Kelsey & Casey chose Dallas IVF for IVF treatment partly on an unusual word-of-mouth recommendation, even though they live five hours away
The onesie on daughter Saban Francis says Made with lots of ♡ [love] and a little bit of science, which Kelsey thinks accurately reflects fertility medicine and her daughter’s birth. Kelsey says she and her husband, Casey, feel they were perhaps a little slow at first in seeing that fertility science was an option for their on-going problems trying to conceive. But they got onboard quickly.
“How we became patients at Dallas IVF is a crazy story,” says Kelsey, who lives in northwestern Arkansas in the town of Siloam Springs. “I am an oncology nurse and I was helping with a procedure one day. The patient and I really connected, just talking about things while getting set up. And she asked if I had kids. I said, ‘No it hasn’t happened yet. We’re looking into things but we’re not sure where to go or what the plan is for us.’ She told me her daughter is a nurse in Arkansas and her coworker went to Dallas IVF, where she saw Dr. Ku and had fantastic results.”
It was timely advice. Kelsey had been talking about their conception delays with her OB/GYN, Dr. Kale Dittmeyer, who had found nothing wrong with her reproductive health. Casey’s semen analysis showed the problem was likely with male infertility. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine reports that in about 40% of infertility cases, the male is the sole or a contributing factor.
Needing a male infertility workaround for poor sperm motility
“My husband was producing sperm but they were lazy: low motility,” says Kelsey of the ability of a sperm to “swim” to the female egg to fertilize it. “My OB did everything he could, and he was right on the money saying we would probably need IVF [in vitro fertilization], which is what we ended up doing.”
With that information and the excellent personal recommendation from her cancer patient, Kelsey did some research online and decided to try Dallas IVF. They would make a four-day weekend trip to Dallas, about five hours away.
“We were able to get in with Dr. Sara Mucowski, I think that was Friday,” recalls Kelsey. “We really liked her, she tells you how everything is with your situation. We did testing one day, then went back another day while we were there to talk to her. It’s sometimes a little overwhelming to hear all the things that need to be done. We did take our time, and thought about it for about a month or so.”
“As someone working in the medical field and having that insight, I just think they are one of the best of the best fertility clinics in the United States.”
Weighing IVF treatment and trying not to overthink it
Considering the monitoring, taking injections and timing of retrievals involved in IVF treatment was a lot to digest. The cost of IVF was a concern. Then there were the driving and trips to Dallas from northwest Arkansas for infertility treatment. Altogether, it was a lot to think about. They decided to move forward with IVF treatment and with Dallas IVF.
“I really tried not to research it a lot. They gave us the information at the clinic about what our chances of success were for our situation,” says Kelsey. “I tried not to overthink it, which is very surprising because I am not that type at all. You don’t know what your outcome will be. We wanted to be positive, but we also didn’t want to get our hopes up.”
So, the IVF treatment commuting began. On two or three of their trips to Dallas, they made it there and back in one day on their only day off together. That was hard, plus having to go to work the next morning. Eventually, Kelsey and Casey were able to spend a good week there for egg retrieval, ultrasound and lab draws, taking a week off from work to get all that done.
Seeing the differences, and similarities, in oncology and fertility medicine
Through all this, Kelsey and Casey felt more and more comfortable with their decision to undergo IVF treatment. Kelsey also sensed an emotional difference in fertility medicine relative to other fields.
“It did create a different feeling. When you consider that if it doesn’t work, we will have to go a different route, like having a child through adoption or foster care,” she says. “It was definitely a different vibe or feeling at the fertility clinic than I had with any other doctor. Because that was it, that was our chance to have a baby.”
At the same time, she also saw and appreciated the similarities.
“Being a nurse myself, I know what to look for in medical care,” explains Kelsey. “I work for a highly recognizable cancer clinic, and I know they are two completely different entities, oncology and fertility medicine. But I know that the way we treat our cancer patients and the way they treat their infertility patients are similar. As someone working in the medical field and having that insight, I just think they are one of the best of the best fertility clinics in the United States. I feel like they do their job exceptionally well.”
Support from each other and family through their infertility treatment
Before seeking treatment, they would get the normal comments from friends like, When are you going to have children? The first person they talked to about their concern was Kelsey’s OB/GYN Dr. Dittmeyer, who she says was just phenomenal. When they did start the process of IVF, they explained it to their families.
“No one in my family had had any experience with infertility, so I guess I was the first one,” Kelsey recalls. “They were all very supportive, and they didn’t know anything about it. But we didn’t either until we were actually going through it. We explained the process to them.”
They also received support from Dr. Mucowski and the Dallas IVF staff. That included a first responder discount for the IVF treatment for Casey, who is a policeman.
And they supported each other as well, talking things out together in making their decisions along the way. Kelsey said she wasn’t sure at first how her husband would handle being the cause of their infertility.
“Casey took everything in stride, the semen analysis, the need for IVF, everything. He was definitely cognizant that we were going into this knowing there was just a chance to get pregnant, and it is not a definite thing,” says Kelsey. “That’s very true, but being in the medical field, I just felt ok with it. The doctors know what they are doing, and I just thought we had a good chance with IVF.”
Fortunate to succeed with the first IVF treatment
Casey provided everything he was supposed to in order to make a baby. Kelsey went through egg retrieval and monitoring, some done in Arkansas. At Dr. Mucowski’s recommendation, they had their frozen embryos evaluated through preimplantation genetic testing. This identified the embryos that had the best chance of pregnancy success.
With these preparations and a comfortable mindset, they were ready for whatever might happen. And that was daughter Saban, delivered in Arkansas by Dr. Dittmeyer on August 27, 2019.
“We did one cycle of IVF and everything worked out so well for us. We are so fortunate,” says Kelsey. “I know there are other couples that have been doing this for ages without success.”
Though she didn’t get her hopes up thinking success would come with the first implantation, Kelsey had a good feeling underlying their treatment, saying she just went with the flow and trusted Dr. Mucowski throughout. And while Kelsey did expect to receive excellent care at Dallas IVF, or she wouldn’t have selected the far away clinic, they exceeded her high expectations.
“They definitely tried to make the most of our appointments when we were there, which was awesome. Dr. Mucowski would even make phone calls to us, so sometimes we wouldn’t have to make all those trips,” relates Kelsey. “They were pretty busy, but to be honest with you, we couldn’t have had a better experience. Obviously, because we have a beautiful 1-year-old daughter.”
For those wondering about infertility treatment, just be open to it
Kelsey and Casey knew they were really lucky because they didn’t have anything working against them other than poor sperm motility. Her advice for others is to just be open to fertility treatment.
“For sure there are people who don’t know it is an option. For instance, I knew infertility treatment was out there, but I really didn’t think of it,” she says. “So we were like, Oh this is what we need to be doing. I definitely think there are people out there who are not aware of it. We were pretty oblivious about wondering why we weren’t getting pregnant, until we actually went and initiated the testing.”
The couple wanted to return to Dallas IVF to introduce Saban to Dr. Mucowski and the staff. But COVID-19 nixed that road trip. But with ideas of another child in their minds, and frozen embryos in safe storage, a return visit may be in their future.
“We’re definitely more on the side of having another child, it’s just doing it. We don’t have to go through the whole thing again, because we have five more frozen embryos that are ready to roll whenever we are,” Kelsey says. “I hope we will be making another trip down to Dallas in the near future. Age 36 is older for a mom, and in our world it is considered a late time to have a baby. But it is what it is.”