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Video: Couple given wrong embryo: It’s ‘bittersweet’

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    >>> back now at 8:09 with an update on an emotional story that we have been following, a woman who carried and delivered someone else 's baby after being implanted with the wrong embryo. carolyn savage and her husband sean are with us for an exclusive interview, but first, "today" national correspondent amy robach has the very latest. good morning to you, amy.

    >> meredith , good morning to you. it is a heartbreaking story for both the savages and the other family involved, the morrells, two couples brought together because of one very big mistake . life is slowly getting comeback to normal for carolyn and sean savage and their three children, this less than a month and a half after carolyn gave birth to a healthy baby boy that she immediately turned over to his biological parents, paul and shannon morrell.

    >> i think he looks the same.

    >> reporter: we first met the morrells and the savages when carolyn was 35 weeks pregnant with the morrels' baby.

    >> i was sitting in my office and about 4:00 received a call from the physician who performed the transfer. he let me know at that moment, in almost one sentence, that carolyn was pregnant, but they had thawed and transferred another person's embryos.

    >> so, i was upstairs in my bedroom, and he came through the door and he just said "i have really bad news," and i kind of sat up. he said, "you're pregnant, but they transferred the wrong embryos."

    >> reporter: the couple had originally turned to invitro fertilization , or ivf, many years ago, after struggling to have a third child. it worked. carolyn gave birth to biological daughter mary kate after ten years of trying. and as with many cases, there were leftover embryos in the laboratory, fertilized eggs that could one day become a child.

    >> we felt strongly that we needed to give every embryo that we created a chance at life.

    >> reporter: in february, the savages went in to have those embryos thawed and transferred into carolyn 's body, but the clinic made a mistake and implanted her with paul and shannon morrel's embryos. they, like the savages, had leftover embryos from the process of conceiving their two daughters. you were hoping to conceive.

    >> sure. we have two adorable girls that have blessed us. we always thought about those six embryos.

    >> reporter: but then they received shocking news from their ivf doctor.

    >> he said, "your embryos were implanted into another woman," and i just went, ugh, and i just fell back in the couch.

    >> reporter: although they didn't expect to have a child under these circumstances, they are grateful to the savages for bringing him into the world.

    >> whatever access they want, they have. and hopefully, we'll move forward together.

    >> reporter: and as carolyn and sean prepare to turn the baby over, they just had one request.

    >> i said, we want a moment to say hello and good-bye.

    >> reporter: later that week, carolyn gave birth. and the morrels released a statement through their lawyer. paul and shannon morrel are pleased to announce the birth of their baby boy , 5 pounds, 3 ounces and 18 inches long. it's been a long, difficult journey and they're thrilled that their family is now complete. they will be eternally grateful for his guardian angel , carolyn savage, and the support of the entire savage family. meredith ?

    >> amy, thank you. and carolyn and sean savage are with us exclusively this morning. good morning to you both.

    >> good morning, meredith .

    >> good morning, meredith .

    >> carolyn described it they described i t as a long and difficult journey. for you it's been over a month since you gave birth. how are you coping?

    >> we take it one day at a time, just like we did during the pregnancy, and we're trying to get back into our regular, daily lives. every once in a while , the loss kind of sneaks up on us, but we know he's doing very, very well and he's thriving in the morell home, and that helps a lot.

    >> that helps a lot some.

    >> mm-hmm.

    >> september 24th , you gave birth to a baby boy that you knew you had to give away.

    >> mm-hmm.

    >> he is not your child. talk to me about the delivery.

    >> delivery itself went as well as we had hoped it would. we were thrilled that he was born healthy. he came out kicking and screaming , very feisty little guy. we kind of knew that from the pregnancy that he was going to be a mover and a shaker. so, it was a miracle. it was a childbirth. and just like any childbirth, we were thrilled when he was born.

    >> and then, sean , you had to take that little boy , that baby boy , into another room where the morrels were waiting, shannon and paul , and hand him over to his biological parents. what was that like for you emotionally?

