Hope & Healing: The UF Health Blog

From Infertility Struggles to Finding a Family at UF Health

When Nicholas picked up the phone to share his story, in the background on his end were muffled sounds of a home that just welcomed a newborn baby.

A few years ago, Nicholas and his wife moved back to Nicholas’ home state of Florida to complete his training at UF Health. Their plan was that as soon as the stresses of day-to-day life eased and their careers settled, they would start a family. Both young and healthy, they never thought twice about whether that dream would come true. 

Holding Onto Hope

When Nicholas noticed a lump on his scrotum, he knew it was not something to ignore. With a close friend recently diagnosed with testicular cancer, Nicholas scheduled an appointment with Michael Dennis, MD, the recently retired associate medical director of the University of Florida Department of Urology.

At the end of the appointment, Dr. Dennis diagnosed Nicholas with varicoceles.

Varicocele graphic

“A varicocele is a dilated vein in the scrotum that can change sperm production and potentially reduce fertility in men,” said Kevin Campbell, MD, a male infertility specialist in the urology department. “This condition is relatively common, affecting one in seven men, and is found in 30 to 40% of all men treated in fertility clinics.”

Not all varicoceles cases present symptoms or cause concern. Luckily, this was the case for Nicholas. Dr. Dennis sent Nicholas home with the recommendation to return to him for more tests if fertility ever became an issue.

February 2020 quickly arrived, and it was finally time to put their plan into place. Excited and full of hope, Nicholas and his wife started trying for a baby. With no positive pregnancy tests and knowledge of his condition, Nicholas returned to Dr. Dennis.

The results of Nicholas’ sperm analysis test left the couple heartbroken and shocked. Irregularity in the movement, shape and quantity of his healthy sperm meant that their likelihood of having a spontaneous pregnancy was extremely low.

Male sperm testing graphic

Their worry began to ease when the option of a varicocelectomy was introduced to them by Dr. Dennis. A varicocelectomy is one of many surgical approaches to correct varicoceles by removing the swollen veins from the scrotum. The procedure is generally done through a small incision in the waistline, similar to a hernia repair incision. The vessels are evaluated under magnification, usually using an operating microscope, with a Doppler ultrasound to find the veins and carefully avoid the arteries.

“This is why it’s important to have the procedure performed by a urologist with fertility experience,” Dr. Campbell said. “The veins are tied off to re-route the blood supply away from the testicular arteries and return the testicular temperature to normal.” Subsequent sperm production after a varicocelectomy has shown improved overall sperm health, often including count, shape and motility.

The comfort and optimism Dr. Dennis and his team brought made all the difference. The future that Nicholas and his wife had been envisioning since falling in love over a decade ago was quickly coming back into focus. They opted for the surgery. 

A Miracle and Newfound Perspective

Nicholas’ ties to the hospital may have brought him to the department of urology, but the doctors, nurses and surgeons made him stay. Nicholas says that “UF Health gives you the best of both worlds” as he reflected on his patient experience in the urology department. He was put first and got to see a unique perspective as a patient.

“It is the well-roundedness of UF Health that makes it so special,” Dr. Campbell said. “Everyone works so well within their department and amongst other specialties to make sure every patient’s comprehensive care comes first.”

After a successful surgery, Dr. Dennis bid them farewell and made one important request. Feeling full of gratitude and hope, Nicholas headed home to recover.

In late October 2021, Nicholas and his wife fulfilled Dr. Dennis’ request, sending him a photo of their beautiful baby girl.

Written by: Morgan Rae Weber

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