YouTube parenting vlogger Brittani Boren Leach has shared with her almost one million followers the tragic story of her baby son's Christmas death to inspire others to consider organ donation.
Leach, who showcases her daily life as a Texas mother of four boys and a stepdaughter, found her youngest son Crew had stopped breathing during an evening nap at a relative's house on December 25.
The night before, on Christmas Eve, she had posted a photo with her husband, Jeff Leach, and their "very loud, crazy and beautiful blended family", little Crew in a plaid hoodie at the centre of the shot.
On Christmas Day, after Crew was found unresponsive and rushed to hospital, Leach took to social media with a photo of her hand holding her son's tiny one to ask followers for support.
"I don't have any words right now … We are living a nightmare, and I’m dying inside. Please pray for my baby. This can’t be real," she wrote on Instagram.
"I don't think I can go on without him," she added in another post.
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Right now Crew is “stable” and the ventilator is breathing for him. They are working on stabilizing his body and tomorrow he will have an MRI to determine his brain function and that will determine the next step. I can’t explain to you what this feels like. This kind of thing only happens to “other” people. Not me. I just want to crawl in bed with my baby and nurse him. Instead I’m standing here with a breast-pump in my bra where my baby should be... begging God for a miracle. Please continue to pray. Please. I don’t think I can go on without him. #prayforcrew
Extensive tests showed Crew's brain injuries were "catastrophic and irreparable", Leach said, and it was confirmed on December 28 he had died.
No details have been released as to why the baby stopped breathing or his cause of death.
Leach revealed she and her husband Jeff Leach had "found clarity" in making decisions. "Right now we are making hand and footprint imprints, a family handprint tree and a fingerprint charm," she wrote.
"Jeff and I take turns being strong for each other, and our kids have been so strong. We are just taking things, minute by minute, hour by hour, although it feels like a daze."
Leach told Good Morning America in a statement why she and Jeff decided to donate their baby's healthy organs.
"Our hearts are shattered, but we find solace in the hope that other children may live, because of Crew," she wrote.
"Through this experience we have learned that the list of patients in need of an organ transplant greatly exceeds donor availability. We hope to inspire others to make the life saving decision to become an organ donor."
A "devastated" Jeff wrote on Facebook he and Brittani hoped their son "can help another child and family in need.
"Crew fought bravely, so we could spend this time together. We're so blessed to have been here with him."
In more posts, Leach detailed the process of the doctors running tests on Crew to take his organs for donations. In one photo, she is on the ground in the hospital, her knees pulled up to her face.
“It’s all just too much. All of it,” she captioned the post.
“I cry behind the bathroom door while Jeff holds me, because in the room over everyone else gets to laugh and go on with their lives, and it makes me so angry.”
The night before Crew's organs were harvested, Leach wrote she and her husband were "soaking up every moment by bathing him, holding him and loving him."
Leach wrote that after Crew died, he was "dancing and playing in Heaven. And one day we hope we to meet the three or four little lives that he has saved.
"But right now there's a big hole in my heart and my arms feel empty."
She rode on a bed with the baby to the operating theatre, her husband walking beside them.
"People lined the halls to pay their respects to our little hero and then we said the hardest goodbye of our lives," Leach wrote.
The popular vlogger's intimate sharing of her son's last days drew criticism from online trolls accusing her of using the heartbreaking situation for publicity.
"I’m thankful for all the love and support that we have been shown, but please keep in mind that we can see your comments, questions and conversations," she wrote back.
"Put yourself in our shoes (which is impossible to do) and ask yourself If you’d want to read what you’re about to write or say."