“The Hardest Part Was Accepting Help”
Ask anyone who has been impacted by infertility, and chances are they will describe the process as mystifying.
“I’m in control of so much of my life,” says Nicky, who has a high-profile career in public service. But as she and her husband Carlos have tried to start a family, “I’ve come to expect the unexpected. Despite all these wonderful advances in science, there is still a lot that doctors just don’t know.”
Based in Washington, D.C., Carlos and Nicky met while serving overseas, and both now juggle demanding jobs. “There have been days where I’m giving myself an IVF trigger shot, my work phone is ringing, the house is under construction and Carlos is traveling. It can be a lot.”
From the very beginning of their relationship, they understood that their path to starting a family would be different than most.
In 1993 alongside his fellow Army Rangers, Carlos was on the ground in Mogadishu, one of the first to reach the Black Hawk helicopter crash site. During the ensuing gun battle, Carlos was wounded, losing both his testicles.
While Carlos could clearly demonstrate that he had a service-connected disability, the VA currently only provides fertility assistance to those who can produce their own sperm.
Knowing the long road ahead, the self-described “eternal optimists” decided to begin fertility treatment. Following several rounds of IUI and IVF with donor sperm, Nicky, too, realized that a donor egg could give them a better shot at success.
Eventually, it was Carlos’ VA doctor who suggested they reach out to the Bob Woodruff Foundation, whose Veterans In Vitro Initiative provides financial resources to veterans trying to conceive.
Despite having already spent tens of thousands of dollars on fertility treatment, the couple was initially reluctant to accept financial help from the foundation, worried they might be diverting funds from other families.
For Carlos and Nicky, it was the foundation’s longstanding commitment to the veteran community that ultimately persuaded them to accept two separate financial awards.
“Anyone who serves isn’t doing it because they want to be recognized. They do it because they believe in serving,” says Nicky. “To have an organization that recognizes that infertility can be a part of this service is really empowering.”
Carlos says that for him, the hardest part was accepting help. His advice to fellow veterans now? “The Bob Woodruff Foundation was built for this mission. They want to help. It couldn’t have been easier. And you’ve earned it.”
For Nicky, fertility treatment is more work than she ever anticipated, from the doctor’s appointments and medications to the physical and emotional toll. “Like the rest of this process, I assumed that pursuing financial aid would be an ordeal. But working with the foundation was such a wonderful surprise,” she says. “To know that there is this massive force behind you, ready to help and celebrate your victories along the way, it means everything.”
The couple is now waiting for the right conditions to begin their next round of IVF with five new, healthy embryos. “Every day hasn’t been easy, but I’m proud of us for staying hopeful,” says Nicky. “Even though our chance of success is slight, there’s still a chance. And we are going to keep banging down that door.”
For more information on how the Bob Woodruff Foundation helps military families struggling with infertility, visit our VIVA homepage.