Potential parents have spoke of their heartbreak at learning the embryos and eggs they had stored at an Ohio fertility center may have been destroyed.

As many as 2,000 frozen embryos and eggs may no longer be viable for future pregnancies after a storage tank malfunctioned last weekend at University Hospitals Fertility Center in Cleveland, reports Daily Mail.

"My heart just sank and I felt physically ill," Amber Ash said to CBS News.

"I felt just sick to my stomach. The world of infertility is just very isolating world, it's very lonely it's complete loss of control.

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"For some this is their last hope, I mean they physically, financially, mentally can't put themselves through that again," Amber said.

"I've gone from anger, I've gone through just feeling a sense of loss, grief, I think right now I'm just angry to be honest."

The eggs and embryos were in a long-term storage tank when a malfunction resulted in temperature gradually getting warmer, thawing the frozen cells and ruining the chances they will be any use in the future.

The Ash's had gone through the IVF process but were advised not to carry another pregnancy so were hoping to use one of their embryos through a surrogate.

"I'm not sure what to do next," said Amber's husband, Elliott.

"I know that when I had cancer we saved my sperm and we thought well maybe we'll go back for another retrieval and do another embryo implantation."

The couple had a child naturally but were told if they wanted a second they would need IVF. Photo / Facebook
The couple had a child naturally but were told if they wanted a second they would need IVF. Photo / Facebook

The hospital says they sent letters to inform patients who were affected, but Amber says she first heard about what happened from a family member who saw it on the news.

Katelynn Gurbach also lost her eggs and with them any chances of being a mother.

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"The unthinkable, the unimaginable, the unbelievable has happened. My worst fears and deepest nightmares made a reality," she wrote in a moving post on Facebook.

When she was 23, Katelynn was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and underwent fertility treatment at University Hospitals to harvest eggs for her future.

In total there were 10 eggs and four embryos but she has now been told that any chances of having a child are now lost.

"I always though that they would be there waiting for me. I used to tell them that we were coming for them. That was my whole life. I wanted nothing more than to be a mom," she told WKYC.

University Hospitals says it doesn't yet know the total number of people affected but have transferred the eggs to a working storage facility and begun an investigation.

A video statement was released on their Facebook page, saying "we are so very sorry this happened and we want to do all that we can to support our patients during this very difficult time".

The unexplained rise in temperatures in a liquid nitrogen tank occurred sometime late last Saturday or Sunday morning

One round of in-vitro fertilization can cost patients without medical insurance about $12,000 (NZD $16,476).

The couple are devastated and are feeling a mixture of anger, loss and bewilderment. Photo / Facebook
The couple are devastated and are feeling a mixture of anger, loss and bewilderment. Photo / Facebook

The hospital hasn't said whether it would compensate about 700 affected patients, who have been being notified through letters and telephone calls.

Some of the samples date to the 1980s, said Dr. James Liu, head of the hospital's obstetrics and gynecology department.

Patti DePompei, president of University Hospitals Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital and MacDonald Women's Hospital, called the situation "absolutely devastating".

"At this point, we do not know the viability of all the stored eggs and embryos, although we do know some have been impacted," DePompei said in a video statement posted on Facebook.

"We don't know the reasons why yet, but we do know that the temperature that was measured at a portion of the tank was higher than our acceptable limits."

DePompei explained that while the facility has an alarm system, she wouldn't go into further detail until an outside investigation was conducted.

"Obviously the situation that occurred here is devastating for the families involved, and it's devastating for our physicians and our nurses and our staff as well," added DePompei.

An equipment failure caused the temperature to rise, ultimately causing close to 2,100 eggs and embryos to potentially lose viability. Photo / Getty Images
An equipment failure caused the temperature to rise, ultimately causing close to 2,100 eggs and embryos to potentially lose viability. Photo / Getty Images

Samples would need to be completely thawed to determine whether they've been damaged. Specimens unfrozen for scheduled procedures this week were not viable.

Employees were alerted to the problem by an alarm when they arrived for work last Sunday morning. No one was working at the facility overnight Saturday.

All of the samples have been moved to another storage tank that's being monitored by staff round the clock.

The hospital said it's conferring with experts about why the storage tank malfunctioned.

Egg freezing has grown in popularity, with more than 6,2000 women going through the procedure in 2015, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.

Women have to fork up approximately $12,000 (NZD $16,476) to $14,000 (NZD $19,222) to undergo the procedure.

A spokesperson for ASRM said that there had not been a similar malfunction on on record at any other facility.

"Our hearts go out to the patients who have suffered this loss," ASRM's chief policy officer, Sean Tipton said.

"We will work with our member clinics to help them take any steps needed to ensure such an event never happens again."