St. Anthony Nurse Defies Odds after Fertility Assistance, Welcomes First Child at Hospital

Cassie Williams, St. Anthony RN, shares her journey to motherhood.

posted on 12/18/2018 in Features

At the age of 18, Cassie Williams was told by her obstetrician in Iowa City that she would never be able to have children. The reason – she was diagnosed with polycystic ovarian disease, a hormonal disorder that causes enlarged ovaries with small cysts on the outer edges.

“I was devastated,” Williams said. “It was always my dream to become a mother and have a family. Hearing this news, I felt that opportunity had been taken away.”

Just 13 years later, Williams, a registered nurse at St. Anthony in the surgery department, met her husband, Patrick, who is also a registered nurse in the intensive care unit at the hospital.

Knowing the chances of having a child were slim based on the knowledge Williams had from her previous diagnosis, the couple married in October 2016, and decided to move forward with the hopes of having a child. They sought fertility assistance from two different obstetricians. Still unsuccessful in becoming pregnant after more than a year and multiple rounds of Clomid, an oral medication used to stimulate ovulation, Williams felt defeated.

“I was ready to give up,” Williams said. “The medication changed my hormones, making me feel different, and we believed having a baby may not be in the cards for us.”

Luckily for the couple, OB/GYN Charles Svensson, M.D., joined the team at St. Anthony, in February 2017.

“Our family physician Dr. [Dominick] Ervelli mentioned to us that Dr. Svensson was coming on board and encouraged us to give him a chance,” Williams said. “Dr. Svensson called me the next day to let me know he would be willing to see me as a patient and asked if he could review my charts to see if there were other fertility treatment options we could try.”

Dr. Svensson, who specializes in fertility treatment, completed a series of tests on Williams, including a medical exam; lab work; and a hysterosalpingogram (HSG) procedure that uses X-ray technology to examine the fallopian tubes and uterus. He also ordered a semen analysis for Patrick, to examine the health and viability of his sperm.

“When a couple experiences difficulty getting pregnant, it can be extremely frustrating. They’ve often been trying to conceive for several months or years, and are often left with the questions – Why is something so easy for some, so difficult for me? What is wrong with me?” Dr. Svensson said. “It is very rewarding to figure out what’s going on, and to help couples achieve their dream of starting a family.”

Test results revealed that Williams was not ovulating. Dr. Svensson prescribed Clomid at four times the strength Williams had previously used. She began taking Clomid in July 2017, and within four cycles, Williams was pregnant.

“I took the pregnancy test the day after Thanksgiving and discovered we were pregnant!” Williams Patrick Williams, Jr.said. “We were so grateful for Dr. Svensson and believe his combination of experience and patience made all the difference.”

The couple continued to seek care from Dr. Svensson throughout the pregnancy and sought additional care at his recommendation.

“Dr. Svensson was amazing. I experienced some complications and pre-term labor issues, including cardiac issues due to the baby pushing up on my lungs,” Williams said. “I was referred to Cardiologist, Dr. [Kyle] Ulveling of Iowa Heart Center at St. Anthony, who prescribed medication, making it possible for me to continue to work through the pregnancy.”

On July 2, Williams began having contractions. She visited Dr. Svensson who performed an ultrasound and discovered the baby was no longer head down. He said they would monitor the baby, giving him time to reposition if possible. If not, a c-section would be scheduled.

The baby did not reposition himself, and on Thursday, July 5 at 9:38 a.m., Patrick Shawn Williams, Jr. entered the world via Caesarean section at 8 pounds, 3 ounces and 19 and a half inches long.

“The experience was overwhelmingly emotional,” said Williams. “The surgery went wonderfully. I experienced minimal pain and was up and walking around the same day.”

Beating the odds, she encourages other couples who may have difficulty becoming pregnant to keep hope.

“I want other people to know that they shouldn’t give up or make their decision on having children based on the advice of one provider,” Williams said. “There are options out there and experienced physicians who can help.”

Dr. Svensson advises many patients each year who are in search of fertility assistance and hopes to alleviate anxiety for those patients.

“When trying to become pregnant, I recommend that the couple tries for nine months before seeking medical assistance,” Dr. Svensson said. “Track your cycle and avoid ovulation kits. Studies have shown that anxiety plays a role in conception, and when you have to perform, your chances of getting pregnant decrease.”

Defying the odds 16 years after first hearing she would be unable to have children, the birth of Patrick Jr. is nothing short of a miracle. And, Williams has hope for additional children in the future, sharing that she and Patrick plan to try for another child down the road.

Pictured: Patrick and Cassie Williams, with children: Aaron (14), Adrianna (12) and Patrick Jr.  Not pictured: Daughter Brittany (20)

Williams Family


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