A combat medic helps to save the lives of those who fight for our country, but Sgt. Thai Lee was battling infertility at home after losing his genitals in an attack.
“Your testicles are no longer on your body,” Dr. Robert Dean told Sgt. Lee. “They’re missing.”
On Jan. 20, 2014, Sgt. Lee’s military base in Afghanistan came under attack.
He grabbed his rifle and ran toward danger, prepared to treat any wounded comrades.
Sgt. Lee was hit in the groin by a roadside bomb, and it dashed his hopes of having children in the future.
“I never realized how much I wanted to have a child until I couldn’t have one,” said Sgt. Lee.
Dr. Dean, who works at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., wanted to try a procedure that had only been used for diagnostic testing.
“Clearly this couple’s odds were extremely low because his reproductive organs were not with him anymore,” said Dr. Dean.
The procedure would extract sperm from the seminal vesicle, just beyond the prostate, behind the bladder where sperm is stored before ejaculation.
It was a race against time.
“His wounds and injuries happened five days prior to his arrival to Walter Reed,” said Dr. Dean. “So our window was closing rapidly.”
Sgt. Lee’s sperm was harvested and raced to the IVF Center at Walter Reed. Their first attempt at getting pregnant was unsuccessful, but the second brought their 8-month-old son Fabian Lee.
I would say he’s an absolute miracle worker,” said Sgt. Lee.
Now, Sgt. Lee and his wife, NkaoGer Lee are speaking out as the world’s first parents to have a baby with sperm extracted from the seminal vesicle.
“Having him here is like a miracle,” said NkaoGer Lee, Sgt. Lee’s wife.
Fabien has given his father something he lost on the battlefield - his emotions.
“[He] makes me laugh, makes me smile [and] makes me know there’s something worth living for,” said Sgt. Lee, Fabian’s dad.
The couple has begun their new life in Grimes, Iowa where they share their journey to others who have lost hope.
“I’m sure all fathers out there know it’s the greatest thing one can experience,” said Sgt. Lee.
More than 1,400 service members have suffered genital injuries in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but an unprecedented procedure is giving injured service members hope.
Dr. Dean and his team at Walter Reed have done this procedure on just six men so far. Only two couples have tried IVF, including the Lees. The other couple didn’t get pregnant. The other four have their sperm banked and stored so they can attempt IVF in the future.