The Case of the Month is an actual patient from The Turek Clinic. It highlights the Cystic Fibrosis Research Inc’s 25th National Cystic Fibrosis Family Education Conference at which I spoke recently. You are welcome to review the lecture, available at the bottom of this post.
A Natural Vasectomy
He was young and thin, but had eyes filled with passion and life.
“I was told that I can’t have kids…that I’m sterile…but no one has told me why,” he exclaimed.
I glanced at his medical record and saw that he was taking several unusual medications, including one that supplies pancreatic enzymes, an inhaler that breaks up lung secretions, and several antibiotics. Upon examining him, it was clear that he was missing the vas deferens on each side, the essential tube that conducts sperm out of the testicle and into the ejaculate. This young man had cystic fibrosis.
We sat down again and I said: “It’s true that you can’t have kids by conceiving at home. You were born with a ‘natural vasectomy;’ one that cannot be reversed. But, with a little help from the hand of man and the hand of God, you should be able to be a father.”
Life with Cystic Fibrosis
Cystic Fibrosis (CF) is the most common genetically transmitted disease in the U.S., affecting 1/3000 births. Many more Americans are carriers of the condition but are not affected. This condition is characterized by a defect in a protein that regulates the movement of salt in and out of cells. The result is thick, sticky mucus that plugs up glands instead of thin, watery mucus that lubricates them. Through its effects on several organ systems in the body, CF is a life-shortening disease. But, as medicine has advanced, so has the life span of affected patients:
- In 1938, when CF was first described, most affected babies died before their first birthday.
- By the 1950s, children with CF lived into early childhood.
- In the 1980s, people with CF could expect to live into their mid to late twenties (the CF gene was discovered in 1989).
- Today, the average life expectancy for adults living with CF is 37 years, and rising.
- It is predicted that babies with CF born in the 2000s will live into their fifties.
Absolutely My Pleasure
I am privileged to be able to help men with CF have children and I am honored to give a fertility lecture to its National Family Education Conference this year. It symbolizes a milestone in life expectancy for patients with CF that did not exist 20 years ago. And, as a bucket list item for many of us, having kids fulfills a basic and primitive biological desire shared among many living organisms on this good earth. Let’s face it, doing things that matter to you, matters a lot. As someone once said: “Life is short; have dessert early.”