Fertility Answers - Helping Build Families

Gift of Hope 2011 – Jill & Michael

Military couple diagnosed with PCOS struggle to have a child

Fort Polk soldier and his wife chosen for the Gift of Hope IVF Grant 2011

Jill & Michael - Gift of Hope IVF Grant recipients
Jill & Michael – Gift of Hope IVF Grant recipients

Jill and Michael Crommelin never thought that starting a family would turn into such a rollercoaster of a ride. Jill was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome, PCOS for short, back in 2006 around the time she and Michael got married. To be parents and to grow as a family was their goal as a newly married couple. Both Jill, a 5th grade teacher at Pine Wood Elementary School in DeRidder, and Michael, a soldier in the Army stationed at Fort Polk, LA, come from close-knit families and they could not wait to add more love to the mix.

“The thought of seeing my husband standing in the delivery room holding our child for the first time melts me. It breaks my heart that I can’t give that to him,” confides Jill.

For Jill, the reality of life with PCOS has been difficult to bear. PCOS interferes with normal ovulation and results in an increase in male hormone levels, which causes many of the symptoms of PCOS including irregular ovulation. Most women with PCOS also experience multiple cysts on their ovaries (polycystic ovaries) creating ovaries that may be up to three times larger than normal. Because women with this disease usually experience significant ovulation problems, there is an increased difficulty in achieving pregnancy.

Recent studies have demonstrated that PCOS is due to an underlying metabolic problem known as insulin resistance. When the body’s muscles and fat tissues become resistant to insulin action, the pancreas produces increased amounts of insulin. In a woman, these high insulin levels can set into play a vicious cycle that makes weight loss extremely difficult and drives the ovaries to produce high amounts of male hormones (androgens). This unhealthy environment in the ovary causes follicles to literally die before they release mature eggs.

After learning of her diagnosis and trying unsuccessfully to get pregnant on their own, doctors put the couple through months and months of fertility medications to try to induce ovulation. Their efforts were put on hold when Michael, an ammunitions specialist in the Army, was deployed to Iraq. When Michael returned home after a year, they again started up with fertility medications and were ecstatic to finally learn that Jill was pregnant.

“The feelings and emotions of finally being pregnant were overwhelming,” recalls Jill. “After so many months and years of trying, we were finally going to have a baby…or so we thought.” A few weeks later the couple found out the pregnancy was ectopic, or growing inside Jill’s fallopian tube, and would have to be terminated. “We went through a rollercoaster of emotions not realizing that this was just the beginning of our infertility journey.”

After a few more months of working with the doctors at the Army base at Fort Polk, Jill and Michael were referred to Dr. John Storment in Lafayette. After more months of fertility medications, intrauterine inseminations, and complications caused by ovarian cysts, the Crommelins still were not pregnant.

“We never thought we would be in a position where we had to worry about weekly ultrasounds, blood work, nightly injections, and tearful consultations just to have a baby. But life is full of things you don’t expect,” says Jill.

Michael serving his country in Afghanistan
Michael serving his country in Afghanistan

Then, in October of 2010, Michael was deployed again, this time to Afghanistan. However, Dr. Storment made sure that Jill and Michael could continue on their journey even with Michael not here. Before he left, Michael banked his sperm. Over the months that he has been gone, Jill has continued to make the drive from DeRidder to Lafayette on her own for consultations and pregnancy attempts.

After the fifth IUI resulted in no pregnancy and more ovarian cysts, Jill and Dr. Storment discussed her options and why the meds and IUIs were not working. They agreed that in vitro fertilization (IVF) was the next logical step. But with a teacher’s and a soldier’s salary they knew they couldn’t afford the $10,000 to $15,000 price tag. After seeing information about the Gift of Hope IVF Grant 2011 program, Jill decided to apply for the award of a free IVF cycle that Dr. Storment participates in along with Women’s & Children’s Hospital and Sheridan Healthcare.

After receiving and reviewing 39 applications from couples across the state of Louisiana, the independent selection committee chose the Crommelins to receive the Gift of Hope. “Who better to receive this award than a couple who are dedicating their lives to educating our children and fighting for our country,” said Jaci Russo, senior partner at The Russo Group and a member of the Gift of Hope Selection Committee.

Jill was beside herself upon getting the call that she and Michael were selected. “I emailed Michael in Afghanistan over and over telling him to call me right away. The waiting to tell him was excruciating! When he finally called I told him to make sure he was sitting down. He couldn’t believe we had won!”

Michael returns home on a two-week leave at the beginning of June. Hopefully this will be their time to get off the rollercoaster and begin the next phase of their life as parents-to-be.

The Gift of Hope is offered once a year in the spring with applications typically available to download from our website beginning in March of each year. For questions about the Gift of Hope, please email to giftofhope@fertilityanswers.com