I have a lot of patients in my practice who have broken their backs. Not figuratively by working so hard, but literally, by having spinal cord injuries. Some have been crushed by rolling logs, fallen from tall heights, been victims of shooting, dived into shallow pools or took an untoward jump while skiing or skateboarding. As a group, these men are impressive: imbibed with fortitude, perseverance, decisiveness and joie de vivre, they take nothing in life for granted. Live it hard, wring it dry, no regrets.
Their numbers are not insignificant either. Roughly 5,000-10,000 individuals experience spinal cord injury annually in the U.S. alone. And although you may think that cars have plenty of safety measures, they don’t, as the biggest cause of cord injury is motor vehicle accidents. Violence, recreational activities and workplace-related injuries round out the top four causes. And, of course, single, reproductive age men (ages 20-34 years old) are by far the most commonly affected.
I am reminded of these patients after a good friend, Dr. Stephen Seager, came over for dinner last week. A true Irish gentleman (“blended scotch before dinner and single malt after, no ice”) and world famous veterinarian, Dr. Seager invented the rectal probe electroejaculator in the early 1980s. I will leave it up to your imagination to wonder how this device works. But realize that this one doctor, through his invention and its popularization worldwide among male fertility specialists, has touched every spinal cord injured father from around the world over the past 30 years.
Seriously, the Seager Electroejaculator has revolutionized our ability to help men with spinal cord injury to conceive and become fathers. It takes advantage of the fact that ejaculation is governed by a spinal reflex (like sneezing) and it stimulates that reflex to happen. In fact, probably the only biological function that is not seriously affected in men who have broken their necks and cannot move any of their limbs (quadriplegic) is reproduction as this reflex generally remains intact.
By his innovative thinking, Dr. Seager brings hope to every spinal cord injured patient who dreams of being a father. Personally, seeing my patients with their little children running around their wheelchairs, and the wide, grateful smiles on their faces is easily one of the most satisfying experiences I have had in my medical career.