This holiday season the Cristianos have something to celebrate. After several years of trying to conceive, surgery, emotional distress and a devastating miscarriage just last December, Amedeo and his wife, Mayra, are about to become parents.
Amedeo and Mayra were married six years ago. They both work at American Express corporate office and live in Vaughn. The couple knew they wanted to have children early on and they began trying almost as soon as they were married. At that time they were in their early 30s and both were healthy. In preparation for parenthood, Amedeo quit smoking. He worked out and both husband and wife did everything possible to stack the deck in their favor.
They monitored Mayra’s cycles carefully and did years of that. They did about five cycles of IUI (intra-uterine insemination), sperm washing, and exhausted every single treatment offered. At that point, early in their marriage, they could not have afforded paying $10-$14,000 for IVF. It was not an option. Then three years ago Mayra had an ectopic pregnancy, a condition that meant the fertilized egg had implanted itself outside the uterus. She had endometriosis as well and the ectopic pregnancy was hard on both husband and wife. Shortly after that sad experience, Mayra had a surgical process to clear her Fallopian tubes. The couple was treated at Mt. Sinai in Toronto. After a period of time, they started trying again and then in December one year ago, the couple suffered a devastating miscarriage.
The Cristianos took time to heal, emotionally and physically. The loss was hard on both husband and wife. They were apprehensive when they began trying to conceive again six months later. At that point, they were told that both Fallopian tubes were completely blocked. OHIP (Ontario’s public health insurance plan) would cover the cost of in vitro fertilization. (In Ontario, this is the only way IVF is covered.) Patients struggling with infertility as a result of undetermined causes, cancer, male infertility or any other condition, are not covered by the public health care system. In fact many spend thousands of dollars out of pocket to get pregnant. In Canada, Quebec is the only province that covers IVF (single embryo transfer up to three rounds per patient.)
Often times couples in Ontario spend between $10-$14,000 per cycle. Even then it’s no guarantee of success. One in six Ontario residents struggle with infertility. Some countries, such as Australia, which funds 80 % of the cost of IVF as a medical treatment for infertility, have seen a great increase in the level of health of newborns and their mothers as a result of the single embryo transfer. Whereas many infertile couples in Ontario risk so much money to conceive, they transfer multiple embryos, which can be risky for mother and baby.
The Cristianos story is about hope. When they began the IVF process, they were told Mayra had low reserves. Halfway through, they were told the odds did not look promising. Mayra had one follicle and yet they carried on hoping and believing it would happen. The odds were against them.
“We were blessed to have had coverage, but I can’t understand why others don’t get the same opportunity,” said Amedeo recently in an interview. “I want to make a difference.”
“If we had had the cost of $10-$14,000, I don’t know how it would have been feasible.”
Their long-awaited baby is due April 20th, 2013.
Amedeo is such a strong advocate for public funding of IVF now that he has embraced wholeheartedly the challenge of supporting others through the process of infertility. He is a member of the new board of Conceivable Dreams. Conceivable Dreams is a patient group that supports those in Ontario struggling with infertility. Conceivable Dreams advocates for better awareness and funding both publicly and privately from employers.
“The whole process was tough enough, without worrying if we were covered.”
Throughout their time trying to conceive, the ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage, IUI and IVF treatment, the couple used up all Mayra’s sick days and vacation time and they found her employer sometimes not as understanding as they would have wished. The emotional nature of the experience was difficult to bear and the fertility drug costs used up all the allotted insurance money and then some. Together they spent easily $4,000- $5,000 on the drugs alone.
“I just don’t get why it’s not covered.”
The longer you wait, the harder it is. Cristiano says. He wishes everyone who struggled with infertility in the province of Ontario and needed IVF, had the same opportunity as he and his wife.
Next year, the Cristianos will finally have their baby to hold and cherish. Amedeo Cristiano states that he still believes they will adopt in the future as well.
“Happily enough it has worked out really well for us, but everyone should have this same chance.”
Conceivable Dreams is here at http://www.conceivabledreams.org
And if you know someone struggling with infertility join the facebook group here for support and solutions. http://www.facebook.com/groups/conceivabledreams
Also join the conversation on twitter and follow the hashtags #ohip4ivf #onpoli