One man was
in a terrifying logging accident. Another dove into a shallow pond as a
teenager. A third was the victim of a drive-by shooting. And yet another was in
a horrific car
crash. Miraculously, after surviving these unreal
incidents, they shared the same problem: a spinal cord injury. And they all
came to me for the same reason: they really wanted kids.
absolutely nothing redeeming about spinal cord injury. Often wheelchair bound
with two working arms at best, men with these injuries find that nothing in
everyday life is easy. And sex suffers too. Depending on exactly where the back
is broken, erections are either unpredictable, or entirely silent. Ejaculation is
nowhere to be found. And orgasm is a thing of the past. The one ray of hope in
all the muck is that fertility is generally preserved. And that
possibility gives life-sustaining meaning to a life turned upside down in every
ejaculation is a reflex, similar to a sneeze, the back, and more specifically,
the spinal cord, is the key to its normal occurrence. Erections aren’t a
reflex, but still rely on brain signals sent down the spinal cord to activate
nerve centers in the pelvis. Interrupting the critical pathways within the cord
wreaks havoc on both functions. But fertility potential resides mainly in the
testicles which are generally unaffected by spinal cord injury. Think of spinal
injuries as “functional” vasectomies in which the sperm “pump” is not blocked,
but simply isn’t working well.
So, how do
we get the pump working again? If the spinal injury is low, such that arms are
usable and legs are paralyzed, then the ejaculation reflex is down for the
count. In this case, we use a technique called rectal probe electroejaculation
to manually get the pump to work and produce an ejaculate. If the spinal injury
is high enough, then the ejaculation reflex is preserved. In this case, we can
simply apply a high frequency
vibrator to the penis to get the pump running and stimulate
ejaculation. And once learned by the couple, the technique can be done at home
and babies made the old-fashioned way. Amazing!
wheelchair-bound dad with little kids running around him is the most satisfying
feeling I think I’ve ever had at work. I stand in awe of the power of the human
spirit, the willpower to survive, and the determination to thrive that these
patients possess in spades. They are a constant source of inspiration to me and
I am honored to help in any way I can.
This article first appeared on Dr.