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A Picture Is Worth 10 Million Sperm

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a blog by Cappy Rothman, MD, Medical Director, California Cryobank November 30, 2010

Every holiday season I am reminded that I have the greatest job in the world. Being a male fertility specialist and operating a sperm bank for 30+ years, I have had the opportunity to help tens of thousands men and women achieve their dreams of starting a family.

While there are many thanks and smiles and hugs along the way, nothing ever hits me like the flood of cards and photos we are fortunate enough to receive every December. It is an honor and privilege to have touched all these lives.

I will never forget one family in particular who did one better when it came to their holiday card ...

In 1986, Carol used California Cryobank to help conceive her only child, Kristen. From an early age, Kristen eagerly awaited her 18th birthday and the opportunity to get in touch with her sperm donor through the CCB Openness Policy.*

True to her word, the day after her 18th birthday, Kristen contacted us. Because CCB never destroys donor records, we were able to locate him and verify that he was the donor that her mother had selected in 1986.

The sperm donor, now with a wife, three children and a grandchild of his own, responded quickly. His wife knew of his participation in our program, and they had thought of the sperm bank from time to time when they were first married, but never really allowed themselves to think too much about any children. After a short discussion with his family, he nervously agreed to receive an e-mail from Kristen. An excerpt from Kristen’s e-mail:

    My name is Kristen and I was born July, 1987. There is a lot I would like to say to you but the first words, I think, should be thank you. Thank you for the gift of life … I want you to know that I am both emotionally and financially secure. It is not my intention to impose on you in any way. My only wish is to know a little more about myself by getting to know you (if you are comfortable with this), and resolve the mystery that surrounds my life. I have so many questions, but please don't feel pressured to answer anything you are not comfortable with.

    Why did you donate? Does your family know that you donated? If you have a wife, does she know you donated? If you have children, what gender are they and how old? How is your health? Is there anyone in your family that has any health or medical problems? (And most importantly) How are you doing?

    I hope I have not completely overwhelmed you. This isn't exactly an everyday email, eh?

    Sincerely, Kristen

Her donor answered immediately. By the third or fourth e-mail they were both very anxious to meet. Less than a year later, the reunion took place in our Los Angeles offices.

It was such an exciting moment for everyone: the donor, his family, our staff and especially Kristen. She and the donor shared the same captivating smile. Although Kristen had some of his physical features, she still looked more like her mom. The group talked throughout the afternoon, and by the end of the day it was soon very apparent that Kristen did inherit one very important gene from her donor: her happy nature.

It was like having a living breathing holiday card delivered right to our door. Interacting with this loving family was truly an experience none of us who were lucky enough to be here that day will ever forget.

From our CCB family to all of yours, HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

*California Cryobank’s Openness Policy states that CCB will attempt to contact a donor at the request of any 18 year old offspring.

Comments (2)

The ability or the idea to contact a sperm donor (while well accepted among most recipients) seems…there are no words that fulfill the negative and the positive along with the respect I have for this process. I feel like when someone uses a donor they do not and should not imply an intention of having that donor or that donors life intertwined with the child, nor should the child. I understand it is a very complicated and diverse concept but these sibling registries and donor locators are…again, no word. What will this process look like in 50 years? I plan to use a donor and I plan to educate my child on that decision but this is a specimen not a potential interaction, it is science.

Great article, thanks. Really nice to know you guys really support people who want to contact their donors.

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