Fertility Clinics vs. Covid – Maria and Samuel’s Journey

Eloise Edington  |   12 May 2022

Last year, Fertility Help Hub ran a campaign offering eight couples or solo parents a free round of IVF.

Maria* and Samuel* were successful applicants for our Fertility Clinics vs. Covid initiative. Here they share their story.

*Names have been changed

Over to Maria and Samuel…

Mothering Instincts

First and foremost, we would like to thank you for the opportunity to share our story and for the hope Fertility Help Hub has restored in couples battling infertility.

For my entire life, I’ve wanted to be a mother. Mothering and caring for others have always come naturally to me. I can think back to the age of three when my younger brother was born and how my entire world changed, all my heart desired was to help care for him and protect him. Years later, at the age of seven, I became an aunt to a niece and nephew and that instinct grew tenfold. As time passed, my siblings continued to expand their families with ease, and I perceived that to be the norm. Boy was I in for a rude awakening…

Unexpected Illness

My husband and I met in 2010 – we were two young and optimistic kids eager to take on the world. In as little as nine months, we knew we had met our “person” and decided to get married. We’ve always known we wanted children but focused on our educational and career goals first.

My husband obtained a degree in business while I obtained a degree in nursing. We both excelled in our careers and focused on expanding our family. The optimism was short-lived when my husband began to experience abnormal health symptoms prompting us to visit urgent care one Saturday morning. After what seemed like endless tests, we received the jarring news that my 31-year-old husband was diagnosed with End-Stage Renal Failure (ESRF).

Imaging revealed that my husband had a congenital defect of the renal pelvis and ureters. We would later learn that this anomaly was likely the cause of our male factor infertility. We were admitted to the hospital and quickly briefed on what would become our new normal.

Stock image – not Maria and Samuel

My husband was discharged after a week-long hospitalization with a newly-placed peritoneal dialysis catheter and plans for a month-long training on peritoneal dialysis. We slowly adjusted to life as a dialysis family and thankfully, my background in healthcare allowed for a slightly easier transition.

Exhausting Efforts

After establishing care with a nephrologist, we quickly questioned how ESRD and dialysis would affect our ability to have a family. She informed us that renal failure and dialysis should have no effect on my husband’s ability to father a child. Deep down I knew something was wrong because, at this point, we had been trying to conceive for seven years with no pregnancy.

Our nephrologist suggested we see a urologist for further testing. The urologist ordered labs and a multiple semen analysis. Each semen analysis confirmed my worry – no sperm were present in the ejaculate. The urologist suggested my husband undergo a testicular biopsy for a clearer understanding of our situation. The testicular biopsy results showed hypospermatogenesis and immature sperm. The urologist later concluded the appointment by telling us we should consider IVF and ICSI fertility treatment.

We sought the care of a reproductive endocrinologist through our health insurance. Baseline labs were ordered for me and my husband, and we were informed they were within normal limits. A vaginal ultrasound showed that I had an ovarian cyst that would have to be removed before we could proceed with fertility treatment.

Unfortunately for us, Covid reared its ugly head and all “elective” surgeries (this surgery felt anything but elective) were put on hold.

It took an entire year before I could complete the necessary laparoscopic ovarian cystectomy.

After healing and getting the green light from my gynecologist, we contacted our reproductive endocrinologist to discuss our remaining options. He let us know that based on my husband’s testicular biopsy results, we could attempt intrauterine insemination (IUI) with donor sperm or in-vitro fertilization (IVF) with sperm collected by testicular sperm extraction (TESE). We were informed that the IUIs could be done at the fertility clinic however, IVF was not a service they provided, and we would have to seek fertility treatment elsewhere.

Analyzing Fertility Treatment Options

This was the first time my husband and I had to mourn the idea of our child not sharing our genetics. We opted to give ourselves a chance at having a biological child and decided to try IVF with TESE.

We were recommended a fertility specialist who worked with a urologist specializing in TESE. The urologist was very honest and let us know that (based on previous tests my husband had completed) IVF with TESE could not guarantee that any viable sperm would be extracted, but was probably our only option to create a biological child.

My husband was placed on Clomid with the hopes of increasing his sperm count, but unfortunately, he developed severe side effects. We had a difficult yet honest conversation and my husband told me he felt he needed to stop the medication.

He reminded me that the healing from the testicular biopsy was very difficult (due to unforeseen complications) and he was afraid to undergo another invasive procedure that would likely result in nonviable sperm. Facing this new challenge, we were forced to start over again and reanalyze our remaining options for fertility treatment.

“The Worst Uterine Cramping”

We met with the fertility specialist and informed him that we would like to continue with fertility treatment but had since decided that it would be safer for my husband’s overall health if we used a sperm donor. Our fertility specialist agreed.

He said I needed to complete a saline sonogram to check my uterine cavity was healthy. I arrived for the appointment (it was the first appointment that my husband couldn’t also attend due to Covid restrictions) and was scared and unsure of what to expect but decided to remain positive because it was a step closer to our end goal.

As I lay on that cold table with my legs in stirrups, I couldn’t help but think of how much I wanted my husband to be there with me. The fertility specialist placed the catheter into my body but didn’t explain what he was doing. I then felt cold, pressure, and stabbing pain – followed by the worst uterine cramping I’ve ever experienced. 

Next, the fertility specialist removed the catheter, said “all good” and left the room. I lay there with tears streaming down my face feeling desolate. A few minutes passed and his assistant returned to the room to tell me I was free to go. From then on, every appointment with this doctor proceeded in a similar manner, no explanations, no details, no compassion, and no good bedside manner.

Hope with Fertility Help Hub

It was at that moment I came to the realization that we had to find another fertility specialist. We felt disheartened as we had already spent so much time, effort, and money but we weren’t any closer to achieving our dream of becoming parents.

Scrolling through Instagram, I saw a post by Tiffany from Ustheremingtons. She was encouraging her followers to apply for the Fertility Clinics vs Covid initiative. I decided to apply on a whim thinking we could never win. Little did I know our lives would change after receiving a text message from Eloise, Founder of Fertility Help Hub.

Eloise notified us that we had been selected as successful applicants for a free round of IVF with La Jolla IVF.

To say that this is a blessing is an understatement. Our experience with Dr. Smotrich and his team has been nothing short of incredible; he has been there to walk us through every step of the way.

We recently completed our egg retrieval which resulted in the creation of five healthy embryos with the use of donor sperm. We start our Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET) protocol on May 1st and have an expected transfer date of mid-June. My husband and I are extremely grateful for this opportunity and are praying that this journey brings us the child that we so desperately desire.

Thank you Maria and Samuel for sharing your story. We wish you the best of luck with your fertility treatment.

If you have a story you’d like to share, send our Editor Holly a message on Instagram.

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