A mother who took in premature babies through a surrogate mother after a 10-year fertility battle that cost her over £ 120,000 admits she was “broken” after one of the babies contracted a rare form of meningitis while being Brother stays in intensive care.
Lisa Clarke, 50, of Maidenhead, first met her husband Ruston on a yoga retreat where they became a close friend, and he agreed to be her sperm donor.
After several failed attempts to have a baby, the couple became a couple and married, and both loved it when their sons Bodhi and Keanu were born as replacements in Greece last month.
Because Bodhi needed an extended stay in newborn care in Athens, Lisa and Ruston were able to leave the hospital with Keanu at home for four days – but took him back to the hospital a week later after noticing unusual changes in his behavior.
The couple was then dealt the heartbreaking blow that Keanu had contracted a very rare form of bacterial meningitis that had spread to his brain and caused abscesses with potential long-term damage.
Lisa Clarke, 50, of Maidenhead, and her husband Ruston (pictured) welcomed premature babies through a replacement after a 10-year fertility battle that cost them over £ 120,000 – but one of the babies contracted a rare form of meningitis
Because his brother Bodhi needed an extended stay in neonatal care, Lisa and Ruston were able to bring Keanu (pictured) home after four days – but took him back to hospital a week later after noticing unusual changes in his behavior
Lisa and Ruston cannot leave the country while their son's life is in the balance. They are now desperate to raise funds through GoFundMe to cover Keanu's rising medical bills – and are being prevented from seeing him due to Covid-19 restrictions.
In an interview with FEMAIL Lisa admitted: “Ruston and I process so many emotions, from guilt to fear and shock.
"After all we've been through to have these precious souls to be happy like no other for a few days, this is too much to understand."
Lisa's fertility journey began at the age of 40 after abandoning her longtime partner when he admitted he couldn't see a future with children.
Shortly thereafter, she met her current husband on a yoga retreat in Costa Rica and the couple formed a close friendship, with Ruston agreed to be her sperm donor.
The couple was then dealt the heartbreaking blow Keanu (pictured before his illness) suffered with a very rare form of bacterial meningitis that spread to his brain and caused abscesses with potential long-term damage
Lisa and Ruston cannot leave the country while their son's life is in the balance. They are now desperate to raise funds to cover Keanu's rising medical bills – and are being prevented from seeing him due to Covid-19 restrictions. Pictured: Bodhi in the hospital
After a “natural” IVF cycle, Lisa became pregnant, but unfortunately had a miscarriage after six weeks. Over the next four years, she had two more pregnancies, both of which ended in miscarriage, and four failed IVF cycles. At this point it was suitable for diagnostic tests.
It turned out that Lisa had an overactive immune system, which meant that her body was rejecting the fetus.
Feeling that her dream of becoming a mother was quickly fading, she investigated surrogacy and was overwhelmed when a close friend agreed to carry her baby. After a natural IVF cycle with Lisa's eggs, she became pregnant.
"To say I was grateful was a huge understatement," Lisa said. 'I felt incredibly happy and I was sure that this would be "it". I would finally become a mother. & # 39;
However, the tragedy came when Lisa learned during the 12-week scan that the baby had stopped developing a week earlier and she and her friend were devastated.
"My fertility specialist at the time wrote the most recent miscarriage down," just one of those unexplained things, "" she recalled.
Lisa's fertility journey began at the age of 40 after abandoning her longtime partner when he admitted he couldn't see a future with children. She met her current husband (pictured) shortly afterwards on a yoga retreat in Costa Rica and the couple became a close friend, with Ruston agreed to be her sperm donor
"While my amazing friend was still open to try again after leading her through a very harrowing miscarriage, there was absolutely no way I felt comfortable taking the risk of putting her in this situation again."
Lisa's friend then kindly offered to donate her eggs, which were transferred in August 2014 – but unfortunately this didn't result in a pregnancy.
By this point, Lisa had consulted various fertility specialists and decided to continue treatment at the Serum IVF clinic in Athens. Ruston – who was still living in the United States – flew out to provide a sperm sample, a suitable egg donor was found and six embryos were frozen.
Lisa transferred three embryos in February 2015 after taking medication to reduce her body's immune response. Unfortunately, she still did not get pregnant.
"I had reached the point where there was no longer a plan B," she explained. “At the time, finances were limited and I was hoping the solution to implant failure hadn't worked so I didn't know what to try next.
After miscarriages and failed rounds of IVF, Lisa had consulted various fertility specialists and decided to continue treatment at the serum IVF clinic in Athens. Ruston – who was still living in the United States – flew out to provide a sperm sample, a suitable egg donor was found and six embryos were frozen
& # 39; I had literally thrown everything at it now; There wasn't a test that I hadn't done, a treatment that I hadn't tried, both conventional and non-conventional. & # 39;
After Lisa sold her property in London, she moved to Oregon to be with Ruston. The couple married on St. Patrick & # 39; s Day in 2016. While life had taken a more positive turn, Lisa felt guilty about leaving her family in the UK, particularly when her mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's.
