‘This is truly a miracle:’ Jennifer Bingham remembers the Mother’s Day that almost wasn’t
Every Mother’s Day, Jennifer Bingham is reminded of UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital, whose work she regards as nothing short of a miracle — and the reason she is able to celebrate.
As newlyweds in the early 1970s, she and her husband, Ralph, longed to start a family. But ever since adolescence, Jennifer experienced pain and irregular periods. Her mother, who had not endured the same problems, gave her aspirin and a hot water bottle to press on her abdomen.
“Even though my mother was a compassionate person, she couldn’t understand it,” recalls Jennifer.
As she got older, the pain became more intense and the periods further apart. But in those days, women typically didn’t visit a gynecologist until they were married. When she was finally able to go, Jennifer could not find a doctor who took her symptoms seriously.
“It was frightening, and really sort of like being in a bad nightmare. I was in such pain,” she says. “One of the doctors asked me: was I happily married? He thought it was in my head. He didn’t believe I was having these symptoms … it was a very unkind life experience.”
Unable to conceive and struggling with worsening pain, she began losing weight from her already petite frame and could not sleep. She went to an internist who suggested the problem might be in her ovaries or her bladder. A urologist conducted tests that showed her bladder was healthy, so the internist next sent her to a general surgeon, who scheduled her for exploratory surgery.
The day before her procedure was scheduled, Jennifer checked into a Pittsburgh hospital. A young resident who was part of her team came in to talk to her after reviewing her chart.
“Mrs. Bingham, I could lose my job if you ever tell anyone what I’m about to say to you,” she recalls him saying. He urged her to leave and seek care at Magee, offering to get her an appointment with a doctor he knew and trusted.
Jennifer packed up her overnight bag, got dressed, and notified the nurses’ station that she was leaving. Later that week, she would meet Dr. Richard Sorce — a moment that changed her life forever.
Dr. Sorce, an infertility expert, diagnosed her with polycystic ovaries and endometriosis. He removed the cysts and as much of the endometriosis as he could, then spliced Jennifer’s ovaries in a procedure he hoped would help her conceive. He told her she had about a year-long window to try.
Jennifer’s first pregnancy ended in a miscarriage, but a few months later, she did conceive; and on Sept. 2, 1975, her only child, a son named Christopher, was born.
What she will never forget was the emotion in Dr. Sorce’s voice when he held Christopher. When Jennifer cried, so did her doctor and the nurses who cared for her.
“You may not realize this now,” Dr. Sorce told her, “but this is truly a miracle.”
Though the Bingham family relocated to the Akron/Canton area of Ohio, Jennifer continued to travel to Pittsburgh for the next decade to remain under Dr. Sorce’s care. When Christopher was about 12, she and Ralph brought him to the hospital and introduced him to the man who changed their lives, and the place where it happened.
“It was very emotional for me,” says Jennifer. “He was just such a wonderful, caring man, and a good doctor.”
Years later, in her 50s, Jennifer was diagnosed with lupus anticoagulants, an autoimmune disorder that causes blood clots and can lead to infertility and pregnancy complications, including miscarriage. One of the hematologists who treated her, surprised that she had been able to have a child, remarked: “you must have had a doctor who really knew what to do for you.” He added that he had never had a patient with lupus anticoagulants who had been able to conceive.
Today, Jennifer and Ralph live in Naples, Florida, but spend summers in suburban Columbus, Ohio, to spend time with Christopher, his wife, Danielle, and their daughter, Elia.
“Magee-Womens Hospital diagnosed and treated me so that I could be pain free and bear a child,” Jennifer says. “I have been able to celebrate Mother’s Day for 45 years because of Magee-Womens Hospital, and I thank you every year.”
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