Savages use baby mix-up journey as ‘road map’ to help othersWritten by Kristen Criswell | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Two years after Carolyn Savage was implanted with another couple’s embryo, she and her husband Sean have found peace.
“[After we found out] I think we were really kind of in shock. A year ago today we were still grieving pretty severely; the whole postpartum period of time was really difficult, more difficult than we had anticipated,” Carolyn said. “This year we can kind of see some light at the end of the tunnel — a tunnel that might not even end ever — but we’re in a more peaceful place.”
The Sylvania couple had prior problems with pregnancies when they returned to in vitro fertilization for their fourth child. Carolyn and Sean had used the process to conceive their daughter and had made a promise to each other to give all their embryos a chance.
On Feb. 16, 2009, the Savages found out that Carolyn was pregnant, but due to a mistake the child wasn’t theirs.
For the Savages, terminating the pregnancy was never an option and they decided to carry the baby to term and give him to his rightful family, Shannon and Paul Morell, of Troy, Mich.
On Sept. 24, 2009, Logan Savage Morell was born.
During the pregnancy, Carolyn and Sean both chronicled their experiences; Sean via a Dictaphone during his commute to work, and Carolyn through writing.
The couple has compiled their experiences into a new book, “Inconceivable; A Medical Mistake, the Baby We Couldn’t Keep, and Our Choice to Deliver the Ultimate Gift.”
“Writing the book was very cathartic. It helped us revisit some of the issues and some of the moments that we had during the pregnancy and really look at the journey we were on,” Carolyn said. “Looking back on it now, we can see how we navigated it and we think we did come out on the other side in a good spot.”
Sean said another reason for writing the book is to help others who are dealing with difficult choices or challenges in their lives.
“We hope it may be a little bit of a road map for folks who are running through difficult situations. It may be dissimilar in terms of facts, but people face suffering and difficulties and have to try and figure out how to get through that,” he said. “How a marriage can survive such an event or how somebody can survive and get through a traumatic situation, is hopefully something people can pull out of the book and it will help them.”
As part of the book’s website, inconceivablebook.com, the Savages have also set up a section where individuals can share tough decisions and situations they have went though.
“We ask people to tell a story about a choice they have made and we’ve gotten some unbelievably touching little antidotes stories of people who have fought challenges in their lives… I think when you’re really facing something tough, going and reading about how other people have persevered can really fortify you and give you some strength,” Carolyn said.
How the mistake was made
As part of a settlement with the clinic, the Savages asked for documentation of changes made in procedure and answers to how the mistake was made and discovered, Sean said.
The pair included the information in the afterword of their book.
“We felt an obligation to anybody seeking IVF or anyone in treatment to see that information,” Sean said. “We also wanted other clinics to see what happened, so if they need to tighten their protocols this can be a little bit of a road map.”
Two mistakes were made by the fertility clinic the Savages used; one led to the wrong embryo being implanted into Carolyn, the other lead to the discovery of the first mistake.
Shannon Morell’s maiden name was Savage, and she was still using it at the time the couple had IVF. Her file was accidently pulled when the technicians went to retrieve Carolyn’s information and embryos.
The second mistake was Carolyn’s birth year being wrong on her file and wristband. When a clinic employee was entering the data and was confused by the two different dates, the employee went into Carolyn’s file and discovered the Morells’ information.
“If there hadn’t had been a typo in my birth year, the person who discovered it wouldn’t have rifled through my file and discovered Shannon’s information. If that had not happened, I think truly it wouldn’t have been discovered until the Morells had gone back to perform a frozen embryo transplant and we have no idea when that would have been, and that could have been disastrous,” Carolyn said.
“I think there was one little blessing in this. We were told we were pregnant and in the next sentence we were told it wasn’t our baby. There was never a time when we were told we were pregnant and we thought we were going to have our own genetic child.”
Included in their book, Sean and Carolyn wrote a letter of forgiveness to those involved in embryo mix-up.
“I think forgiveness is an important part of who we are. The people who are responsible for what happened, the professionals who worked in the clinic, they did not do this to us on purpose. There was no malice. They dedicated their careers to helping people build families … Getting up every morning and punishing yourself over something that’s happened and it was truly and accident, that’s not going to serve any purpose. We really wanted the people responsible to feel relieved from the burden of this guilt,” Carolyn said.
Since Logan’s birth, the Savages have seen Logan twice, once when he was 3 months old and again when he was 7 months. In addition, the Morells provide occasional updates and photos.
“Being able to visit him shows us the gift we were able to give their family. They love and adore him and I think their family is complete with him and that’s very rewarding,” Carolyn said.
The Savages said they’d like to see Logan whenever they’re invited to, but they remain adamant that any role they play in the young boy’s life will be a decision of his parents and they will respect those wishes.
With the money for their court settlement and proceeds from the book, the Savages have decided to establish a donor directed fund through the Toledo Community Foundation.
Sean and Carolyn hope to give funds to nonprofits and charities throughout the region. The couple will involve their two teenage sons and eventually their daughter in the selection process, Sean said. The Savages would also like to include Logan in the process if his family allows.
“This story is a pay-it-forward story and what way better than to continue the pay-it-forward style and have other people benefit from what we’ve been through?” Carolyn said.
The Savages said they are open to more children, but are happy with their family how it is now, too.
“We love our kids and would always welcome more. If this has taught us anything, it is to value the moments with them,” Sean said.
The Morells have also written a book about their experience, “Misconception: “One Couple’s Journey from Embryo Mix-up to Miracle Baby.”