Andrew's Story - Holiday of a Lifetime
verbatim transcript of an article published in The Sun newspaper
Gaffe Cost me a Baby
by John Coles
A DYING dad told yesterday how a hospital blunder had robbed him of the chance to have another child.
Andrew Harries, 32, was one of 28 men — all cancer patients — whose stored sperm was destroyed when a freezer broke down. He donated samples before undergoing treatment for a chest tumour.
Andrew and wife Rachel, 30, were desperate for son Josh, nine months, to have a brother or sister. But on Friday they received the bombshell news about the freezer. Andrew, so weak he can barely speak, said: “I came home from chemotherapy and got this letter. It is devastating. “I come from a large family and we always intended for Josh not to be an only child but there is nothing we can do now. “Although there is a chance I am still fertile the problem with chemotherapy is that it causes a high risk of abnormalities in children. “There is no way I want to take that risk. We’ve got other things to worry about.”
Rachel said: “It’s heartbreaking. We are already trying to cope with cancer and now this. The hospital was dealing with such a precious cargo, surely it should have been protected by a back-up system.”
The bungle happened at the NHS fertility unit at Southmead Hospital, Bristol. Loving dad ... proud Andrew with Josh Andrew and Rachel, of Taunton, Somerset, said they asked the clinic if they could use the sperm FOUR MONTHS ago — long before the freezer failure — but did not get a reply.
Rachel said: “It’s not as if it’s a piece of furniture we had put into storage. This was the chance for Josh to have a brother or sister. “But Andrew became very ill again with the chemotherapy and subsequent radiotherapy, so we let it lie.”
Andrew’s cancer was detected last summer when doctors found a large tumour attached to his heart. He had surgery in September and was told he faced at least three years of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Andrew was advised to put his sperm into storage because the cancer treatment could result in infertility. He provided two samples for freezing in October, just before starting an 18-week course of chemotherapy. In February, he and Rachel were told the treatment was working. But a week ago they heard it had failed and the cancer had returned.
Rachel said: “We were told the cancer was terminal and we had about a year left together. Then on Friday we got this letter about the sperm.”
The couple wed three years ago on the Caribbean island of Tobago and hope to return before Andrew dies. Rachel said they would not sue the hospital, although they felt they had a good case. She added: “Southmead is part of the same NHS trust which has been treating Andrew for cancer. “The way they’ve looked after him has been brilliant.”
The Southmead is run by North Bristol NHS Trust. Clinical support director Dr Tim Lewis said: “The men concerned will be offered additional fertility testing and counselling.” The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority has ordered an inquiry into the freezer tragedy.