Egg donation #6: That’s a wrap

And so. After almost two years, around 80 injections, seven blood tests, 18 internal ultrasounds, six egg retrievals, one missing ovary and a whole lot of awesome, my egg donation journey has officially come to an end.

* I will be back in a few days to post a proper “conclusion” to my journey, but for now, I just wanted to share “the happenings”. You can read all my other egg donation posts here.

I was scheduled to check in to the Vincent Pallotti fertility unit at 6.45am on Sunday morning (6.45am on a Sunday! It’s completely uncivilised!) and my mom was supposed to drive me there and back. She was, however, mildly nervous about the whole thing – so much so that she pretty much needed instructions on how to get out of the immediate surrounds of my flat (love you, mom) – and so the Control Freak in me reared her head and drove us from the petrol station to the hospital, pumping Macklemore at 6.30 in the morning. It was real.

The Sister checked me in, weighed me, blood pressure-d me (I hate the blood pressure cuff, which then ups my blood pressure!) and decorated me. I told her that I secretly love hospital bands, and she told me they were “really expensive pieces of jewellery” which – at 6.50am – I totally believed. Shuddup, it was early. Plus, isn’t everything in a hospital really expensive? I rest my case. (Excuse the red mark left from my hairband.)

IMG_20130820_112615

Anyway, then the anaesthetist came round to do his thing – and he was so cool, I wish I could remember his name. He joked and told me that I was “tiny” and asked how much I weighed, then joked about being more used to dosing people twice my size. Then the doctor on call arrived, and I met him briefly, before being taken to the bathroom before going under. But not before taking a Totally Acceptable Selfie and Instagramming it. Hipster egg donations FTW.

IMG_20130818_065554

There, I somehow managed to lose the Sister, but found my way to the little operating theatre, and kinda hovered in the doorway while everybody did their thing. Nobody seemed to notice me, so I cracked a joke about “Is this where the party’s happening?” and the anaesthetist settled me on the little operating table. The Sister arrived – she’d gone to look for the After Hours Cellphone – and laughed at how I must have “just slipped past her”. Yeah, I’m a sneaky chicken like that.

The atmosphere in the theatre before this donation was wonderful – I’m so glad I had such a positive experience for my last one. There was a lot of laughter, a lot of joking and teasing. After the anaesthetist asked if I had been “decorated” yet, I cracked a joke about being “Bagged and tagged and ready to go” – and then, after inserting the canula to feed through the anaesthetic – he joked about “Sometimes being lazy on a Sunday morning” and not bringing me back – to which I replied “Well, you guys don’t need me anymore, right? I’ll be off then”. The anaesthetist told me a few times that I was “incredible”, so there was that.

And then there was that slight cold feeling in my arm, and I remember watching the surgical lights blur a little, and then waking up in the recovery room to a pot of tea and some toasted cheese and tomato sandwiches.

The Sister popped past and told me that they had managed to get 14 eggs – she called me a “good little chicken”! – and I was allowed to go home again by 9am. And now again, the waiting game – hopefully in about 3 weeks or so we’ll find out if this recipient gets pregnant, so send all the love and light you possess in her general direction!

And then a bit later on Sunday night, some amazing news. I discovered that one of my recipients gave birth to a baby girl… On my late father’s birthday.

My heart swelled to three times its usual size, and I may have shed a small tear. I’m surprised at how amazingly, amazingly special it feels.

I couldn’t have asked for a more amazing way to have my egg donation journey come to an end.

Advertisements

Egg donation #6: It’s go time

So tomorrow morning I have to report to the hospital bright and early at 6.45am. Yep, on a Sunday. The theory is that I’ll be admitted to theatre by 7am, have the retrieval performed and be out and on my way home by 9am. Which is round about the time most people will be waking up!

For the three mornings before my scan, I was taking a combination of 150 units of Gonal F (the medication that stimulates egg production) and mix-it-yourself Cetrotide (the medication that prevents ovulation and helps to mature the eggs).

IMG_20130815_103621

Now, if you’ve read my previous posts on egg donation, you’ll know that mix-it-yourself Cetrotide and I do not have a good history. My very first donation I ended up a) Getting overenthusiastic and creating a wonderfully foamy Cetrotide while mixing the water and the powder (guess who’s watched too many episodes of House…) and b) Spritzing a ton of the mixture across my bedroom while trying to remove the air bubbles from the syringe.

Bloody air bubbles. Especially at 7am, already late for work. I just don’t have the co-ordination for that sort of thing.

Anyway, had my final scan on Friday and the doctor was thrilled. Like, I actually got a high five.

