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).

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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.

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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!)

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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.

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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… 

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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 midnight injections and other such fun

So, we’re officially in the Home Stretch now. I had my final scan this afternoon, and now I’m waiting to do my first of two trigger shots – which only happens at midnight (in other words…  one hour and five minutes from now).

I was booked in for my last scan at 12.45pm today, and the waiting room was positively packed. The Amazing Dr H and his equally amazing assistant – also H, for the purposes of this blog – were rushing up and down the corridors, and I only managed to get in around 12.55pm. Dr H says all is looking “beautiful” – there are fifteen little follicles ready for harvesting (“Strange things us doctors get excited about,” he said – but it’s not just doctors, I’m excited too) and I was booked in for retrieval at noon on Wednesday. He wrote out my instructions, organised my two trigger injections of Lucrin, and off I went.

Fast forward to about 3pm. I get a frantic email from H – “URGENT: CETROTIDE”, it read. Between Dr H and myself we had forgotten the second shot of Cetrotide – the drug that helps the eggs mature and prevents premature ovulation – and H had been trying to dial my old cellphone number. You can see how this could have been bad. So into my car I hopped and positively nailed the 20 minute drive into around 15 minutes. H shot me up – it’s my favourite, itchy and rashy medicine – and off I went on my merry way.

And now? Well, I’ve been playing DOTA to keep myself awake (it’s the excuse I’m using! Ha! Eight hours in and I’m only marginally less awful). And why am I awake so late, when it’s way past my bedtime? This guy.


Lucrin – also known as Lupron, says Captain Google – is used as the “trigger” medication before egg retrieval, and it’s pretty much my favourite one (yes, midnight shots aside, and the fact that it makes me WILDLY crampy). I think it’s because of the precision factor – the two shots have to be done precisely 36 and 24 hours before the retrieval. Cool, huh? Lucrin also helps to reduce the risk of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome – which is exactly what it says on the box. Over-excited ovaries, which causes ovaries to swell and fluid to push into the stomach/chest. Most cases of OHSS are relatively mild, but looking at what can happen is quite sobering. Bring on the Lucrin, I say.

And for now, I have 45 minutes to kill before the midnight injection. Another round of DOTA? Okay, if I must.

“Where’s your other ovary?”

Not something one wants to hear from one’s doctor when there’s an ultrasound wand deep in you-know-where, I must admit.

As you may have gathered, I went for my first scan since starting the injections on Saturday. I generally get to the Clinic early enough to say hi to the staff and get rid of my “sharps” – used needles, leftover solution etc – before going in for my appointment.

This is now the third cycle I’m doing with the Amazing Dr H, so we seem to have this whole thing down pat. We chat for a bit before going into his examination room – bottoms off, on the table, blanket for modesty. We quickly located the right ovary, counting eight developing eggs, and then Dr H switched over to have a look at the other side.

“Where’s your other ovary?” he asked. Sorry, what? Not really a phrase you ever want to hear out of your doctor’s mouth. But, true enough, no ovary could be seen on the little monitor. After some exploratory prodding, Dr H asked me to shift my leg a little and poked my stomach, shifting the reluctant ovary into place. I said something to the effect of “Oh, good, so it didn’t disappear after all” – but as I was in a bit of a panic at the time, I can’t recall my exact words.

“Oh, don’t worry,” said Dr H. “I’ve never had that happen to me before.” Well, good, I thought – before scuttling off the table to put my underwear back on.

I suppose my ovary was just shy.

So far, all on track for Donation Day (D-Day, really!) a week from now. Dr H says that I am doing “great as always” and that he’s very happy with how things are going. So, yay! I was given a shot of Cetrotide at the Clinic to help the eggs mature – and to stop premature ovulation – and I’m back in for scan number two on Saturday morning. The IVF co-ordinator (not my usual one) left me with a bit of a bruise, a bit of a rash and a heck of an itch. It’s all for a good cause.

Speaking of good causes – and good things – I found out today that recipient number two gave birth to twins (a girl and a boy!) in October. Hooray!

Round four of egg donation – let’s go!

So, it’s all officially official and the dates are set… I’m doing a fourth round of egg donation for the wonderful, inspiring women at Nurture!

Over the past year (wow, it’s been a year already!) I’ve been very open about my work with Nurture and the donation process. I’ve written about it extensively here and on other websites, but I thought that this time round I’d be a bit more proactive about blogging the process – from first scans to Donation Day – and you’re all more than welcome to contact me if you have any questions.

Because it’s been a year since I last saw the psychologist, I met again with the wonderful Leanne from the Cape Fertility Clinic. She caught me just a few days after things ended with J – and I was still pretty beat-up about it, oddly – and so we spent more time talking about life, love and everything else than we did about the actual donation process (although don’t worry, those boxes were covered too!)

Because the Amazing Dr Heylen (hereafter known as “The Amazing Dr H” or “Dr H”) had to shift my appointment, I spent an hour and a bit sitting in the waiting room, catching up on work and people-watching. The energy at the Clinic is always so amazingly mixed – hopeful, anxious, nervous – I love the people-watching there, wondering about their story.

Then, the scans and blood tests. Because it’s been a while, I got the Amazing Dr H to a proper breast exam, and he was wonderful about talking me through it and teaching me how and when to examine myself. The internal ultrasounds are never pleasant, but I’m used to them now – and then it was down to the pathologists for blood tests. J and I had been tested a few weeks before, but you know me, I’m always paranoid – but everything was a-okay and I’ve been cleared for take off.

Injections commence 15 November 2012. Everybody start sending some seriously positive vibes to me, my ovaries, and the woman these eggs are going to.

If you’re South African and think you may want to donate your eggs, I highly recommend you check out Nurture – they’ve been nothing but amazing to me. And, no, they’re not paying me to say any of this! 😛