A nonprofit foundation in Chicago is giving hope to couples struggling with infertility by offering grants to cover the medical costs of in-vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments.
Estan and Josie Patrick had been yearning to start a family for years, but for awhile, the medical costs of infertility alone seemed to impede their dream of having kids.
"I always wanted to have a family of my own," Josie Patrick, 29, told "Good Morning America." "I never imagined my life without my own family."
When she was 24 years old, however, Josie Patrick was rushed into open heart surgery and later diagnosed with Marfan syndrome, a genetic condition so delicate that doctors advised her never to become pregnant.
Josie Patrick said having a child is "extremely risky" for her "and every doctor I've seen since my surgery has advised me against pregnancy."
- 3December 18, 2018
The couple eventually turned to fertility expert Dr. Eve Feinberg for help.
People have said that the diagnosis of infertility is as stressful as the diagnosis of cancer.
"When I met her a number of years ago, she didn't think she would ever have kids, and what she didn't realize at that time was that her eggs could be retrieved, she could make an embryo and then that embryo can be placed inside another woman to carry a pregnancy," Feinberg said.
"So, not only were we able to create embryos, we were able to do genetic analysis of each embryo to make sure that it was normal and unaffected by her disease," she added.
But the staggering cost of fertility treatments for the couple soared to nearly $100,000.
"I mean there [are] so many barriers," Patrick said of having a baby. "Hundreds and thousands of dollars, honestly."
"You are paying not only just your IVF treatment, but then you are paying for the genetic testing that goes into making sure that the embryo is healthy," she added. "And beyond that, you are paying for a surrogate, which there are so many rules and regulations and things that go into hiring somebody to carry your child for you."
She continued: "There [are] legal fees. There is medical clearance. And then there is just supporting that person while they are pregnant. So, it adds up quick."
Nearly one out of every eight couples in the U.S. are affected by infertility. For many of those, the steep cost of medical help alone is a huge barrier to ever starting a family.
"It's heartbreaking," Feinberg said. "People have said that the diagnosis of infertility is as stressful as the diagnosis of cancer."
Feinberg, determined to make IVF more accessible, began a foundation that offers grants to help couples with costly fertility treatments.
Named for a friend, the Kevin J. Lederer Life Foundation issued a grant for couple Kate and Ashley Versage in 2016 that allowed them to welcome their baby girl, Emerson, into their family.
"We had a beautiful life prior to her. But there is something about having her," Kate Versage said of her daughter. "She is our heart and soul."
Ashley Versage added that they are "so grateful" to the foundation for funding their infertility healthcare costs.
"We can never say thank you enough for blessing us with her," Ahsley Versage added. "She is our greatest gift."
Thanks to an IVF grant from the foundation, Josie and Estan Patrick are now one step closer to fulfilling their dreams.
"Something like this is just a great break, emotionally," Estan Patrick said. "It can kind of lift you up and keep you going."
They now have embryos and are on their way Josie Patrick added.
"We have five healthy embryos," she said. "And next summer we hope to start the process of retaining the agency and finding our surrogate."
There are a number of requirements couples must meet to qualify for a grant. More information can be found on the Kevin J. Lederer Life Foundation's website.