In February, 26 -year-old Lindsey McFarland underwent the first uterus transplant in the United States. But just weeks later, an infection nearly killed her, and her dream of childbirth was dashed. Now, Lindsey McFarland and her husband Blake McFarland are speaking out about the experience for the first time.
Lindsey McFarland was born without a uterus, and already has three adopted children. But she always wanted to give birth to a child and had already gone through in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments. The goal was to transplant a donated uterus into her body, and then implant the embryos.
But hours after she announced the successful surgery at a press conference, she started bleeding from her incision. Doctors discovered that a common fungal infection caused by Candida — aka a yeast infection — had created life-threatening complications because Lindsey McFarland's immune system was suppressed. A statement released by Cleveland Clinic said that the complication was caused by an infection that stems from "an organism that is commonly found in a woman's reproductive system." The Candida infection compromised the blood supply to the uterus, and the organ had to be removed.
A week after the uterus was removed, another complication with an artery led to more surgery, and dashed the hopes of another transplant. "You lose more than just the uterus. You lose a lot of the hopes and dreams that you had for the future," Blake McFarland told the Today show. "It's going to be a while before I work through everything just because I had such high hopes," Lindsey McFarland added.
Cleveland Clinic is putting its clinical trial, which features 10 patients, on hold until doctors have figured out how to prevent infections from happening again. As for the McFarlands, they're going to take a few years to regroup and then take Lindsey McFarland's mother's offer to be a surrogate for them. "Infertility... is a journey most people don't understand unless they've dealt with it," Lindsey McFarland said. "So I think it's amazing that science has come so far to provide families and couples with an opportunity like this to build their family."