OPINION: A story to warm the cockles

Peter Stanford, a writer and broadcaster. He chaired the trustees of the national disability charity Aspire and now sits on various trustee boards

It's that time of year when happy endings make you smile more than perhaps you should. After all the terrible reviews for Love, Actually, I had to be dragged to the cinema. Yes, it's sentimental schlock; yes, Hugh Grant is about as believable as a Prime Minister as Iain Duncan Smith; and, yes, Martine McCutcheon needs a haircut, but it was great. I came out beaming at all the good things in life.

My smile was only just fading when I heard about Lewis Kingston. He is part of a research programme that a charity I'm involved with has been funding to help men with spinal cord injuries father children. For reasons that baffle doctors, spinal injuries have disastrous consequences on sperm counts and so have up until now precluded parenthood for all but those prepared to pay large sums for complex, invasive and often unsuccessful IVF.

When the proposal to fund the research came before the charity's trustee board, I was in two minds. Since many able-bodied people can get IVF funded on the NHS as a right, part of me wanted to kick up a stink that disabled would-be parents are being discriminated against, and if we gave up the money it would let the NHS off the hook. But on the other hand I could see that the study wasn't just about putting spinally-injured men through an IVF programme. It was aiming to improve knowledge of the relationship between disability and fertility, thereby, developing simpler, cheaper means for disabled men to have a chance of being dads.

So we coughed up, and, eight weeks ago, Lewis became a dad to Jessica.

He is so over the moon he is almost speechless. It brought a lump to my throat. Better still, the ongoing research is producing new ways to tackle the fertility issue - ways that we can now press the NHS to fund. It is one of those happy occasions when putting up a small sum of money as a charity can potentially stimulate public funding rather than remove the need for it. It has kept me smiling for a week now, and we haven't even put the Christmas tree up yet.

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