Multiple Chances for Life
● By Digital Media Director
By: Jessica Brovold
For twin sisters Tracy Kuipers and Stacy Madsen, their experience was once, then twice in a lifetime, and their journey has been marked in the history books.
When Stacy was 25 years old, she found out her ovaries did not work. Her twin sister Tracy stepped up to offer donor eggs as Stacy went through a round of IVF. While it was emotional for Stacy, it proved to be even more challenging for Tracy.
“Going through the IVF process was extremely taxing on my body, said Tracy. “From the hormonal ups and downs, then I got blood clots in my arms. It took over a month to dissolve. The idea of going through all that again was very discouraging. Also, I was not interested in carrying a baby for Stacy because I would be carrying my own baby and that was too much for my brain.”
What happened next seemed like a miracle. A procedure that seemed suited for the stars was featured in People Magazine. The first baby was born with an ovarian transplant. The families consulted and decided it was worth a phone call to the doctor in St. Louis, Missouri. Before they knew it, they were on their way.
“It’s just an amazing team of doctors down there,” said Stacy. “We went down in May, the first surgery was in July 2006. It was a very fast process; we failed the In vitro and within a couple months we were in St. Louis trying this experimental procedure.”
The experimental procedure involved a surgery where Tracy’s right ovary was removed. It was cut into strips, and those strips were then attached to Stacy’s ovary. Four months later, Stacy was able to conceive. But here’s the catch:
“They did full DNA on us, 26 vials of blood,” said Tracy. “We had to be matched 100-percent to proceed.”
Since they’re identical twins, this wasn’t a problem. This meant the transplant would take, and there would be little risk of rejection. It was the miracle both sisters had been hoping for.
“I got to donate, walk away and watch from the aunt perspective going forward,” said Tracy.
Kenley was born nine years ago. When the transplant stopped working, Stacy had the surgery again with the remaining ovary that was stored. That’s when Brielle came three years ago. Both girls born via ovarian transplant.
“The ovary lasted about a year after Brielle was born and now it no longer works,” said Stacy. “We are totally happy with our two girls.”
Between the twin sisters, they have four girls. For Tracy, knowing she could help her sister have a family is an experience she would never think twice about.
“I decided to do this, even after I found out I had a low egg supply,” said Tracy. “I was 26-years-old. I had one daughter. I was not married. It was more important for me to have my sister have babies even if that meant I wasn’t going to have any more. I was ok if I couldn’t have more as long as my sister could.”
For others who are hoping for a family of their own, the twins say everyone can take something away from this experience.
“There is so much advancement in the infertility world,” said Stacy. “You don’t know when a breakthrough treatment will come and totally change your life and make it possible to have that baby.”
While these families celebrate, they’re reminded of the miracles each day and their statistics now living in the medical journals.
“It’s very overwhelming to be able to overcome a devastating diagnosis of never being able to have children,” said Stacy. “Then the breakthrough with the ovary transplant, you get your hopes up. I was reading about it in People Magazine, to think it’s something I could do? I’m recipient six in the medical journals.”