Texas Mom Who Was the First Woman in the U.S. to Have a Uterus Transplant Says She Has No Regrets, Even After the Procedure Failed

"I knew there were risks and I'm so grateful that I at least had the opportunity to try. Somebody had to be first. I'm glad that it was me," Lindsey McFarland tells PEOPLE

Photo: Courtesy of Blake McFarland

Two months after becoming the first woman in the United States to receive a uterus transplant, only to lose the organ to complications two weeks later, Lindsey McFarland, 26, says she is taking joy in her three adopted sons and is looking ahead to the day when a surrogate – possibly her mother – can be implanted with six embryos from an earlier in vitro fertilization treatment.

“I would love to have a little girl someday, but for now, I’m focused on healing and giving my boys some attention,” Lindsey, a stay-at-home mom from Lubbock, Texas, who was born without a uterus, tells PEOPLE. “I just know that God’s not done with me yet, so in a couple of years, we’ll definitely be ready to pursue it.”

Lindsey made international headlines on Feb. 24, when she received a uterus transplant after convincing surgeons at the Cleveland Clinic that she was ready to become the first woman in the country to try the surgery, previously done a dozen times in other countries, with less than half ending in successful births.

Although Lindsey’s transplant failed when a yeast infection compromised the blood supply to the uterus, she and her husband, Blake McFarland, a police officer, say they have no regrets.

“It was an incredible opportunity and I’m so glad that we tried it,” Lindsey tells PEOPLE. “This is something that could help other women to have families in the future, and I’m happy to be a part of that. Although the end result was disappointing, I have no bad feelings about making the journey.”

A mother of three adopted boys, Toby, 6, Paxton, 4, and Luke, 17 months, Lindsey was 16 when she learned that she didn’t have a uterus – a congenital condition commonly known as Mayer Rokitansky Kuster Hauser syndrome (MRKH), affecting about one in 4,500 women.

In 2012, several months after marrying Blake, she did some online research and learned about Dr. Andreas Tzakis, a surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic who had recently helped with a successful uterus transplant in Sweden. That transplant led to a successful birth in 2014.

Lindsey kept in touch with Dr. Tzakis through email and was the first of 10 candidates at the Cleveland Clinic to undergo the new procedure, using a uterus donated by the family of a woman in her 30s who had died suddenly.

“Although the live births reported in Sweden were with a uterus obtained from a live donor, we used a deceased donor for Lindsey because we wished to eliminate risk for a (live) donor,” Dr. Tommaso Falcone, Chairman of Women’s Health Institute at Cleveland Clinic and one of Lindsey’s surgeons, tells PEOPLE. “The procedure is technically challenging and is associated with risk.”

“Lindsey’s courage throughout the ordeal was amazing,” he adds, “and she was involved in every decision and gave us insight into her medical condition. Her courage and optimism didn’t falter, even when we had to remove the uterus.”

Following the 10-hour surgery, “it seemed like everything was going to be fine,” Blake, 26, tells PEOPLE, “but then Lindsey got that infection and her body couldn’t fight it off. Her life was more important than trying to save the uterus.”

Lindsey also had life-threatening conditions involving an artery, causing the loss of blood flow through her left leg. Having things turn bad so quickly was an emotional shock for the couple, who had hoped to expand their family with a child of their own.

“It was crushing,” says Lindsey, who was hospitalized for more than a month and is now back home in Texas, slowly gaining back her strength and pursuing an online degree in marriage and family therapy.

“Our disappointment was made easier by the support of family and such a great team of doctors,” she says. “It was hard on them, too. They’ve been with me every step of the way.”

Although Lindsey’s mother, Candy Cowart, 45, has volunteered to be her daughter’s surrogate when she decides she is ready to have her embryos implanted, “right now, we’re just focused on me being healthier,” says Lindsey. “Although it’s not the outcome we hoped for, I knew there were risks and I’m so grateful that I at least had the opportunity to try. Somebody had to be first. I’m glad that it was me.”

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