Why am I begging? 

If you follow me on Facebook or basically any other social media I have probably been driving you nuts with my post lately.  I’d apologize but I can’t because it is just that important.  My Husband and I have been fighting for over a year now for Congress to pass legislation to allow the VA to provide IVF coverage to our wounded Veterans.  I know other couples that have been fighting for over 6 years for the same thing.  Year after year this gets put on the back burner.  Year after year it is voted down or taken out.  Every precious year during our child bearing years is quickly passing us by, while we wait for Congress to decide how they “feel” about IVF and other fertility treatments.

Congress- WE DO NOT HAVE TIME!  44% of Maryland’s Post 911 Veterans are in their prime child bearing years.  When you hit around the age of 35 fertility discussions start to become different.  My Husband spent 2.5 years at Walter Reed recovering from significant injuries that he sustained in Afghanistan during his first deployment in our Army’s Infantry.  Kevin lost his leg and suffered extensive injuries to the rest of his body.  He also lost a testicle that resulted in a significant decrease in fertility.  Every test and doctor we have seen has said the same painful words, we will never have children on our own.  We were told that we would be covered through the DOD if we did IVF while he was active duty.  A perfect time to bring a child into the world… between surgeries and a very unstable situation… NOT! We made the responsible decision to hold off on having children until our life settled and we were ready. Since we waited, we lost coverage for IVF treatments that we needed.  The VA cannot provide IVF treatments to any Veterans, including those who need it because of a war related injuries.  After Kevin retired the VA ran every test, looking for options because they desperately wanted to help us.  Unfortunately they had to tell us that they were unable to help.  Why? Because our government placed a ban that prohibits the VA from providing the treatments.  The funny part is, the DOD is able provide it.  Why is there a difference between the two?

When we met with members of Congress we were hit with some pro-life issues.  Apparently pro-life is not an issue for DOD even though the IVF is provided the exact same way.  IVF is as pro-life as you get.  We are starting life, we are trying to have a family, not end it.  I’m not sure why our veterans are being hit with these questions when all they are asking is to start a family and to have a more normal life.   It is unfair and unethical to make them feel anything other than supported when trying to pursue their dream of having a family!

Our life will never be normal because of war.  Parts of my husbands body are somewhere in Afghanistan and the 2.5 years he spent recovering he will never be able to get back.  Does he regret it… no, he doesn’t.  His Mom had to live with him for about 2 years to care for him through over 30 surgeries.  Now he is medically retired.  He is going to school for his Bachelors degree.  He is ready to be a Dad.  His Mom, who had to wonder if her son would survive, is ready to hold his baby-her Grandbaby.  This is what normal looks like for so many.  All we are asking is for a piece of normal, to be able to be parents.

The reason I am pushing so hard for support now is because Congress will soon be going on break.  If this is not voted on as a yes, more years will continue to pass and more families will be faced with trying to figure out how to have a family.  Like I said before, many of these soldiers are in their child bearing years now, they do not have time for this to take longer! Our wounded service members deserve better.  The ultimate goal of recovery after a war injury is to go on with life as normal as possible, to make the person whole again.  By passing these bills we are helping to make these men and women who already gave so much, whole again.

If you have children, look at them and ask yourself what you would do to bring them into this world if you had to do it all over again.  That is all we are doing.  Our baby is not due until August, but we know the love for her is immeasurable because we have and will do anything to bring her to us.  We will also do anything we have to make sure other people in our situation do not have to feel the way our Government has made us feel.

Please help us by sharing with Congress your thoughts.  We welcome you to use our story.  There’s over 2000 known cases of Veterans who now face infertility because of war injuries. Let’s stand up for these people and help change their lives.  So often we hear “thank you for your service” and we know the people mean well but a true thank you is to help fight for these men and women.  The link I am going to post is a quick and easy to write your representatives requesting that they support these bills.  You do not even have to look up your representatives, they do it for you!  You don’t even have a to type the letter, it is done for you (although you are welcome to add and change things).  You simply put your name and address and it is done!  Something so simple could change the lives of so many and would truly be a meaningful “thank you for your service” for so many!

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Click here to let your voice be heard!

The Next Step – War Related Infertility vs. Us

We started a support group on Facebook for families who are going through similar situations.  It is called Families Impacted by War Related Infertility.  We started the page that way we could all share what we know and experience to make it a little easier on others! This page is just for families in this situation, so they can feel safe to share their stories.

Recently, the VA called and wanted to set up a consult to discuss infertility.  We got the call the same day Kevin met with a Congressman, strange.  We have no idea what it is really about.  The law states that the VA does not pay for IVF, so we are not too optimistic with the VA covering it.  It may just be they want to look at his hormone levels. We already know they are very low, not sure how he has functioned this long like this but who knows… We will of course, update people once we know more about the VA’s appointment.

Tomorrow we have a consult with Shady Grove.  They are supposed to be one of the best in the country.   I cannot wait to hear what they have to say.  It feels strange to be excited about having an appointment with an RE doctor.  But, it means we are going somewhere, we have options, we have hope, we have a chance.  That is pretty exciting!  At the same time I am nervous, hormone levels are not where they need to be.  His levels were drastically low the last time we went to the doctor.  The doctor felt that he should have already been feeling bad, but he wasn’t.  Now, several months later, we are facing it or so it seems.  The medicine they give men for hormones kills off sperm.  Typically it will come back after the medicine is stopped, but what if it doesn’t?   Then what? I am terrified that our clock is ticking to have our own children.

I research this topic constantly; it is almost like my second job at this point.  It is so important to me, having a family with Kevin means everything.  I feel like the more educated I am about this process, the higher our chances will be to finding the right path for us.  As a society, we are quiet and secretive about these issues.  I do not have a problem talking about these personal issues to the world; I can be someone else’s voice if they need me to.  These men and women fighting for our country; they should never wonder how they will be able to achieve their dreams of having a family.  We are still being told that since Kevin is retired, IVF treatments will not be covered no matter the reason.  I’ve found opportunities to discuss this issue with others in similar situations; I think together we can get this changed.

I just cannot wait to have answers to all the thousands of questions in my head!  I’m glad that we started this journey before we got married because we will have a solid plan by August when we are ready to start our family.  We are SO ready for this (so are our families!).

If you know anyone in the same or similar situation, please have them like the Facebook page!  Getting the word out will definitely help! It also just helps to have support.  I haven’t started fertility treatments, I haven’t had my heart-broken after treatment, I do not know what it is like yet, nor will I pretend to.  I do know what it is like to sit in a waiting room, feeling like I am literally going to die while waiting for test results, I do know what it is like to be terrified that you will not get our family easily, I do know what it is like to worry and cry over your future family and wonder if it will in fact exist one day.  That is what I know so far in this journey.  One day soon, I will know more and I know the support would help me.  Sometimes, just having someone in the same situation to talk to is all a person needs. I hate for anyone to ever feel alone!  Some people have already mentioned on the support page that they had no idea other people were going through similar things.  It shouldn’t be that way; no one should ever have to feel alone, especially because they are not.  This is a very personal and private issue for many, for me, it is the opportunity to bring people together and support others in similar situations.

With every turbulent storm, comes peace.

With every turbulent storm, comes peace.

The beginning of our journey with war related infertility

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.

baby feet