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November 22nd, 2013

The making of a miracle

By Hoyt Finnamore

SophieWeb

A few years back, at age 32 and single, Brian wasn't thinking about kids. But when he came to Mayo Clinic for surgery after discovering he had testicular cancer, his doctors smartly instructed him on what they could do should he want to have children in the future. "They brought it up and said, 'Hey, if you want to have kids down the road here's what we're going to do," he told KSTP-TV. "'We'll be able to freeze some sperm and then if you get married someday or want to have kids, you can come back and do in vitro.'"

That "someday" would come sooner than he expected, it turns out. Just two months later, Brian met Tina, and two years later, they were married. Then, the baby talk began. Given the circumstances, Brian and Tina knew having a baby on their own was "a long shot," they tell KSTP.

The plan was to do in vitro fertilization. But there were complications. At age 38, Tina learned that her eggs were beyond the optimal age for pregnancy. "The age of the eggs that you use is really critical," the couple's fertility doctor, Mayo's Jani Jensen, M.D., told KSTP. And that wasn't the only thing working against them. Brian's sperm numbers were low. So doctors turned to a "high-tech system where we actually inject one sperm into each egg," Dr. Jensen says.

In 2012, Mayo Clinic added a new time-lapse incubator, called an Embryoscope, that gives couples like Brian and Tina a better chance of success at becoming pregnant. According to Mayo's news release back when the system was introduced, the new in vitro fertilization system minimizes disturbances from human handling as embryos develop. It also helps fertility specialists better identify the healthiest embryos to implant. It's meant a 10 to 15 percent increase in pregnancy rates.

In Tina and Brian's case, Dr. Jensen says by using the Embryoscope, they were able to monitor the couple's embryos with the help of cameras inside the machine that take pictures of the embryos every 12 minutes. Dr. Jensen says they were then able to "pick out the top ones" to transfer. And nine months later, one of those "top ones" became the couple's now five-month-old daughter, Sophia, a young girl Tina and Brian simply call their Miracle Baby. "She's really happy and smiley," Tina tells KSTP. "We just feel really blessed."

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