Kevin & I have made a decision to be open about our struggles. We believe that only with that openness, can change occur. Most people know about the injuries that Kevin endured in Afghanistan… an amputated leg below the knee, missing pinky, mangled wrist, and a mangled left leg. He is lucky to be alive. Those injuries resulted in 2.5 years of recovery at Walter Reed. However, there is one injury that has not been talked about much. This injury could cost us the ability to have a family. If it wasn’t for advancements in science, that would be definite. One of his testicles was severally damaged in the blast; it resulted in it having to be removed. He was on testosterone replacement for years because of it. Recently, he has undergone tests to find out fertility levels. The results are not pretty and borderline heartbreaking. Anything under 10 million sperm is considered low. We are talking about a couple of 100 sperm in our situation. The reason this happened…war.
The armor that soldiers wear has a protective Kevlar diaper(sounds funny I know, but it works) for protection. However, the Kevlar diaper does protect them if the blast shoots straight up into their groin. However in Kevin’s case and how he was striding, as the IED exploded, the blast crept up his leg into enough of an opening to damage groin area. Had he not been wearing this diaper, the damage would have been even more devastating. The IED’s are set to mangle you; they want you to survive but suffer. It is sick and it is twisted, but it is the reality. I am thankful for the thousands of soldiers that show their strength when it was meant to be taken away from them.
Thousands of soldiers have experienced this type of injury, leading to infertility. Many young military families who were planning to have children are now wondering how their life long dream can come true. This is not just happening to one or two couples a year, it is several hundred a year, which is adding up to thousands during this war. Some soldiers going to war are only 18 years old, they haven’t even thought of a family yet. The idea of a family is robbed from them before it is even a reality for them. It is a real problem. If I knew someone going for deployment now, I would highly recommend freezing some sperm. The ability to have a family is valued significantly. When that is taken away from you, it is devastating. It is worth the precaution in my opinion.
Kevin and I want to start our family soon after getting married. We’ve already started the process of determining how this is going to be possible for us. We’ve been told by Walter Reed that we will require IVF in order to conceive a child. In the middle of April, we have a consultation with Shady Grove Fertility.
The best part… Tricare and the VA Specifically EXCLUDE all fertility treatments. The cost of the treatments (which runs from $7,000 to $20,000) is completely on the solider and the family. It does not matter to the VA why the infertility is present. It is simply not covered. For the soldiers who are only suffering infertility as a result of their war injuries, thousands of dollars will be needed to hopefully make it happen. To make their dream of having a family a reality will completely depend on their financial situation. All families should be financially comfortable before having children. But in this case, being financially ready is not similar to a family who conceives naturally. It is forking out thousands of dollars before the child is even conceived! I’ve heard people say… why not adopt? My response to those people would be, have you considered the cost of adoption? Also, the want and need to carry your own child can be unbearable. It does not simply go away. Plus when so much else has been taken from you, this is just another blow. Every family deserves to have a family the way they choose. It saddens and stresses me that Kevin & I will be faced with significant financial obligations in order to have our family. However, we both agree, it will be worth it.
I will be sharing our story with fertility while we experience it. We are sharing this to make people aware that this is a real problem. Our government refuses to recognize it. Men and woman who fight for us should not face significant financial obligations to have their families, if a war injury caused their infertility. We will be meeting with government officials to get their support with changing the laws that make it this way. We will be asking for support in the future with issue and we hope you can add your voice! Our hope is that by sharing such personal stories, we can make a difference for other people facing the same problems. Our injured soldiers deserve the same opportunity to have the family that they could have had before their injuries. We know the change will not come soon enough for us; but hopefully, we can help initiate change for others.