Meet the Geordie Hospital fertility surgeon who helps couples like Karl and Bethany have a fighting chance of children

On Tuesday’s third episode of Geordie Hospital, male fertility expert Kevin McEleny carries out a delicate operation to help young couple Karl Watson and Bethany Crawford on their quest to have children.

Kevin, a urology surgeon who helped set up the Newcastle Fertility Centre, featured on TV as he explained the op that successfully retrieved sperm from Karl – who has cystic fibrosis – and enabled the couple to move forward and look to take up IVF treatment.

Though the details of the procedure may induce a wince – Kevin slices into the scrotum of patients in search of sperm he can retrieve – the top medic explained how much of a difference it could make for couples like Karl and Bethany.

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He told ChronicleLive about the procedure – called a “microsurgical epididymal sperm aspiration”.

“It’s used in people who might have a ‘blockage’. The sperm can’t quite get out and into the ejaculate. What we can do is cut into the scrotum, and we take off the ‘cap’ at the top of the testicle and see if we can find any.”

After that, if the first attempt is unsuccessful, Kevin and his team may have to take biopsies of a testicle as the search for sperm continues.

With Karl, though the initial scenes of the episode weren’t positive, the procedure was successful – Karl was told they had found a “bucketload” of sperm which has now been frozen as the couple are waiting for IVF.

Talking about the procedure, Kevin added: “Karl has cystic fibrosis, which means there can also be an element of sperm production problems because of the physical health problems someone like him faces.”

More generally, the surgeon explained about the work of the fertility centre.

“Unfortunately of course we don’t always find samples of sperm. I set up the clinic and we take on problems from people across the country. We do operations which help people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to be parents.

“We’re the first place outside of London to be doing this kind of work over here.”

Kevin said fertility, and especially male fertility, was “poorly understood”. He added: “About one in 6 couples have trouble conceiving and in half of those cases the issue is on the male side.

Geordie Hospital couple Karl Watson and Bethany Crawford
Geordie Hospital couple Karl Watson and Bethany Crawford

“This work is wonderful to be able to do but of course quite often it doesn’t work out. But even then patients benefit by going through the process. These are often people who have found it really tough.

“Having children isn’t for everyone but for those who find it hard to conceive it can feel like the whole world is against them. They go to family parties and are surrounded by children, their friends have babies… We know that people find this very very stressful and it’s often something they don’t like to talk about.

“Especially with men, who often don’t like their partner to every mention it when it’s a male problem because it hits their idea of being a man.

“It’s wonderful that we can help people to be parents like everyone else they see.”

Geordie Hospital now airs on Channel 4 on Tuesdays from 8pm. The whole series is available on All4.

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