Medical Director (SIRM)
Sher Fertility Clinic - Central Illinois
The 1st IVF Mother: A Tribute To Lesley Brown
Much has been made of the birth on July 25, 1978 of Louise Brown, the world’s first child conceived by what was at that time a revolutionary scientific technique called in vitro fertilization (IVF). This initial success has opened to the doors of parenthood to millions of couples who, prior to this, had little if any chance of having their own genetic children. The focus since then has been primarily on the child herself, and on the ground-breaking work done by Drs. Robert Edwards (the biologist) and Patrick Steptoe (the gynecologist). It eventually led to the presentation to Dr. Edwards of the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2010 (It was speculated that Dr. Steptoe would have shared the honor, but the Nobel cannot be given posthumously and he died in 1988). Little focus has been given however to the unheralded mother, Lesley Brown, who unfortunately died on June 6th from a complication of a gall-bladder infection at age 64.
Rewind to 1977. Suffering from tubal factor infertility, Lesley and her truck driver-husband John, had spent over 9 years struggling through various forms of surgical and non-surgical treatments for their infertility. She miraculously conceived on her first IVF attempt. After embryo transfer, she was made to lie absolutely still in a bed for 6 days before they discharged her from care. Lesley spent the early stages of her pregnancy in blissful anonymity…. Then, the pregnancy was announced, and the world descended upon her. Every part of her life, including what she had eaten for breakfast, suddenly became newsworthy and was broadcast in every outlet from Japan to Easter Island. Her world and life were suddenly not solely her own.
Simultaneously both extolled and reviled, she offered herself up to the media and throughout managed to maintain grace and dignity. She eventually conceived a second child (again with a single attempt at IVF) four years later. The picture above shows her in the recent past, standing with Dr. Edwards, her daughter Louise, and her grandson. While her husband passed away several years ago, she is survived by her two daughters and her grandchildren.
While the protocols involved with IVF have changed greatly over time, and the pool of people we can offer such treatments to has greatly expanded, one thing has not changed: the patients. The needs they express, their willingness to undergo the myriad tortures of uncertainty and therapy, and their outlook of hope has never changed. The overwhelming dedication to purpose and resiliency shown by our patients has never failed to impress me over the years .
I feel obligated therefore to offer this tribute to the memory of Lesley Brown, who was willing not only to put up with this, but to be the trailblazer for the rest of us. She sacrificed not only her body, but the rest of her life to being this trailblazer and it is altogether fitting and proper that we recognize her.
Jun 26, 2012 05:53 am
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