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LIJ provides update on special triplets born at hospital

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Three years after Long Island paraplegic Ken Kunken showed off his baby triplets, who his wife was able to conceive thanks to the North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System, great strides have been made in helping couples have babies, the doctor who treated Kunken said last week.

The Kunken triplets — Joey, Jimmy and Timmy — are now 5 years old.

Dr. Bruce Gilbert of the Arthur Smith Institute of Urology said there are a variety of techniques, including freezing sperm even from pre-pubescent boys, and injecting a single sperm into an egg to give couples who have difficulty conceiving a baby.

Smith said men are responsible one-third of the time for conception problems, one-third of the time it is the woman’s problem and the last third is a combination of the two.

Gilbert said fertility problems are common and treatable.

“A lot of people don’t know that it is so prevalent,” he said.

He said there is a 50 percent chance single sperm retrieval — performed in the case of Kunken and his wife, Anna — will be successful.

In a statistical rarity, all three eggs used in the procedure accepted the sperm, resulting in triplets Joey, Jimmy and Timmy born June 24, 2005.

“We’re glad that we can share our experience at Father’s Day,” Kunken said at a news conference at the institute last Thursday, where he was joined by his wife; his father, Leonard; Anna’s father from Poland, Kazik Blazejczyk; and the triplets.

Kunken suffered a debilitating spinal cord injury when he was 20 while playing in a lightweight football game at Cornell University and became a paraplegic.

“The thought of having children at that point seemed virtually impossible,” said Kunken, a deputy bureau chief in the Nassau County district attorney’s office and a motivational speaker.

“Since my injury, I’ve had to face many challenges in my life,” he said. Having triplets “is the most enjoyable challenge by far that I can imagine having or undertaking.”

Anna Kunken said giving birth to triplets is “a life-changing experience.”

“Having children is a very important thing,” she said.

Blazejczyk first met his grandsons two months ago, but had seen pictures of them.

“I’m really surprised how they’re growing, how they behave and in general, how good they are,” he said as his daughter translated.

In the three years since Anna and Ken were featured at a North Shore-LIJ news conference, Anna said the boys have become more inquisitive.

“There are ‘Why?’ questions coming up a lot,” she said. “I directed them to Daddy because he knows all the answers.”

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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