Test Tube Baby Louise Brown Turns 35


"The insurance company only paid for treatment up to diagnosis, so we put a lot of it on the credit card," said Dodson. "We are still paying it off."

Two other subsequent attempts were unsuccessful, so just this week, they are attempting IVF again with the last of the frozen embryos.

If that fails, she said, "I don't know how we are going to come up with the money for another cycle."

"The insurance companies say it's voluntary, but I think it should be a right that everyone has an opportunity to have a child," said Dodson.

Blake and Julie Plumley saw numerous reproductive endocrinologists in their home state of Florida before they were told they would never get pregnant. But through friends they heard of a top doctor in Massachusetts and were able to conceive their daughter.

Blake, who works in the resort business, and Julie, a former golf professional, estimated they spent at least $100,000 out of pocket throughout the seven years they tried to get pregnant.

She said one Florida doctor told them to try again would "be a waste." Another "took advantage" financially.

Blake, 41, said the difference was Massachusetts had mandated coverage. "This legally required coverage allows the doctors in Massachusetts to have much more experience and by default they become much better," he said.

Julie, 39, agreed. "The difference was literally like going to a doctor who was practicing without modern x-rays and stepping into a hospital with everything you can imagine."

Within 90 days of traveling to Boston, the Plumleys were pregnant with Haley, who is now 5. Surprisingly, they conceived their 13-month-old daughter, Madison, without medical intervention.

"Infertility isn't a choice and that's where it sits in the medical field," said Julie. "No one chooses to have trouble getting pregnant. But you are left out there to figure it out and pay for it yourself."

For those who served in the military, no coverage for IVF is a bitter pill.

Ben Brown, a 31-year-old Navy veteran, was paralyzed in a car accident when he was on active duty in Europe in 2002. As a result, he has minimal sperm production, but was able to undergo sperm extraction for an IVF procedure with his wife.

"Like anybody else, I wanted to be able to start a family," said Brown. "We got lucky and the first go-round was successful."

Today, they have a 3-year-old named Lorelei. And just this week, the couple had another round of IVF, trying for another child. But four cycles have cost the Lexington, Ken., couple nearly $40,000.

Brown noted that procedures are performed at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Washington, D.C., at a price that is discounted.

But, he said, "We have to pay out of pocket for lodging and meals and all the procedures."

"My wife is a school teacher and I draw veterans' benefits," he said. "We pinch pennies where we can and sometimes we have to borrow a good amount of money."

Brown said that at the VA hospital he sees injured veterans in wheelchairs and with prosthetic limbs, almost all of them childbearing age who may eventually want to have children.

"The medical technology has proven to be a success," he said. "And it's the obligation of the VA to treat the disabilities of young men and women. The only thing standing in the way is passing legislation."

And just today, Louise Brown echoed the sentiments of Ben Brown and others, calling for IVF to be made more readily available to couples. "...if you're told you can't have children, you'll do anything," she told the British press today.

"It is difficult to say what it is like to be the first test-tube baby as I have been brought up with it. People ask what it feels like, but it's just always been there; it's my life."

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