    >> there were many emotions, because as carolyn mentioned, the miracle of childbirth is amazing, and we just had experienced that, and then shortly thereafter, within about ten minutes, i went with the nurses and the baby down five stories to a room where the morrels were waiting for him. and during that very short walk, it was exceptionally emotional. i was crying, but at the same time, there was a sense of pride of what we were doing and that what we were doing was right, and upon entering the room, just the joy that the morrels had at that moment it was within ten minutes, almost a second childbirth, where they got to see their baby for the first time, and that was neat and we were very, very excited for them, but at the same time, very, very sad about what we were experiencing ourselves.

    >> and what you didn't know at the time was that, carolyn , you were really in trouble on the table. i mean, you were bleeding profu profusely.

    >> yes. it was -- i learned later when the doctor came up -- it just seemed like quite some time after the initial delivery until carolyn was able to go to the post-operation room, and it made us wonder, and the doctor let us know that carolyn lost a tremendous amount of blood, that it was a very difficult surgery. she was fortunate to have two surgeons in there working simultaneously, and it was very scary for the doctor, which made us very scared as well. but thankfully, everything stabilized eventually and things did get better.

    >> i know the next day, you as a family with your three children had a chance to be alone with the baby to give the hello and good-bye that you -- was so important to you.

    >> yeah.

    >> how was that moment?

    >> well, we were so grateful to the morrels that we were allowed to do that, and it was bittersweet. it was fun to see the boys with the baby and our daughter. just kind of enamored by this little life that i was holding. and you know, it was a good hour that we got to spend with him.

    >> will you be seeing him again? have you worked out any sort of arrangement with the morrels?

    >> we haven't seen him since they left the hospital, the day after he was born, but we're hoping to see him hopefully in the next couple weeks here. everybody's kind of battling some colds and things and we certainly don't want to expose the baby to that. so, we're waiting until everybody's healthy.

    >> but is that hard, knowing each time you see him, you have to leave?

    >> yeah. i don't know what that experience will be like. everything in this journey has been new to us, and we're taking it one step at a time, and we'll see him at a time when we think is right and we'll see what that experience is when it happens.

    >> you still have frozen embryos that were not used. do you plan to -- and i know you cannot carry another child for medical reasons. do you plan to seek out a surrogate? and if so, where are you in the process?

    >> we do, and we already have a surrogate, a wonderful woman, who has volunteered to help us. we have a signed contract with her and we'll be moving forward with that some time probably in the spring, so, we're looking forward to that.

    >> any message to that little boy ?

    >> oh, well, we love him very much, and he was always loved from the second he was -- we found out that he was coming to us, and we're happy -- we were happy to bring him home to his family.

    >> and we wish him happiness. we wish him a wonderful life and we look forward to any opportunity we have to see him and be a part of it, but that will play out over time .

    >> and i know that it's a cautionary tale, too, for other families who are considering invitro, who may have frozen embryos and also that you're in discussions now with the medical facility that did this, in terms of what next. so, we appreciate, carolyn and sean , you spending this time

TODAY staff and wire
updated 11/4/2009 12:54:00 PM ET 2009-11-04T17:54:00

An Ohio woman who was implanted with the wrong embryo says she hopes to visit soon with the baby boy she delivered and turned over to his biological parents.

Carolyn Savage of the Toledo suburb of Sylvania told NBC's TODAY show Wednesday that she has been waiting for her family to finish a run of colds. She says she hopes that in a couple weeks she'll be able to see the child for the first time since the hospital.

“Every once in a while the loss kind of sneaks up on us,” Carolyn told Meredith Vieira Wednesday. “But we know he’s doing very, very well ... and that helps us.”

On Sept. 24, Savage gave birth to the 5-pound, 3-ounce biological son of Paul and Shannon Morell of the Detroit suburb of Troy, Mich. The families say a fertility clinic outside Ohio had a mix-up with frozen embryos in February.

The Morells issued a statement of gratitude to the Carolyn Savage and her husband, Sean: "It's been a long, difficult journey, and we're thrilled that our family is now complete. We will be eternally grateful for his guardian angel, Carolyn Savage, and the support of the entire Savage family.”

