July 9, 2008
Cancer Treatment Left Michael Infertile – 25 Years on He’s Become a Miracle Dad ; EXCLUSIVE
By BETH NEIL
LITTLE Aisling Richardson never pestered her parents for a new Barbie or a pony. She craved just one thing - a baby brother or sister. And from the moment she could talk, she never stopped asking.The youngster, who is now nine, little realised that her own existence was a longed-for blessing, and that another addition to the family would be little short of miraculous.
"She was desperate," says mum Beverley, 39. "It was her one desire in life. She'd put coins in wishing wells, look at shooting stars and tell us she had asked for a brother or sister. It touched our hearts. We so wanted to make her happy."
But Beverley's husband Michael, a social worker, had been left infertile following cancer treatment 25 years ago. Aisling had been conceived using his frozen sperm and specialist fertility treatment - but this had failed when they had tried for another baby.
So imagine the family's surprise and delight to discover that Aisling was to get her wish after all - miracle baby Eliza was on the way.
Astonishingly she was conceived completely naturally - a quarter of a century after doctors said Michael would never have children. "It's incredible," says Michael, 47. "Even the doctors are dumbfounded and haven't heard of it happening before, especially after such a long period of time. I feel like I've won the Lottery."
The Richardsons found out that Eliza, now five months old, was on the way last April, after Beverley, had gone to give blood.
"The nurse thought I had anaemia," says Beverley, a primary school teacher. "She gave me iron deficiency tablets but they made me feel worse - nauseous and weak."
Next she saw her GP and was shocked to be asked whether she had taken a pregnancy test.
She says: "I knew there was no way I could be expecting - Michael was infertile. But she needed to do it to rule it out. So I agreed.
"When the test came back positive, I couldn't take it in."
Michael was equally stunned by the news: "I thought Bev was joking. I was so surprised, I even joked that it couldn't possibly be my baby. But obviously, it was."
Michael from West Yorkshire, was 22 when he was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma - a form of cancer. He needed radiotherapy, but was told it would affect his fertility. In all likelihood he would never become a dad.
In 1990, seven years after having radiotherapy, Michael was told the cancer was unlikely to return. It was then he met and fell in love with Beverley.
After they got married in August 1993, Michael felt the true pain of his infertility. "We wanted kids. But even though we had an intimate, loving relationship, and never used precautions, nothing happened. We accepted it was because I was sterile."
Fortunately, Michael had been advised to freeze some sperm before his cancer treatment. In late 1997, after an assessment at the fertility centre at St James Hospital in Leeds, it was confirmed that using his frozen sperm was their only option.
So the next January, Michael and Beverley embarked on ICSI, a form of fertility treatment where sperm is injected into the egg.
Unfortunately, Beverley had a bad reaction to the drugs. "I suffered Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome," she says. "My lungs flooded with fluid and I ballooned, putting on two stone in 48 hours. I was kept in hospital for two weeks."
Yet two months later, Beverley bravely decided to try again. And this time, they were successful.
"We were speechless," says Michael. "My frozen sperm, which was 17 years old by then, had actually produced a child.
"It had been such an outside shot.
We couldn't believe it."
On February 16, 1999, Aisling was born. "Her name is Irish for 'vision' or 'dream,'" says Beverley, "which is exactly what she was to us."
When Aisling was three, they tried ICSI again. But it cost pounds 4,000 a time, and, after four failed attempts, they had to call it a day.
Michael and Beverley resigned themselves to having an only child.
But Mother Nature had other ideas. And on January 29 this year, Eliza came into the world.
"Eliza's gorgeous," says Michael, proudly. "I keep looking at her in awe. It's phenomenal.
"The doctors can put it down to nothing other than that I've taken care of myself. I don't drink, don't smoke and I have a good balanceddiet.
I feel like Superman!"
Beverley adds: "Aisling is on cloud nine. She adores her little sister. One day, we'll tell her. We've beaten cancer and infertility. It's taken 25 years - now our lives are definitely complete!"
It's incredible. The doctors are dumbfounded and I feel like I've won the Lottery
Big sister Aisling, nine, was conceived using sperm Michael had frozen in 1982
21 years Sperm frozen for that length of time was used by a British couple to conceive their first child in 2004
Durga Thangarajah was delivered alive and well in Australia in May after growing in her mother's ovary instead of the womb.
4 years after her father's death from cancer Jaimie-Rose Roberts from Chepstow was born in March using his frozen sperm
Additional reporting: JENNY BRAY
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