A Stranger Donated Her Uterus to a Woman Who Couldn’t Get Pregnant — Now They Are ‘Soul Sisters’

Cheryl Urban and Chelsea Jovanovich

Cheryl Urban Cheryl Urban and Chelsea Jovanovich

Chelsea Jovanovich invited a special guest to her pregnancy shoot in June 2021.

In addition to Jovanovich, her husband Jake and their future baby, there was also a woman who the couple had never met personally. Her name was Cheryl Urban and she had donated her uterus to Jovanovich 18 months earlier.

For a long time the identity of the two women was unknown. But they were allowed to bandage a year after the transplant. After emailing and talking on the phone, they immediately felt connected. Jovanovich is a nurse and Urban, 42, was once a nurse. They call themselves “sisters of the soul”.

“She’s my angel on earth. Without her, I wouldn’t have my family,” says Jovanovich, a 33-year-old nurse from Billings, Montana. “I am so very grateful.”

Jovanovich learned early in life that she would face fertility struggles. At 15, she still hadn’t gotten her period, and the doctors found that her uterus was not yet fully developed. She was diagnosed with Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser (MRKH) syndrome.

After their marriage in 2018, Jovanovich received an offer from her best friend to become a surrogate mother.

“I definitely always knew that I wanted to be a mother,” says Jovanovich. “That’s all I ever really wanted.”

Jovanovich and her husband created three embryos. In August 2019, they were at their attorney’s office signing surrogacy papers – the embryo transfer was scheduled for three days later – when Jovanovich received a call saying there was fluid in her friend’s uterus. The implantation had to be postponed.

“That was devastating,” says Jovanovich. “I was ready to throw in the towel.”

Chelsea Jovanovich

Chelsea Jovanovich

Penn medicine

But then she remembered reading a magazine article about a uterine transplant. She went online and applied for PennMedicine’s Uterus Transplantation for Uterine Factor Infertility (UNTIL) study. In November, Jovanovich flew to Philadelphia to see if she qualified.

The story goes on

On Christmas Eve, she received a call that not only was she accepted into the program – but that there was a living donor who was a match for her. The operation was scheduled for February.

She and Jake, a 39-year-old CPA, rented the house they’d just built in Billings and hiked 2,000 miles across the country in the middle of her husband’s busy tax season.

RELATED: Woman Who Was Born Via a Uterine Transplant Says “It’s been a Insane Journey to Parenthood”

The transplant was carried out on February 21, 2020. Urban’s donor operation took about 14 hours, while the transplant portion of the operation took about 9 hours, according to Dr. Nawar Latif, surgical oncologist and surgical director of the Living Donor Uterus Transplant Program in Penn.

“We’re one step closer to offering women who can’t get pregnant because they don’t have a uterus another choice,” he says. “It is a great achievement that we as a team can give women another choice.”

Urban, who lives in Langhorne, Pennsylvania and works in the financial industry, knew she wanted to change someone’s life.

Married to an 11-year-old daughter and a 10-year-old son, Urban found out about Penn’s uterine transplant program on the news in June 2019. When she heard that living donors were needed, she felt compelled to join. apply the program the next day.

two women who became friends after one of the other donated her uterus

two women who became friends after one of the other donated her uterus

Penn medicine

Jovanovich says she thought Urban from the start.

“Who in their right mind wants to undergo 14-hour surgery for a stranger?” She says. “I knew she had to be someone special.”

Six months after the transplant, in August, Jovanovich’s first embryo transfer did not take place. But in October the second embryo transfer was successful, and Jovanovich became pregnant.

“My pregnancy was the most magical,” says Jovanovich. “It was amazing. I never thought that I would ever have a baby. They say you go to the end of the world for your children. But I went to the end of the world to get my child. “

RELATED: Uterine Transplant Recipient Recalls Their Journey: “I Was the Happiest Pregnant Person”

A caesarean section was scheduled for preeclampsia when Jovanovich was 33.5 weeks pregnant. Telden Walker Jovanovich was born on May 18, 2021 weighing 4 lbs. 2 oz born.

This is the first baby born from a live uterine donor as part of Penn’s uterine transplant program. (The first baby in the US was born in 2017 after a living donor uterine transplant at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas).

SIMILAR VIDEO: Doctors who gave birth to first US baby after a uterine transplant say it was “beautiful”

On June 30th, Urban was allowed to hold the baby she gave birth.

“I can’t believe it worked,” says Urban. “He’s perfect. A real, real miracle.”

She says she didn’t want to stop holding him.

“She cried. I cried. We all cried,” says Jovanovich. “She risked her life to give me this lovely gift – we made it together. I’m just so grateful. “

Chelsea Jovanovich's baby

Chelsea Jovanovich’s baby

Chelsea Jovanovich

On July 20, the Jovanovich family traveled to Montana for the first time since the pre-pandemic transplant – but it’s only a brief visit. The family plans to return to Philadelphia in three weeks. The couple bought a home in Lumberton, NJ. Doctors determined that Jovanovich could keep the uterus and she could try getting pregnant again around Thanksgiving.

She’s hoping for a girl.

“I felt like I was a good mom, but everything she’s done to be where she is is like a super mom,” says Urban. “She is a warrior.”

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