So, I was booked in for Sunday morning and given the two shots of Lucrin to take home. As I’ve mentioned before, these shots are my favourites – they’re the injections that trigger ovulation (through creating a surge of Luteinizing hormone in the body). The trigger shots must be done precisely 36 and 24 hours before the egg retrieval – when the doctor catches the mature eggs in their follicles just  before ovulation occurs. It’s pretty hardcore. The only problem is that the Lucrin shots tend to make me very, very crampy – but I’ll take it, as they also bring down the risk of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome way, way, way down.

IMG_20130816_144828

I was initially supposed to do the shots at 10pm on Friday night and 10am on Saturday morning, but my theatre time got bumped up – so I had to take them at 8pm and 8am. Much better, because it meant that I didn’t have to shoot up in the middle of N’s lounge on Game Night.

So now, I’m prepping for tomorrow morning. My “kit” for retrieval day looks something like this…

Candace’s Egg Retrieval Day Kit:

Kindle/book/magazine 

They usual request that you arrive at the clinic while before your surgery, so I like to take some reading material. My last donation, I forgot to pack something, and I pretty much memorised the pamphlet on anaesthesia that was left next to my bed while I waited.

Pads
Some bleeding after the procedure is normal, so I carry my own brand of sanitary pad to replace the usual horrendous ones they give you at the clinic. Ones that aren’t just glorified wads of cotton wool.

Water
After having to fast before the procedure, and after coming around from the anaesthesia, I get wildly thirsty. I usually also have a cup of tea or some juice while in the recovery room, but the extra water is a must. I also try to drink a lot of water in the days post-retrieval, as well.

Clothing
Comfortable, easy-to-put-back-on clothing is a must – you may be quite sore or tired after the procedure, so the last thing you probably want to do is squeeze into a pair of super-skinny jeans! Same goes for shoes… No heels and/or fiddly sandals.

The hospital I’m doing my donation at this time also requests that we bring a dressing gown and slippers. It has been freezing and pouring with rain this week, so I’m inclined to think that’s a good idea.

Miscellaneous
The clinic asks that all jewellery, make-up and nail polish be removed for the procedure – so best to not wear any! I bring extra hair ties, just in case.

Home comforts
Resting after the procedure is a non-negotiable. And my number one tip for the day of retrieval? A hot water bottle. Seriously. It’ll ease your soreness and is deeply comforting.

I climb into bed with my hot water bottle, have a nap, watch cheesy (usually Disney) movies, and do as little as possible for the day. I also tend to take the day after my retrieval off as well –  but that’s just personal preference and an excuse to chill out a little if possible!

Egg donation #6: On the inside

So yesterday I blogged about being nervous for my scan, which was scheduled for 8am this morning. The good news is that all looks great – there are six eggs in the left ovary and “many” on the right (which would explain the mild discomfort!)

I arrived at Vincent Pallotti shortly before 8am for my scan – and still didn’t know who the doctor in charge was! I announced myself and – being quite used to the procedure at the hospital now – settled down with my Kindle to play the Waiting Game. I was eventually called in at around 8.15am, led to the ultrasound room, and told to undress and put on a not-very-sexy mint green robe and hop on the bed. I did, however, managed to snap an egg donor’s inside view… Of the object you’re most acquainted with (after the pointy end of your Gonal F!)

IMG_20130813_085842

Over the course of your donation, you’ll have around three or four internal ultrasounds to make sure everything’s ticking over nicely. So there is the magical ultrasound machine, with a large number of buttons that I am DESPERATE to push. Just once. Please.

Anyway, after a further 10 minutes of waiting half-naked for the doctor, he arrived. And was awesome. Pretty sure it was the same doctor that performed my retrieval last time – but I wouldn’t put money on it, seeing as I met him very briefly and very soon before I was knocked out for the procedure. But he was very sweet and very friendly, and I warmed up to him immediately.

As I mentioned, he was thrilled with how things are proceeding. I’m back in for the next scan on Friday morning, and in the meantime have been given three more doses of Gonal F 150 and daily shots of mix-it-yourself-Cetrotide (which helps to mature the eggs and prevent premature ovulation).  If all goes well, I’ll be in for my retrieval on Sunday or Monday. Which means I can do the short trail run in Kleinmond on Saturday, if I’m not too uncomfortable by then.

Right, it’s after 6pm and I’m still at work. This is not okay. Will be back in later in the week. As always, if you have questions, feel free to drop me a comment here and I’ll do my best to answer!