A difficult choice
When they learned about the mix-up, the Savages were presented with an agonizing choice: They could either terminate the pregnancy, or carry the fetus to term and then hand him over to his biological parents.

The Savages waited 14 weeks into the pregnancy to have their lawyer contact the Morells. The initial contacts were done anonymously through attorneys. But they eventually met face to face and have had a relationship that the Savages characterized as cordial.

The Savages have three other children, and Carolyn, 40, has experienced multiple difficulties in becoming pregnant and carrying children to term. She had been told that this would have to be her final pregnancy, and the couple had planned to have the five embryos they had frozen implanted in the hopes that one would take. Because of their beliefs, they felt they could not destroy any embryos.

“We felt strongly that we needed to give every embryo that we created a chance at life,” Carolyn told NBC News.

Reproductive problems
Sean and Carolyn Savage met in 1989 when both were students at the University of Miami in Ohio. Four years later, they were married and almost immediately set out to have the large family they dreamed of.

Image: Shannon and Paul Morell
Paul and Shannon Morell are the parents whose frozen embryo was implanted in Carolyn Savage by mistake.
Their first son, Drew, was born in September 1994 after a normal pregnancy. But after Drew’s birth, the couple began having reproductive problems. Their second son, Ryan, was born after 30 weeks of gestation in April 1997. The early delivery was necessitated when Carolyn was diagnosed with HELLP syndrome, a life-threatening complication related to pre-eclampsia. The syndrome’s symptoms include anemia, elevated liver enzymes and low platelet count along with elevated blood pressure.

Although Drew spent four weeks in neonatal intensive care, he is now a healthy 12-year-old.

10 years of trying
The Savages were told that it was safe for Carolyn to get pregnant again, and for the next 10 years they tried to conceive their third child. They resorted to ovulation stimulation, but all they had to show for it were two early miscarriages.

Finally, the couple opted to try in vitro fertilization through a fertility clinic. The first attempt resulted in another miscarriage. At that time, Carolyn was diagnosed with two blood-clotting disorders that may have contributed to her other difficulties.

Video: Woman implanted with wrong embryo Undeterred, the couple finally succeeded in conceiving a daughter though in vitro fertilization in 2007. After 32 weeks of gestation, a return of Carolyn’s HELLP syndrome necessitated an early delivery in March 2008 via Caesarean section. Like her older brother Drew, Mary Kate spent four weeks in intensive care and is now a healthy child.

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This past February, in the belief that they were using the last of their frozen embryos, Carolyn went back to the fertility clinic. On Feb. 16, a blood test confirmed that one of the embryos was viable and Carolyn was pregnant.

Sean remembers being told in a phone call at work. Stunned, he went home to tell Carolyn.

“I was upstairs in my bedroom and he came to the door and said, ‘I have really bad news,’ ” she told NBC News. Then came the news: “You’re pregnant, but they transferred the wrong embryo.”

Sorrow and joy
Carolyn Savage’s pregnancy with the Morells’ child was without complications, but the delivery was difficult; Savage lost a lot of blood. “Thankfully, everything stabilized eventually and things did get better,” Sean said.

“We were thrilled that he was born healthy,” Carolyn said. “He came out kicking and screaming, very feisty little guy.”

The Savages immediately turned the child over to the Morells, who were waiting in another room of the hospital. “During that very short walk, it was exceptionally emotional; I was crying,” Sean recalled. “But at the same time, there was a sense of pride of what we were doing and that what we were doing was right. And upon entering the room, just the joy that the Morells had at that moment — it was, within 10 minutes, almost a second childbirth.

“We were very, very excited for them, but at the same time very sad for what we were experiencing ourselves,” he added.

The next day, the Savages and their three children were granted time with the baby to bid hello and goodbye. “It was bittersweet,” Carolyn recalled. “We were so grateful to the Morells that we were allowed to do that.”

“Whatever access they want, they have,” Shannon Morell told NBC News. “And hopefully we’ll move forward together.”

Carolyn Savage now says she wants another child, but will use a surrogate for medical reasons.

The Associated Press contributed reporting to this story.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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