Paraplegic man overcomes impossible odds, finds way to have family
WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - It's impossible. I can't do it. These are things we've all been guilty of saying, but Erik Fugunt has defied all odds—more than once.
Erik became paralyzed after a motorcycle accident in April, 2010 along River Road. Doctors didn't think he would make it.
"The cards were stacked against him and the statistics don't lie," Dr. Mindy Merritt said.
But Erik was a fighter.
"You can get through a lot," he said. "You just don't know it."
At the time of the accident, Erik had only been dating Jennifer for four months, but she was determined to have a future with him.
"They told me that he was paralyzed below the waist and so I knew that he was going to be a paraplegic," Jennifer said. "I questioned whether we could have children at the hospital while he was in ICU."
"Yeah, that was definitely on her list," Erik added.
Jennifer made it clear she wanted biological children with Erik or they weren't going to be together.
"I'm pretty up front about that," Jennifer explained.
But the two soon learned conceiving when paralyzed below the waist was an enormous task.
"Things function but without the feeling," Erik said. "You don't have ejaculation so to say."
They were desperate. For two long years, they tried seemingly everything, including In Vitro Fertilization, with a price tag of $12,000.
Once again, the odds were stacked against them.
"When I go back to those times, it just reminds me of how hard it was and maybe this won't happen for us," Jennifer said.
But then, a beacon of light—The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis invited Erik to participate in a clinical trial.
"We did what they are experimenting on and have been doing clinical trials for a long time which is electroejaculation," Jennifer explained.
It's a method borrowed from animal husbandry—or breeding farm animals.
"It's essentially shocking," Erik said. "It uses electricity to shock your prostate.
If it sounds like a mad science experiment, that's because it was.
"It's going to be hard to wrap your head around that because for us it is normal," Erik said.
"We talk about it like it's science, like it's a science project," Jennifer added.
The Miami Project worked. Erik produced a sample, but Jennifer wasn't ovulating.
"There was no way I was going to take no for an answer," Erik said. So Erik bought his own machine. Erik is the first documented paralyzed man to use animal husbandry techniques at home, with no medical assistance.
After two heartbreaking miscarriages, Jennifer went into labor on Christmas Day in 2012. That's when Mila Mei Fugunt was born.
"It finally became everything we fought for," Erik said.
Mila wasn't an only child for long.Two years later her brother, Wolfgang Tiberius Fugunt came into the world.
"It has been kind of a fairy tale," Erik said. "In a weird way. Sometimes they're just a story of perseverance really."
For more information about Erik's story, check out this Facebook page.
Erik's mother, Jacqueline Dunkle, helped write a book about Erik and Jennifer's story called, Paralyzed Without Fear: A Family of Their Own.
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