A soldier who feared he’d never be a dad after a roadside bomb blew off his testicles is thrilled after skilled surgeons managed to save his sperm in an incredible op – and is now expecting a baby with his fiance.
War-hero Shaun Stocker, 24, from Gateshead, Tyne and Wear, thought he’d never father a child after suffering horrific injuries during an Afghanistan tour in 2010.
The explosion claimed both of his legs and testicles, as well as his eyesight and severely damaging his arms and hands.
But amazingly, during surgery to save Shaun’s life doctors were able to retrieve and freeze his sperm so that one day he could have children.
Now his fiancé, Persia Haghighi, 23, who he befriended after the incident and started dating in 2013, is pregnant after their first IVF attempt, their son is due to be born on Christmas day.
Shaun said: “When I was first injured one of the hardest things to deal with was the thought that I’d never be able to have kids of my own.
“When I woke up I was blind, both of my legs had to be amputated above the knee as well as severely damaged shoulder, arms, hands and eardrums.
“When I was told I’d lost my testicles too it was difficult thinking that I may never have a family.
“Meet Persia really changed my life, she’s really helped me to be happy with who I am and now that we’ll be having a son it’s the perfect end to a tough few years.
“But doctors were able to extract and freeze my sperm so that one day I could be the biological father of my own children.
“Just knowing that there was a chance I’d be able to have children of my own one day was the one thing that helped me to come to terms with my injuries.
“When my son’s born I’ll be able to close the recovery chapter of my life and start focusing on raising my own family.”
Six days away from the end of his tour with the British Army in Afghanistan in 2010, Shaun and his patrol were told they had to go on one last mission.
During the patrol Shaun went ahead to investigate a dried-up stash of poppies when he discovered an unexploded grenade.
He was told to take it back to the army base for forensic examining when he trod on an improvised explosive device.
Shaun said: “After soon as I stepped on the IED it went off I couldn’t see or hear anything, all I could feel was the pain from my dislocated shoulder.
“The pain was so horrific, I kept fading in and out of consciousness and thought I was going to die.
“One of the last things I was remember was someone say that I was a double amputee.
“I was in a medically induced coma for eight weeks before I woke up and realised the extent of the damages I’d suffered.”
Shaun was flown from Afghanistan to Selly Oak hospital in Birmingham where he was told he had lost both of his legs and may never see again.
The former soldier had a catalogue of wounds included losing both of his legs and testicles, fingers, suffering a hole in his arm, dislocating his shoulder and perforating eardrums during the blast.
He has had more than 50 operations including pioneering surgery in Australia to fit prosthetic legs to the remaining bones in his upper legs in 2012
As well as five operations that recovered 30 per cent of the vision in his right eye.
Shaun said: “Instead of coming home from Afghanistan filled with pride I was blind and without legs with so many challenges ahead of me.
“Before I had my prosthetics fitted I had to learn to use my wheelchair with an impaired shoulder and only one full hand.
“When doctors brought back 30 per cent of my eyesight things were made easier as I could make out the shape of a door and objects around me.
“After that my prosthetics were a challenge to get used to as I still can’t see so had to judge the steepness of a hill or a slope by the terrain beneath my feet.
“I’ve also had to become very good at making a mental map of where I’m walking but am very good at remembering directions too.”
In 2010 the Queen awarded Shaun with an Afghanistan Campaign medal during a service for his efforts with the 1st Battalion of the Royal Welsh Regiment.
Three years later he started dating partner, Persia, who had been friends until his accident.
The couple, who are now engaged, started IVF treatment in March this year to use Shaun’s frozen sperm and are now expecting their son to be born on Christmas day.
Persia, who works in retail, said: “It was really important when Shaun found out about his injuries that he would have a chance at having children of his own through IVF.
“If the operation to save Shaun’s sperm wasn’t carried out I know it would have affected him in a very bad way.
“He’s going to be an amazing dad and deserves to tell his kids about his experiences and everything he’s learned we’re so thankful that we had this chance to have children.”
As a thanks to scientist who removed and froze Shaun’s sperm after the incident the couple have decided to give their son the middle name Jackson – showing appreciation to Dr. Jackson Kirkman-Brown’s work.
Dr Kirkman-Brown said: “The team recognised that sperm salvage following blast injury required a novel approach to support those with serious genital injuries and our care pathways were developed accordingly.
“This has changed the paradigm of management of genital injuries, with our UK systems now being regarded as an exemplar worldwide.
“Personally the most rewarding aspect has been seeing the difference that our work has made to individuals and their families.”
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To celebrate the end of his recovery and soon to be fatherhood Shaun is fundraising with a 100km charity walk for Blind Veterans UK – you can donate at www.justgiving.com/shaunstocker or text BVuk50 followed by the amount to 70070.