Egg donation #6: Getting the ball rolling

So I’ve already completed the first few days of my Gonal F injections – 225, 225, 150, 150, 150… And another 150 tomorrow morning before my first scan at Vincent Pallotti. I’m still not 100% sure who my doctor is this time round, but the formidable Sister and I are all over this one so far, so I’m not worried about who’s officially in charge. Just taking this one as it comes, and only letting my Inner Control Freak out to play for small amounts at a time and letting her set up her medication the night before so that we’re good to go at the crack of dawn during injection time.

IMG_20130812_204051

I’m always SO nervous before the first scan – I’m always concerned that my ovaries aren’t doing their thing and that everybody’s time, money and emotional energy has been wasted. So fingers crossed that everything is looking good inside.

I also managed to – after what amounts to probably something stupid like around 60 self-injections – give myself a nasty bruise on my stomach on Sunday morning. SUCH a rookie error, I tell you. I was in a hurry, trying to get through work so that I could join Bryony and co on a trail run in Constantia Nek, and I managed to get a little overenthusiastic with my pen. Fun. But I wear my poky little bruise with pride.

On Friday night, while celebrating a friend’s birthday, I ended up holding an impromptu Q&A session about donating eggs in South Africa. There was a room full of older women – mothers, aunts, a few girls, and three boys. Once we got to the “How are they extracted” conversation, two of the boys jumped up and ran away. But my 22-year-old brother, bless his socks, said something along the lines of “I’ve heard this all before” and stayed. He’s been one of the biggest heroes during my egg donation journey: Fetching me hot-water bottles on retrieval days, running down to the shops for biltong and Energade, and listening to probably-not-so-funny-to-him stories about missing ovaries and internal ultrasounds.

I was asked questions about the process, about how many times, about how many births, the legal issues, do I know my recipients, the egg retrieval procedure and the like. One of the women there knew somebody who had given birth to twins with the help of an egg donor, and wanted immediately to know if my natural hair colour was red. (It’s not. Though I did dye it red shorty after I broke up with The Geologist. And am actually thinking about going red again. Or brown, perhaps.)

I love answering the questions that people have, although I’m still so uncomfortable with people’s praise. I talk about egg donation not so that people will pat me on the head and tell me what a good girl I am, but because I am so desperately passionate about breaking down any stigmas, myths and concerns surrounding egg donation. And hopefully I can encourage other women to donate, if they feel prepared to. I want to show that egg donation can be a wonderful, fulfilling journey for the donor. That it’s nothing to be “ashamed” of, nothing people feel they should have to keep a secret.

I talk about it because I’m so damn proud to be associated with the wonderful men and women that I have come into contact with over the past two years – the doctors, nurses, IVF co-ordinators, donor liaisons, matchmakers, admin staff and theatre sisters. And, of course, the donors themselves.

One last time: Egg donation number six

I’ve been meaning to catch up for a while, but you all know how I am. Work and Life has been particularly stressful of late – much more than I’m used to, and for a while, more than I thought I could deal with. It culminated last week with J attempting to teach a VERY anxious me how to *sigh* and release tension (I’m totally claiming that I was very worked up by World War Z, which we had just been to see). Anyway… 

eggs

flickr.com / Brenda Gottsabend

So here we are. My sixth and final egg donation with the wonderful women at Nurture. I first started this journey in earnest two years ago – but truly, it feels like just last month. At the same time, the women at Nurture – Melany, Tertia and Lee in particular – have become like a family to me over the years, and I shall miss them ever so much.

I have come to know – through anonymous emails sent from my recipients through Nurture – six amazingly strong, exceptional women. Even though I’ve never met any of them, I have shared such a profound journey with them and their partners, that I will have that connection for years to come. As I have said on this blog before – my strongest connection is with the recipients – because of the way many of them choose their donors, I see so much of them in myself – and often aspire to be like them, they really have been that amazing – because they see some of themselves in me.

So, number six…

My final donation is back at the Vincent Pallotti, where I did my previous donation earlier this year. I start injections on Thursday – 225 units of Gonal-F, as per usual.

I’ve already had my blood tests – HIV, Syphilis, Hepatitis B and C and, this time, Chlamydia, too. Seeing as I hadn’t been tested for that before, I was a little more nervous than usual. I was all like, “What, do I look Chlamydia-ish?” But Chlamydia-ish I am not, you’ll be happy to know. Nor HIV-ish, Syphilis-ish or Hepatitis-ish.

The Sister and I have been frantically exchanging Whatsapps over the past 24 hours as I waited for my period to start – there’s very little room for being embarrassed in Fertility Land, I can tell you that. In fact, I probably now fall firmly into Camp Overshare, really. Menstruation details for everyone!

So that’s pretty much all to report on that front, for now.

