “I said to Jess, ‘I just want to get in the car and drive away’,” he admits.

Finally back home, the pair began to enjoy Bodhi in a way it was impossible with Noah in the depths of grief. “She’s my little bestie,” smiles Jess, burying her face in Bodhi’s soft hair. “I’m trying to take in every little smile, noise and milestone.”

For Teddy’s tenth anniversary, the couple concentrated on Noah’s birthday, taking Bodhi with them to join him on a rugby tour. Jess explains: “Every milestone Noah hits I imagine what it’d be like with Teddy. Every occasion is never just his moment.

“I was aware of the anniversary all day though. I remembered how I felt the two of them fight for space in my womb; how they’d both react to music. I miss Teddy every second.”

Yet both parents find happiness in Noah’s delight in Bodhi. “He’s very proud,” says Mike. “He likes showing his friends. They’ll be playing Fortnite and Bodhi’s head will pop up on screen. Every night she goes into his room for a cuddle.”

Noah still automatically signs every card from both he and his twin. He grins: “I will tell Bodhi about Teddy when she’s older.”

Could she borrow one of his blue bears, perhaps? He hesitates, then nods.

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