The widow of late Olympian snowboarder Alex 'Chumpy' Pullin has opened up about the 'incredible' process that enabled her to give birth to the couple's miracle daughter, Minnie, 16 months after her husband died in a tragic spearfishing accident on the Gold Coast.
In an emotional interview on the Life Uncut podcast, Ellidy Pullin explained that amid her absolute shock and unimaginable grief, thanks to two of her quick-thinking friends, they were able to retrieve some of Chumpy's sperm less than 24 hours after he passed away in July 2020.
"I don't remember a great deal about that day," Ellidy told hosts Laura Byrne and Brittany Hockley through tears. "It's a blur. But I do remember sitting out on the back deck with my head in my knees and my brother saying to me, 'I think there is this way we might be able to get Chumpy's sperm'. I didn't even let him finish the sentence. I just said 'Go, do whatever you need to do. Make it happen."
The couple, who had been together for over nine years and were 'soulmates'' from the moment they met, had been trying to have a baby for over a year when the unthinkable happened.
"On July 8 in 2020, Chumpy went out to go spearfishing and he never came back," Ellidy recalls. "We had friends coming to stay and he was going to catch some fish and make fish tacos for dinner. "
"He had a shallow water blackout while he was fishing and passed out under the water. He had a weight belt on and so he sank to the bottom of the ocean. It's been one-and-a-half years and I am still in shock. I still can't believe he has gone."
During the podcast, 29-year-old Ellidy opened up a lot about her own experience with grief alongside her amazing journey to have miracle baby Minnie as a young widow.
"I have a low egg count so we were probably always going to have to do IVF.. we just hadn't got there yet," Ellidy explained. "We had bought our dream house on the gold coast in 2017, had our dog Rummi and were desperate to start a family. He was going to finish up snowboarding. He loved being home and pottering around the house. We had plans but everything got flipped on its head."
It was fortunate that two of Ellidy's friends had "randomly" heard about postmortem sperm retrieval. Even under the direst of circumstances, they leapt into action, alongside Ellidy's and Chumpy's families, to ensure all the necessary legal documents were signed within hours.
While medical literature recommends that extraction take place no later than 24 hours after death, legally it is slightly different in every state. In Queensland, sperm must be extracted within 36 hours of death.
"Sperm can only stay alive for a number of days after death, depending on the type of accident," Ellidy said. "We were so lucky that Chumpy's sperm was alive and healthy when the doctor retrieved it."
Ellidy decided to start the process of IVF with Chumpy's sperm about six months after he passed away.
"Obviously I will be grieving forever. It's not like I had accepted his death and that's how I was able to proceed. One day I just thought 'What am I waiting for? I've got the sperm. I want to have Chumpy's baby and carry on our dream. I'm young, im healthy and I want to bring a piece of him back'."
"My grief is something I will deal with forever, but I will try and live a full life all the while missing him."
READ MORE: Grieving toddler packs bag to visit 'dad in heaven'
Ellidy says she is "incredibly grateful" that the IVF process worked the second time, and that she conceived using a particular type of IVF known as ICSI - where a single sperm is injected straight into the egg.
"I feel so grateful it worked the second round as financially I just couldn't afford to do multiple rounds," she revealed. "And I know so many people who go through rounds and rounds without luck."
According to new mum Ellie, giving birth to Minnie Alex Pullin three months ago with her mum by her side was a moment of "pure happiness" alongside the sadness of Chumpy not being there.
"It was two massive emotions at once. When they pulled her out I saw his eyes, I was euphoric. It was simultaneously the best and saddest moment."
"It's said that grief is love that has nowhere to go," she admits. "Having Minnie gives me something to love and cherish and protect. She's not Chumpy, but I've got someone to put my love and energy into. She's the best thing in the world.. I don't know what I'd do without her."
And it's also given Chumpy's family a reason to smile.
"I am very close to Chumpy's family, even if I didn't have Minnie we would remain close forever. We talk all the time. They have lost their son and there is such sadness in their eyes, but Minnie has given us all such happiness and is a living piece of memory."
"I want to forever be talking about him. I never want Chumpy to be gone. His family feels the same," she adds.
Meanwhile, Ellidy also shared some more heartbreaking news this week that her father had passed away following a lengthy battle with brain cancer.
Rest in Paradise Dadda,' she posted on her Instagram page.
'You lit up our entire lives! We'd always turn to you for a laugh if ever we were down.
'As kids you'd cheer us up by handing us your phonebook and letting us prank call everyone in it.
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