A Mother’s Love: Fertility Preservation Gives Aubrey Family Building Options

Marci Saunders, the mother of three young children, conceived naturally and completed her family, yet chose to freeze her eggs.

She hopes that they will never need thawing. Her gift, an insurance policy, will provide her oldest daughter Aubrey, now six, with options when she decides to have children one day.

Aubrey was born with kidney dysplasia, and had both organs removed when she was five months old. She was on dialysis for a year prior to a transplant operation; afterward, relying on powerful medications to prevent rejection and aid in the transplant’s success. The long-term effects of these medicines, including three immunosuppression medications taken daily, could affect reproductive health and fertility.

Marci recognizes that adoption is a good choice as well, but wanted to give her daughter the option of sharing a biological connection with her children.

“I asked again and again: How will this affect my daughter’s fertility,” said Marci. “No one could give me an answer. As a mom, you want your children to have their own children one day, and so I did some research.”

Fertility Preservation: A New Technology Renewed a Mother’s Hope

Marci learned about fertility preservation options for donating her eggs to Aubrey, and called several fertility clinics in New Jersey to arrange for consultations. She was turned away for egg freezing, even after she found a case of a Canadian mother freezing her eggs for her adolescent daughter, who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

The American Society for Reproductive Medicine lifted the experimental label on egg freezing in 2012, and new applications for the technology are unfolding every day.

Ultimately, a close friend who had her family with assistance from North Hudson IVF referred her to the clinic’s founding reproductive endocrinologist, Dr. Jane Miller.

“Dr. Miller was fantastic, and made the entire journey much better than I thought it would be,” says Marci. “Other fertility doctors turned me down, but she took her personal time to research the legal issues and ethical guidelines.”

Marci underwent egg retrieval at age 35, the point at which the window starts closing on fertility. She knew she had to take action before it was too late.

A Second Chance for Aubrey

Aubrey’s body rejected the first kidney transplant, and her parents took her to three different hospitals, but no one could help.

“There were no protocols for this happening to babies so young, so no one could really give us a solid answer,” recalls Marci. That’s when her team of doctors at Hackensack University Medical Center designed an experimental plan to give her a chance for a successful transplant.

The Saunders family connected with a kidney transplant chain. The computer registry links people willing to donate an organ in exchange for another’s donation. Aubrey’s father Stephen, a police officer, was not a match for his daughter, but he was willing to give his kidney to another in the chain so that Aubrey could receive. At one year old, Aubrey was the youngest recipient ever in the kidney donation chain.

“It was a long road, but I thank God it worked,” says the grateful mom.

Her family says they still don’t know what the future holds. Because some of Aubrey’s medications were never used for this purpose, and in such a young baby, no one can predict the long-term side effects.

“As a result of her treatments and ongoing medications, Aubrey may not be able to conceive on her own, and conception may require eggs from another source,” says Dr. Miller. “We retrieved and cryopreserved Marci’s eggs, and they are available to the family should Aubrey ever need them.”

The family struggled with going public with their story, saying that: “This is more than personal, it’s Aubrey’s story.”

They ultimately decided that it would raise awareness within the medical community, encouraging doctors and nurses to share the news of fertility preservation with young patients and families who have children that may lose their fertility to a disease.

Marci said she decided to come forward after asking Aubrey’s nurse for her opinion.

“Her nurse said that she had never thought to tell people about egg freezing, but now she shares with her patients that this is something they can do,” Marci says. “If by telling Aubrey’s story, I can help kids, and give them hope, it was worth it.”

 


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Jane Miller, M.D.

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