September 11, 2001 was a day that changed not only the country, but the directions of millions of individual lives. That includes at least one set of embryo adoption parents: Dr. Terrence Daniels and Christina Daniels, Esquire. Terrence grew up a military brat. Despite having just started a promising career as an airline pilot, he felt a call, after watching the horror of 9-11 unfold, to defend his country. Terrence enlisted in the Army as a reservist.
A little over two years later, he married the love of his life, Christina. They had visions of forming a loving family that would include adding a few children to the mix. But in 2006, their vision encountered significant challenges. Christina’s father sustained a traumatic brain injury that required her to stay in her hometown and become his caretaker. At the same time, Terrence switched from reserve to active duty service. The result: a long distance marriage over the next six years. “While most couples fall apart in long distance relationships, our marriage grew closer with each phone call, text message and email,” Christina recalls.
Resolve Severely Tested
It’s a good thing their relationship was strong, because both Terrence and Christina would have their resolve tested. They didn’t yet have any of the children they’d hoped for. Their doctor told them that was simply because they were never together when they needed to be. So they turned to fertility doctors to improve their chances of conceiving, but five years and close to a dozen treatments proved fruitless.
Then came the most devastating blow. As Terrence bravely served his final deployment in Iraq –he was working a reconnaissance mission- he found himself on top of a building that imploded. As the building collapsed in on itself, Terrence experienced a terrifying three-story free fall. He survived that plunge into a black hole of debris and destruction, but it left him with severe spinal injuries.
Terrence spent many agonizing months relearning to walk. With grit and determination, he finally achieved that massive milestone. But one consequence of his injuries was lasting: His and Christina’s ability to have children on their own was eliminated. “When we came to the realization that we could never have a child, it was one of the hardest days of our lives,” Terrence and Christina remember. “Our dreams were shattered.”
Opening Wounded Hearts
They allowed some time for their new reality to sink in, and then opened their wounded hearts to both domestic and foster adoption. Yet they never received the call that brought them a child through either route. “Having not given up on creating a family, we began looking online for options to expand our family and embryo adoption popped up,” Christina says. “The idea was exciting. We would get to experience pregnancy. We would hear the baby’s heart beat inside me and feel him or her kick. And we could guarantee the baby the best start at life by controlling the prenatal environment.”
With so many advantages, Terrence and Christina felt embryo adoption had breathed new life into their parenthood aspirations. They applied to adopt embryos through the National Embryo Donation Center. “From the minute we walked in the door, we felt a sense of warmth,” Terrence and Christina recall. “[President and Medical Director] Dr. Jeffrey Keenan and the staff truly cared about the embryos and their patients.”
Sunshine At Last
It took two tries, but the NEDC was the avenue that finally yielded success for Terrence and Christina. Their son Grayson was born in November 2017. “He is everything we prayed for and more,” Christina affirms. “Everything about him is big (above the 99th percentile in height), but the biggest thing is his heart. He just glows with happiness. Our nickname for him is Sunshine because he’s brightened up our lives and the lives of our extended family and friends. Grayson has brought so much happiness into our lives that we had been missing. He is our light.”
Terrence and Christina feel it was the hand of God that led them to the NEDC, where each member of the team seemed to have just the right touch. “[Nurse] Lynda McCollum not only painstakingly dealt with our questions and issues, but cried with us when our cycle failed and rejoiced with us when we became pregnant,” they remember. “[Patient coordinator] Kathi Young patiently assisted us in finding our perfect match. [Embryologist] Carol Sommerfelt meticulously babysat our precious son until the time of transfer. Dr. Keenan recognized a medical problem that interfered with our ability to get pregnant, which none of the previous fertility doctors found. Based on that, he altered our protocol to allow us to achieve a pregnancy.”
That pregnancy, of course, led to the precious blessing of Grayson. We at the NEDC thank and salute Terrence, along with all who’ve protected our freedom. It’s our deep honor to help military and public safety families like Terrence and Christina. Their lives epitomize the highest ideals for America and humanity: Service. Sacrifice. Steadfastness. And yes, finally, Sunshine.
EDITOR’S NOTE: A few months after the posting of this story, Terrence was flying and was faced with an emergency in the air. Instead of potentially injuring anyone on the ground, he took heroic measures that cost him his life. He passed away as he lived: a true hero.