The couple had been trying to conceive for 5 years unsuccessfully. The tension and anxiety in the relationship was palpable and strained. They had spent well into the 5 digits to have a child with test tube baby technology (IVF) and yet were still not pregnant. His vasectomy reversal had also failed them. And they were going to try one more time, just once, with me, before calling it quits.
When he came to me for care, he was frankly depressed. Out of money and full of debt, close to losing his job in this economy and in a strained relationship hanging on by a thread, he sat across from me. He looked terrible. “Can you help?” he asked me.
Well I did help. I reversed his vasectomy again and it worked. Fast-forward 9 months and a birth announcement arrives in the office from the couple with a long personal note of thanks on the back. But one line really struck me:
”Looking at her, sleeping quietly, I see her future as an astronaut, the President, a doctor, a lawyer or anything else that she wants to be. She can be or do anything!”
Absolutely unbridled hope and enthusiasm was infusing a mind once filled with almost unfathomable despair. All this change, nine months and one baby ago. Wow!
Talk about a biological drive. Reproduction easily ranks up there with breathing and eating. Not for everyone of course, but for many. I am quite sure that if you surveyed infertile couples about their quality of life with infertility, as has been done in patients with cancer, you would find these diagnoses equally impactful. I have no doubt many of my patients would give up five healthy years of their life to have a child. Maybe even 10. Just because it cannot be assessed by a blood pressure cuff, a blood test, or a scar does not make infertility any less important an affliction.
And yet, despite its profound impact, its ability to tear apart relationships, crush self-esteem and slow down an otherwise productive couple to a grinding halt, infertility is not really considered a disease in many societies, including ours.
Want a more productive and healthier society? Cure infertility. And what about something else that this world could use a lot more of, as expressed by my patient: the resurrection of those elemental feelings that lead us to live good lives and to make the world a better place for those who will follow us.