A few months ago I did a mini-FAQ, which you can read here.

And if you want to read up some of my other egg donation-related adventures, check out this section here.

As always, if you have any queries, you’re more than welcome to leave a comment and I’ll try to answer it to the best of my abilities.

On egg donation number five

Right, so the past week has been insane on so many levels… The Oscar Pistorius story has kinda taken up a lot of emotional and mental energy (and it didn’t help that the increased traffic tanked our site for two days). But finally I get to sit down and do a bit of a catch-up on my egg donation.

As I mentioned, this donation was different – it was at a local hospital instead of the Clinic that I’ve done the previous four at. This meant a lot of things, but mostly a new team and a slightly different way of doing things. Mostly, it meant a lot more waiting than usual. After one of my scans, where I lay in the examination room in a robe for about 10 minutes before the doctor arrived, I decided to bring my Kindle to do some reading while I waited.

But otherwise, things went smoothly – bar one hilarious (okay, not really) incident where, while trying to remove an air bubble from my Lucrin shot (read more about Lucrin here), I forced the plunger down too hard and squirted about 2 units of the precious mixture out and across my bedroom. At 9pm.

I would have loved to have seen my face.

No harm done, though – the nurse in charge of my cycle let me come in for a 2 unit top-up – though I did feel terribly, terribly guilty because I felt as though I’d put everyone out.

Anyway, then it was go time. I was scheduled to check in for 7am and the wonderful X picked me up at the crack of dawn (both of us still yawning our heads off) and dropped me off.

And for the first time, I managed to snap a pic of my snazzy hospital arm band. Look at me go:

Hospital tag

Then I was led to the day ward – oh, I wish I’d thought to take photos of it, it was such a wonderful, vintage institutional feeling place, very 1970s with the cream walls, though they did have a super cozy bedspread! – and was given a theatre gown and a robe to put on while I waited. It was very quiet – just me in the ward for the most part – and I didn’t bring anything to read, so I memorised the anaesthesia pamphlet that had been left on the bedside table instead.

Then, the anaesthetist popped by to ask me the usual questions (allergic to anything/have you had a reaction to anaesthesia before/when was your last operation/are you feeling well etc etc) and check my chest and heartrate, before I was called up to walk down the hall to where the little operating area had been set up. I was just about to go in when I met the doctor that was to perform my retrieval – not the doctor who performed my scans, oddly, but I was happy to go with it. The anaesthetist was absolutely wonderful about making me feel happy and relaxed, talking to me and teasing me a little and making sure I felt safe and comfortable. Then he warned me that “If I started feeling funny, it was just him” and I remember thinking that I felt absolutely fine – then I woke up in recovery.

I had a wonderful nurse taking care of me – though in my semi-unconscious state I managed to completely forget her name – who made sure I was well-equipped with a hot water bottle, a pot of tea and a mildly awful toasted cheese and tomato sandwich. And then the best surprise of all – my donor liaison popped round to hang out while I was recovering! In my stoned state I may have been a bit random and possibly quite annoying, but it was great chatting to her and getting a bit more of a “behind-the-scenes” look at the donation agency (who have just opened a branch in London, and it’s really interesting how differently they do things there!)

And she came bearing a gift – a charm that I am already wearing, though I will need to get a stronger chain for…

Nurture necklace

Anyway, they managed to get a pretty decent haul for my recipient – which I was quite happy with, because I was on a slightly lower protocol of the follicle stimulants than I usually am – and I should hopefully find out in the next few weeks whether or not the pregnancy was successful. Keeping fingers and toes crossed!

And so this is either my last or second-to-last donation. Either way, I’m a little sad at the thought of my journey with Nurture ending – I can’t begin to tell you how this experience has changed my life, in so many ways.

The fact that I’ve (so far) helped two women become mothers has been something that I wish I had the words for.  It’s an incredible feeling, knowing that you have changed somebody’s life – undeniably.

As always, if you’re looking to donate – or if you want to become a recipient – visit the amazing (seriously, they’re amazing) women at Nurture. And feel free to either visit my previous FAQ post or ask any questions that you may have here – I’m more than happy to help answer them to the best of my ability.

D-Day

And so yesterday was the Big Day. Donation Day. D-Day, if you will.

Getting there

I was scheduled to go under at 12pm, so that meant no food or drink from 6am. I set my alarm for 5am to manage to shove a banana and some water into my mouth before going back to sleep. I also popped two paracetemol tablets as the Lucrin (the two trigger injections) tend to make me very crampy by D-Day – and this time, I hardly felt anything at all.

