Some lucky person or couple in Chattanooga may get the ultimate gift this Christmas: the gift of parenthood.
Tennessee Reproductive Medicine, a locally owned fertility clinic on Shallowford Road, is giving away a free round of IVF, a costly fertilization procedure in which an egg is combined with sperm outside the body. More than 1 million babies in the United States have been born with the help of IVF treatments.
Typically, a round of IVF costs $12,000 to $15,000 (including medications) and is not covered by health insurance, making it unaffordable for some couples. Too, multiple treatments can be needed.
But TRM physicians Dr. Jessica Scotchie and Dr. Rink Murray have arranged to give away an IVF cycle in hopes of sharing the joys of parenthood with a couple who might otherwise not be able to afford the procedure.
The giveaway has its roots in an act of kindness about 15 years ago when Murray was a resident at University of North Carolina Hospitals. At the time, he and his wife, Kristi, were personally struggling with fertility issues.
"Kristi and I had failed multiple IVF cycles at two different IVF centers," Murray recalled. "The closest we had come to success was an ectopic [tubal] pregnancy that almost claimed my wife's life. We had all but given up. We were in debt from these and could not afford any other treatments.
"Bill Meyer, one of the IVF doctors, lobbied the hospital to waive its fees so that we could do a cycle," Murray said. "Using donated medicines and all the resources UNC had to offer, he was able to get us pregnant with our son, Loch.
"UNC had the ability to help. Dr Meyer had the compassion to ask for that help. It is a debt I can only repay by telling this story and doing a turn of kindness for someone else."
Through the end of November the TRM practice took applications for the free IVF treatments, billing the giveaway as "Hope for the Holidays." Applicants were screened for their health histories, and those deemed safe candidates for IVF were placed into a blind drawing.
The doctors said they will notify the winner later this month. The winner will receive free treatment scans, laboratory testing, egg and sperm retrieval, fertilization and embryo transfer.
"We started thinking about this [giveaway] about four months ago," said Dr. Scotchie. "We thought about doing it during the holidays because of the extra anxiety they bring for people with fertility issues."
Dr Murray added, "The gift of IVF was a miracle to me and to my wife. We didn't expect it. We wished for a miracle and then it dropped at our feet. Even if we had not been successful, we knew that someone cared enough to offer genuine help to us, without asking for anything in return.
"... We feel so deeply for people who can't afford these services but really need them. ... Whether it works or not [this time], I'm sure we'll figure out a way to do this [giveaway] again."
Contact Mark Kennedy at 423-757-6645 or firstname.lastname@example.org.