In December 2018, she made the difficult decision to return to the UK to support her family with her mother's care. On New Year's Eve, Lisa came across a surrogacy post from the Serum Clinic while scrolling through Instagram.
"The reason I noticed this is that when I last came into contact with serum in 2015 and asked about surrogacy, it was only illegal for Greek citizens," Lisa explained.
She contacted them the next day and received an almost instant response, confirming that the law had changed.
Bodhi and Keanu (pictured with Papa Ruston) were born at 34 weeks old and Lisa admitted she couldn't believe her luck
"For the first time in years the vestiges of a glimmer of hope came to life," Lisa admitted.
At this point, she was quickly approaching her 50th birthday – the legal minimum age for the intended mother of a surrogate child in Greece – so the clinic quickly moved and two of the three remaining embryos reported by a suitable surrogate child moved forward was transferred in October – but again no pregnancy.
After consulting with their specialist, the couple settled on a plan to improve Ruston's sperm, which wasn't bad, but had high levels of DNA fragmentation.
After a 40-day course of antibiotics, testosterone, and antioxidants, their sperm quality skyrocketed and the couple decided to try one last time. A donor was found and two embryos were transferred in February this year – weeks before the clinic closed due to Covid-19.
Days later, the couple received the happy news that their surrogate mother was expecting twins – five months before Lisa's 50th birthday.
Lisa admitted that she and Ruston had difficulty getting to see their newborns for just a few minutes before they were brought to the newborn. They were then prevented from visiting due to Covid-19 restrictions. Pictured with Keanu
On September 25, Lisa shared that Keanu (pictured) didn't seem to be himself, but the new parents brought his crying back to colic and upset stomach. When he got worse, they took him to the hospital where they received his heartbreaking diagnosis
The pregnancy was relatively straightforward, save for a few horrors, until a scan earlier this month showed a baby had abnormal blood flow. The boys were delivered on September 14th after 34 weeks.
"I couldn't really believe it when Dr. Ioannis came and told us we had two healthy boys," Lisa recalled.
What is meningitis?
Meningitis is inflammation of the membranes that surround and protect the brain and spinal cord.
Anyone can be affected, but people at risk are those under the age of five, 15 to 24, and over 45.
People who are exposed to secondhand smoke or have weakened immune systems, such as patients undergoing chemotherapy, are also at higher risk.
The most common forms of meningitis are bacterial and viral.
Bacterial meningitis requires urgent hospital treatment with antibiotics.
About 10 percent of the cases of bacteria are fatal.
Of those who survive, one in three will have complications, including brain damage and hearing loss.
Limb amputation is a possible side effect when septicemia (blood poisoning) occurs.
Vaccines are available against certain strains of bacteria that cause meningitis, such as: B. tuberculosis.
Symptoms for both are:
- Pale, blotchy skin with a rash that does not fade when squeezed with a glass
- Stiff neck
- Aversion to bright lights
- Fever and cold hands and feet
- Strong headache
“What I wasn't prepared for was that, despite the Covid test, we only had to see the boys individually and then only for a few minutes.
“I expected to be able to stay with them as long as we wanted, even overnight. Fortunately, we were only allowed to see them when they were ready to be released.
& # 39; At this point, Bodhi is still newborn and I haven't seen him since the day he was born. He was the smaller baby who showed distress when scanned.
& # 39; Keanu was amazing for a premature baby and was discharged on the 18th. He was perfect. & # 39;
On September 25, Lisa said that Keanu didn't seem to be himself, but that the new parents brought his crying back to colic and upset stomach. When he got worse, they took him to the hospital.
"He's been angry all Saturday and I wish I had reacted sooner," Lisa said. I called the hospital at 3:00 am on Sunday and explained the symptoms.
They told us to wait three hours and call again if he hadn't eaten. We decided to override her advice and go straight to the hospital.
“We acted quickly, but in hindsight I wish I had done some deeper research and maybe pieced up the symptoms to react earlier because I thought that might have made the difference in the spread of the infection.
A few hours later, they confirmed bacterial meningitis and then, after culturing his lumbar fluid, discovered that it was an extremely rare form of gram-negative bacteria.
Monday's MRI confirmed he had seizures and the infection had crossed the blood-brain barrier.
“In areas that affect both cognitive and motor functions, lesions are visible to the extent that we do not know. I'm too scared to ask now.
"I don't think the guilt of somehow not having reacted earlier will ever leave me."
While the couple are hoping to bring Bodhi home soon, they missed the extra medical care Keanu will receive and set up a GoFundMe page for donations.
"I can't handle this happening and I feel broken," Lisa said. "We do our best to stay positive."
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