I had organised to do some work from home to keep my mind off things, and I still ended up bathing and then blow-drying my hair to kill the time. All of that, of course, was a waste when you consider how hot and dry the wind was in Cape Town yesterday – and the fact that I ended up taking the train didn’t help. By the time I arrived in Claremont I looked like I’d tried out (and failed) for a terrible 80s glam rock band. I was also wearing my neon yellow sunglasses – which added to the illusion 🙂

Exhibit A. R30 at Mr Price, for N’s “Neon” 21st.

I love taking the train, though I don’t do it often enough – although my immense need to be entirely self-sufficient (Read: I’m not good at trusting people to do things properly and am even worse at asking for help when I need it) – means that I get bizarrely stressed out about taking public transport, especially when I need to be in a specific place at a specific time.

Still, I got to the station, purchased my ticket and ended up chatting to two military women who were in full cammo (I nearly passed out when they addressed me, all the semi-illegal things I’ve ever done popped into my head at once!). All they wanted was to look at my phone – the Galaxy S3 (I’m in love). I got onto the train, plugged in my earphones and cranked up the new Taylor Swift album (wonderful train music, don’t judge me) and by the time I got to Claremont, I was much calmer. I’d given myself time to kill, so I wandered off to Cavendish and looked at coasters.

Then, bizarrely, I thought that if I died while under anaesthetic and they had to go through my belongings, they would have found coasters. Which would have been weird. So I didn’t buy them. (Hey, I have never claimed to be sane).

In the Clinic

I love waiting rooms. I love the Clinic waiting room so much, I think, because it’s filled with Hope. I managed to catch the wonderful Heidi before I went in, who wished me luck and thanked me for being so wonderful to work with. Then, just around 11.45am, Florence – the nurse in the procedure and recovery room – came to fetch me. She’s looked after me each time, and this being round four she’s now christened me “Candy” – and I love that. She pretty much left me to my own devices – led me to the corner chair where I could undress and climb into the gown and what not.

I had managed to shed my clothing and get the gown on when Dr H stuck his head in – and was promptly greeted with my naked (thankfully more toned than in previous months) ass. He came in to say hi, check how I was, and tell me we were good to go – normally the first time you see the doctors is in the procedure room because they’re so busy, so I was quite touched that he popped by. Then it was the usual questions from the nurse – when did you last eat? are you allergic to anything? – my admission tag and the consent form, before the anaethetist came in (the same one who did my first donation, and told me I was getting Propofol – the drug that “Michael Jackson liked too much”) and asked me her usual questions.

Then, another nurse – a new one, and I’m sad I didn’t catch her name because she was so bubbly – who noticed my tattoo as she helped me re-tie my gown. She asked what it meant (“Brave”) and what language it was (“Arabic”), and asked why I got it (“A tribute to my father,” I said). She draped the blanket around my shoulders and led me through to the procedure room.

Going under

I shuffled up onto the bed, careful to place my bum squarely on the linen saver. I lay back and let them fuss – they were in quite a rush, so I had my blood pressure taken while one of the nurses fixed the monitors to my chest and thumb and the anaethetist inserted the needle for the drugs (on my left hand, which is where I prefer it – weird that I have preferences now!).

Dr H came in and asked me to guess how many we were aiming to retrieve – at last count, he’d found 15 follicles so I said “Heck, let’s go for 15!”) And then the anaethetist wished me good night and I listened to her and Dr H banter about how old she was (it was her birthday last week, I gathered, before blackness descended).

And then I woke up. Surprisingly, not in much pain – and normally I do cramp quite badly. Florence stuck her head in, took my blood pressure, and offered me a muffin and something to drink. I always ask for juice because I’m so thirsty when I wake, so she brought me a hot, gooey chocolate muffin and some peach and pear juice (“It’s new!” she trilled). After I’d eaten, Dr H popped through the curtain to check how I was, and put his hand on my arm. They managed to retrieve 14 eggs, he said – “You had a good guess!” he said – and he thanked me for doing what I had done.

And then, after a pain pill, I was moved to the chair to recover and get dressed, then I was released. Florence walked me to the door and wished me a wonderful festive season, and said “And we will see you then in the New Year”.

And you know what, they probably will.

Send light, love and positive vibes…

I’ve said it before, and I’ve said it again – I will do this as many times as I’m allowed to. I can give no greater gift, at this time in my life, than this.

And now that my bit is done, we wait for the eggs to be fertilised and implanted in my recipient – in the next three to five days – and hold all fingers, toes and thumbs that the embryos take.

I ask you to send all the positive vibes that you possibly can spare to this wonderful, brave, amazing woman – who I know only by an initial and an email, and feel so connected to.