"I MERELY TOOK THE ENERGY IT TAKES TO POUT AND WROTE SOME BLUES." - DUKE ELLINGTON
One of the most memorable people I've interviewed in my travels is Ken Kunken, Deputy Bureau Chief of the Nassau County District Attorney's office. Over 30 years ago, Kunken suffered a spinal cord injury at age 20 while playing football at Cornell University, paralyzing him from the neck down. Despite his life-altering injury, Kunken's gifted intellect and perseverance afforded him an impressive string of academic and professional achievements. Ken would be the first to say these pale in comparison to becoming a Dad. "Being a father is my proudest accomplishment", says Kunken. When Kunken and his wife, Anna, decided to have a family, they sought help from The Miami Project- an organization specializing in fertility issues for paralyzed males.
They were introduced to Dr. Bruce Gilbert, a specialist, at the Smith Institute for Urology in New Hyde Park, Long Island. Through the miracle of modern medicine, Ken underwent procedures in sperm harvesting and Anna for in-vitro fertilization. Four attempts later, Anna gave birth to triplets - Joey, Jimmy and Timothy. Now age 5, each boy has a distinct personality, "Joseph is the oldest by one minute;
he is the leader and very talkative. James is the artistic one -mischievous- but goes out of his way to help. Timothy is the quiet one, and likes to sit on my lap," Kunken confided. This Father's day is a special one for the Kunken family. Ken, along with his father Leonard Kunken, 88, and his father-in-law Kazik
Blazejcyk, 67, celebrated early this week by presenting as a family on a fatherhood session at the Smith Institute. Dr. Gilbert spoke about medical advances in fertility options. Having been a devoted uncle for years before his marriage, Ken shared a poignant memory on his transition to fatherhood, "When I went to the neo-natal unit to spend time with my boys, I started to introduce mysel; 'Hi Joey, it's Uncle Ken..' I caught myself (and added) … 'It's Daddy'. It was great to say that word for the first time," Kunken said.
Parenting has also profoundly impacted Kunken's experience of his disability. Before fatherhood, Kunken explains his health concerns - attendant care or transportation- took up his focus. "I still have hard days, but their smiling faces help me put it aside. Making sure these boys are the best people they can be, is a challenge I enjoy every day."
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