Making fatherhood possible for men with spinal cord injury

Buz had always dreamed about becoming a father

Making fatherhood possible for men with spinal cord injury

Buz Straw FamilyAt the age of 24, Buz was injured on the job site, leaving him with a spinal cord injury (SCI).

He had always dreamed about becoming a father, but like many men with spinal cord injury, it was unclear at first whether this would be possible.

With the expertise of the researchers and clinicians at the Vancouver Sperm Retrieval Clinic (VSRC) and ICORD spinal cord research centre, Buz's dream became a reality and he is now a father of three.

While living with spinal cord injuries (SCIs) presents a number of challenges, it turns out a common concern for men is an age-old one: fatherhood.

That’s why spinal cord researcher Dr Stacy Elliott has devoted her career to helping men living with SCI in their journey to becoming biological fathers.

Men with SCI struggle with two key issues around fertility:

  1. Sexual (difficulty with ejaculation) and
  2. Biological (poor semen quality secondary to their SCI).

“What many people don’t realize is that a lot of men with SCI are young, otherwise healthy men, who were often go – getters, like athletes,” says Dr. Elliott. “So becoming a father was part of their life plan and yet, 25 years ago when we started this work, there were almost no options for them to become biological fathers,” says Dr. Elliot.

Making fatherhood possible

“Part of our motivation is to offer a range of techniques and options for men, regardless of the health coverage they might have,” says Dr. Elliott. “In vitro fertilization, for example, may be too costly for some of our clients, while others prefer a more “home-based,” less invasive option.

“Having options for their fertility is empowering,” says Dr Elliott. “It is important for men with SCI to know that they can explore a number of alternatives to become parents.”

How the Straw family has benefitedBuz Straw is one BC client who has benefited from this research. When he met his future wife in 2001, he went to the VSRC clinic to for support in making fatherhood a reality. “Everyone you interact with is very professional, compassionate and supportive,” says Straw.

“There are a lot of emotions around becoming a parent and being sexually active while living with SCI, but you quickly find there is no issue you can’t raise with the staff.” Straw has gone on to father three children with his wife and continues to use the clinic for support and regular check-ups.

About Dr Elliot and her team at ICORDClinical researcher, Dr. Stacy Elliott, has played a key role in helping Buz and other men in BC with SCI to become biological fathers. Through her research on sexuality and fertility, Dr. Elliott and her colleagues have conducted groundbreaking studies on a range of issues around sexual health in men with SCI - making the VGH-based clinic the only one of its kind in Canada.

Learn more

Read the news release on the VCH Research Institute website.

Visit the ICORD website.