Dan Eichelberger looks at his 9-month-old daughter, Alyssa, with nothing but adoration in his eyes. “Our perfect little angel,” he calls her.
A little angel who, just a few short years ago, seemed like an impossibility for Dan and his wife, Erin, both 27 of Marysville.
Dan, a computer programmer, became a paraplegic at age 16 after suffering a spinal cord injury in a car accident. He was driving when he took a hill to “catch some air.” He thinks the car blew tires upon landing, and when it flipped over he was thrown from the vehicle. Erin, now a stay-at-home mother, was his girlfriend at the time.
“I was devastated, and it was hard at first,” she said. “But after a couple months it got easier, and I knew I wanted to be with him and you have to work with it.”
Dan and Erin were married four years ago after dating on and off since middle school. When friends and family began having children, the Eichelbergers looked into the possibility of conception. Because of Dan’s injuries, doctors said his ability to father a child was limited.
“I had to have a biopsy to remove sperm, and they froze it to be used in IVF,” Dan explained.
The couple tried in-vitro fertilization through a local hospital, but the attempt failed.
“After that, we were discouraged,” Erin said. “They pretty much said our only options were sperm donation or adoption. I was surrounded by pregnant women at the time, and it just seemed there was no light at the end of the tunnel.”
But after some time, Erin began researching more and discovered Shady Grove Fertility Center in Frederick, Md. The doctors there gave the couple a more positive outlook.
“I was so optimistic leaving there, I was crying,” Erin recalled.
And the optimism turned into success. They ended up with three viable embryos at Shady Grove. One was implanted, and Alyssa was born Dec. 13.
Dan and Erin both say the stress and money involved with the process was worth it. They’re already thinking about a sibling for Alyssa.
“There are still two embryos frozen at Shady Grove, and I wouldn’t just discard them,” Dan said. “We’ll definitely try to have another child.”
By JANICE GENGER, The Patriot-News