It’s a heart-wrenching situation. Violet Lee, 2, suffers from a life-threatening immune disease. Today, she will begin chemotherapy treatment in preparation for a bone marrow transplant. The chemotherapy could save the toddler’s life, but it could also leave her infertile.
If an experimental surgery works, Violet may one day be able to conceive children. Just yesterday, Dr. Kutluk Oktay, a professor of Obstetrics & Gynecology and the director of the Division of Reproductive Medicine & Infertility at New York Medical College, performed the experimental “fertility preservation” procedure in which one of Violet’s ovaries was removed. The Brooklyn, New York girl may hold the dubious distinction of being the youngest person ever to undergo a fertility procedure.
Of course, Violet’s health is her parent’s primary concern. But they were devastated by the prospect that she might not be able to conceive a baby.
“It was hard enough to find out your baby needs to go through chemotherapy, but to hear your daughter will be sterile after the treatment — that one thing gets healed, but another destroyed — I felt someone punched me in the stomach,” her mom Tikesha Lee, 32, told The New York Post.
Violet’s ovary will be kept on ice until she grows up. If she wants to conceive a child, the ovary will be ready for re-implantation.
“It was important that I found a way to allow her to have children,” said her mom.
Of course, there are other ways of having children these days (adoption, surrogacy, donor eggs), but it’s hard to fault her Violet’s mother for wanting her daughter to retain the possibility of conceiving a biological child.
As an adoptee, I certainly know firsthand that families are formed in all sorts of ways, but I also wouldn’t want to break the news to my daughter that she had no chance of ever getting pregnant.
About one-third of the few dozen women who have had ovary transplants have later given birth, according to The Post. Of course, in those cases, the ovaries were only frozen for a couple of years, not decades. There’s no guarantee the procedure will work for Violet.
The surgery is experimental and, as with any surgery, it could have complications. But the potential benefits down the road could make those risks more than worthwhile. You could argue that the parents should be entirely focused on saving this girl’s life, rather than anticipating her future fertility issues. But can you blame them for wanting their daughter to have every option available to her when she grows up?
Would you let your young daughter undergo surgery for the chance at saving her from infertility? It’s a question no parent should ever have to answer.
Photo: flickr/Sugar Pond