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The Chance for a Happy Family

Brooke Connell & her son

Brooke Connell always wanted to have children. Even growing up, she would ask her doctors if her severe von Willebrand disease would affect her ability to be a mother. They assured her that the condition would not be a problem. Brooke was relieved, even though she knew there was a chance that her children would also have von Willebrand disease (VWD). This was especially true because her mother and three brothers have VWD, although a mild form of the disease (type I). Brooke was the only one with type III VWD, the most severe form. But despite her resolve to have children, Brooke had challenges to face.

“I went into my marriage thinking that we would be able to have kids,” Brooke says. “It would be no big deal. Well, it turns out it’s not as easy for some people.”

For Brooke, the VWD was not the problem. Instead, it was her diagnosis with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). With PCOS, a woman ovulates (releases eggs) irregularly or not at all. Therefore, the body doesn’t provide enough eggs to be fertilized. Brooke and her husband, Kipp, tried to get pregnant naturally for a year before turning to fertility treatments. And even then, it took several more years before they got the results they were seeking.

“We tried the whole span of fertility treatments before trying in vitro fertilization,*” she says. “It was a long four years trying to get pregnant. It was especially hard because we had friends and family members all around us having kids. And that was something we wanted more than anything.”

During the fertility treatments, Brooke got pregnant a first time, but had a miscarriage. When she learned she was pregnant again, she and Kipp were pleased, but cautious. Of course, Brooke remembers the exact day she got the news.

“It was the Tuesday before the Fourth of July — June 28, 2011,” she says. “After I called my husband, I called my parents. They live an hour and a half away. And an hour and a half after I called them, they were at my door.”

The Process

Brooke began her fertility treatments at the Center for Advanced Reproductive Medicine at the University of Kansas Medical Center (UKMC). The Center is in Kansas City, where the family lives. Brooke tried in vitro fertilization (IVF), but was not successful. After that, her fertility doctor moved away. Then her next doctor didn’t want to treat Brooke because of her bleeding disorder. At that point, Brooke contacted her hematologist* for advice. He recommended that she contact Dr. Andra James, who was then at Duke University. Dr. James is one of the leading obstetrics/gynecology (ob/gyn) doctors* in the country focused on treating women with bleeding disorders.

“I had seen her speak at the national hemophilia convention several times, so I was familiar with her,” Brooke says. “I contacted her and she said there was no reason why I couldn’t try IVF again. She said I should be able to carry to term.”

At the suggestion of Dr. James, Brooke went to Duke. She stayed in Durham, North Carolina for a month, having treatment. Dr. James brought on board a hematologist and a fertility doctor with Duke Fertility Center. Together, they devised a plan for factor treatments before, during, and after the process of getting Brooke pregnant and delivering a baby.

“I started infusing on day one of the process,” Brooke explains. “They wanted my factor levels to be as close to normal as possible. This was because of the way the fertilization process stimulates your ovaries to produce enough eggs. It can cause a bleed.”

Brooke returned to Kansas City and started seeing a high-risk ob/gyn doctor at UKMC. When she got the news that she was pregnant, this doctor stepped in to closely monitor her progress.

Coram Joins the Team

Brooke had started to infuse factor every day from the minute the fertility treatments began. She continued daily infusions throughout the first 12 weeks of her pregnancy. Before that, she had only infused at the start of her periods and when she got injured or had a muscle bleed.

“For 12 weeks, my husband and I hooked up the infusion at the kitchen table every morning before work. Coram delivered the factor and supplies. And beyond that, they called to ask how I was doing, how I was feeling, if I had everything I needed. I wasn’t just somebody they were providing with factor.”

Once Brooke hit the 12-week mark in her pregnancy, she and Kipp felt more relaxed about the baby coming to term. Her hematologist reduced the infusions to every other day. After the baby was born, Brooke infused daily again for six weeks.

“I remember the last day of infusing, and realizing we were finally done,” she says. “It was like, okay then, let’s put the sharps container* away. I am done with it.”

The Delivery

Brooke had a hard delivery. The baby was big at 8 pounds, 10 ounces. And the doctors had ruled out an epidural* for fear it might cause bleeding into the spinal column.

“That was definitely not my choice,” Brooke says. “I wanted that epidural.”

Her preference is no surprise, as she checked into the hospital at 4:00 am on February 29, 2012 and didn’t have the baby until the next day at 6:00 am. Brooke required five pints of blood and platelets. And three days after delivery, she had a postpartum hemorrhage.* After a week in the hospital, she and Kipp took their baby boy home.

“We named him Chance because he was our chance to be parents,” Brooke says. “If it had been a girl, we were going to name her Andra, after Dr. James.”

The Center of Their Universe

Chance is a toddler now, with all that entails. He has mild VWD, but that doesn’t slow him down at all. He is doted on by two sets of grandparents, his parents, and his dog, Lucky.

“You can tell he is a little spoiled,” Brooke says with a smile, “but he is very sweet. He will just look at you and say, ‘Hi,’ very softly. He is into sports and watches football with his dad, which makes his dad very happy. He doesn’t have many limitations. He has bruises like any other little boy, but it’s nothing like what I went through growing up.”

It’s pretty certain that Chance will be involved in sports. He is a big boy, and his father played college football. That’s fine with Brooke.

“His hematologist wants Chance to do whatever he wants. He just has to keep in mind that he might have to get factor before he does it. And I agree. The more active, the better.”

At the present, however, Chance is more into dancing at weddings. The young family has attended quite a few recently, and Chance gets out on the dance floor as soon as the music starts.

“People have actually asked at the weddings if Chance is going to dance,” Brooke says. “He’s pretty proud of himself when he does.”

The Connell family
The Connell Family

The Future

As hard as the process was for Brooke to get pregnant, carry to term, and undergo 26 hours of labor, she is ready to have another child.

“A month after we were home, I told my husband I was ready to do it again,” Brooke says.

They tried a frozen embryo transfer* last summer, but Brooke miscarried eight weeks into the pregnancy. Despite that setback, it’s clear that Brooke and Kipp would like to give Chance a little brother or sister sooner rather than later. Maybe he will teach him or her some of his dance moves.


  • Epidural: A form of anesthesia used to partly numb the lower body. It is injected into the area around the spinal cord. This area is called the epidural space.
  • Frozen embryo transfer: A procedure during which an embryo is fertilized outside of the body and frozen. It is then thawed and placed in a woman’s uterus.
  • Hematologist: A doctor who treats blood diseases.
  • In vitro fertilization (IVF): A type of fertility treatment. With IVF, sperm is placed with an egg in a laboratory. After fertilization occurs, the embryo is placed into the woman’s uterus. Or it may be frozen for future use.
  • Ob/gyn doctor: A doctor who works in obstetrics and gynecology. Obstetrics is the care of women during pregnancy and childbirth. Gynecology is the treatment of female reproductive organs.
  • Postpartum hemorrhage: Abnormal bleeding that occurs two to four weeks after birth.
  • Sharps container: A container used to safely dispose of used needles (sharps).

Excerpted from Quest, Coram's magazine for hemophilia consumers.
March 2014, Issue 31

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