John and Andrea Nelson Meigs and their two-year-old daughter, welcomed a beautiful baby girl, Alexandra, to their family in October 2007. But just weeks after bringing Alexandria home, John and Andrea began to suspect something was wrong. At her two-month checkup, Alexandra wasn't moving her arms and legs and she was breathing rapidly.
Alexandra was diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA). "Spinal Muscular Atrophy is an illness caused by an abnormal copy of a gene from mom and dad, passed onto the baby. This disease gets worse and worse, and over time, will be fatal for the majority of those infected," explains Mousa Shamonki, M.D., director, In Vitro Fertilization and Assisted Reproduction at UCLA.
During 12 days in the hospital, Alexandra slowly deteriorated and she passed away on New Years Day 2008.
When John and Andrea were ready to expand their family a few years later, they sought the help of Dr. Shamonki. They had heard how using in vitro fertilization, and the latest reproductive testing and technology, Dr. Shamonki and his team would be able to extract sperm and eggs to implant healthy embryos into mothers.
"We were fortunate to hear about this option and basically, what it allows you to do is to test the embryos for this genetic disease before they are implanted into the uterus. So before you are pregnant, you can test it to see if the baby is, in fact, affected with the disease," says Andrea.
"We practice at the cutting edge of medicine to provide the best of care for each and every patient. We treat each patient as an individual. Everyone has a unique story, so our goal is to discover how we can best treat that individual to achieve their goals of having a child," Dr. Shamonki says.
The procedure was successful. John and Andrea are blessed with healthy twins, Calla and Isabella.
"When the babies came out, John was there, in the operating room, and [the nurses] literally were like, baby A, baby B. I just started crying and I couldn't believe it, I was just in shock. I just thought, wow, we are so lucky, we are so blessed that they are here, and that they are healthy," Andrea says.
"There's great science, and then there's great care. What we found at UCLA was that the two were merged," John says.
"I was just so happy. Honestly, I had forgotten what it felt like to be that happy," Andrea exclaims.
Learn more about The UCLA Fertility and Reproductive Health Center