Embryo Mix-Up: Grieving a Baby Who Didn't Die


From that point on, the Morells' embryos were labeled and associated with the Savage's paperwork, and their sheet was tucked in the back of the file.

Oddly on the day of the transfer, Carolyn had noticed the wrong birth date when the nurse attached her wrist bracelet.

"It had my name, Sean's name, my Social Security and Sean's and my date of birth," she said. "I said, 'Wait a minute, that's not my birthday,' and made a joke. 'I'm not 40 yet.'"

The nurse took a ballpoint pen and changed the 7 to a 9.

Nine days later, a data entry person filing the paperwork wondered about the conflicting birth year and rifled through the file, finding the Morell's embryo information sheet in the back.

Until then, five days after implanting the embryo, no one, not even a doctor, had cross-checked the labels and information sheets.

In the first few weeks after learning of the misplanted embryo, the Savages didn't tell anyone except their lawyer, their priest and a counselor.

"We made the choices quickly," said Sean. "We also knew that we were embarking on a very different journey, but we didn't stop going in that direction, because we thought it was right. But we didn't have a full understanding of what the pitfalls were."

Their story came on the heels of a shutdown of an in vitro fertilization center at Ochsner Hospital in Elmwood, La., triggered by a possible mix-up in the labeling of frozen embryos. Similar mistakes have been made in clinics in New York and Great Britain.

Six weeks into the pregnancy, Carolyn developed a clot in her uterus that could have threatened the fetus. The Savages provided the Morells with weekly updates.

"We kept assuring them we wouldn't terminate and would never fight for custody," said Carolyn. "But Sean and I were emotionally tapped."

So far, they have had two visits with Logan, who is now 17 months old. The Savages have no formal agreement with the Morells about future visits, or whether Logan will ever know the truth about his birth. "His mom and dad will decide what's best for him," said Sean.

Safety Protocols for IVF

The Savages have had to start their lives up again with their three children -- Drew, now 16; Ryan, 13; and Mary Kate, 2. Though they've received support from their church and friends, sometimes the simplest things throw the Savages off guard.

"It was the like the elephant in the living room," said Carolyn. "People were so terrified of saying the wrong thing. Anytime there is a challenging situation or a loss, people don't know what to say. I still feel that now."

The first time they were asked what had actually happened was on NBC's "Today" show this month.

As part of the settlement, the clinic agreed to provide assurances in writing that new protocols would be established.

In their book, the Savages encourage those seeking IVF to have pointed conversations with doctors regarding those safeguards and how their embryos are handled.

"We were lucky to come out the other side of this," said Carolyn. "Make no mistake. What happened, the mistake at the clinic, the pregnancy and loss of Logan, we will have to live with this for the rest of our lives. As time goes on, we'll be better at weaving it into the fabric of our lives."

"It was an unacceptable, cruel situation to be put in," said Sean. "I don't want anyone to think it was an easy road to walk. But, still, we got through it and our decision was fundamentally good."

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