Scott Burkholder lay on his couch, huddled under a blanket, stunned and silent. It was 2018, just a few weeks before Christmas. He had a lump in his throat. Water in his eyes. And a urologist seated by his feet, delivering the news: There was no sperm in his testicles. What many men consider their life’s greatest project — having and raising children — appeared out of reach.
The news landed on Burkholder like a punch to the face. Initially, he was shocked it had happened, then confused as to why, and then, finally, forced to process the accompanying pain. He was happily married and working in Baltimore as a talent agent for emerging artists. He had furnished for himself a rewarding life. And now, this.
“When I heard I needed to go see a specialist, I dragged my feet. I was probably thinking: There’s just nothing wrong with me. Why would I go do that?”
“Here I am, otherwise healthy, but, you know, I’m infertile,” recalls Burkholder, who turned 41 this year.
He and his wife, Jenn, were in their early thirties when they decided to have a child. Eventually, a pattern familiar to fertility doctors unfolded. After a year of trying with no results, Jenn saw her gynecologist in 2014, who referred her to a specialist — and suggested that Burkholder get screened as well.
“When I heard I needed to go see a specialist, I dragged my feet,” he says. “I was probably thinking: There’s just nothing wrong with me. Why would I go do that?”
After Jenn’s doctor didn’t identify any problems, trips to and from urologists dominated Burkholder’s life for several years, as three different semen analyses showed no sperm. In 2018, a surgeon sliced open his scrotum in an attempt to harvest sperm from his testicles. Dr. Amin Herati, his urologist, visited him at his home that night with the results: Burkholder was azoospermic.
“It’s the worst feeling in the world on the doctors that have to deliver that news,” says…