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

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.

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! 😛

So… Who’s up for round three?

This post has taken a lot longer to write than initially planned (it’s been sitting in my Drafts for a few weeks already, how lame) – but better late than never, right?

So on 28 May I did my third round of egg donation – I even hit a personal best, with the doctor retrieving 18 eggs. Hopefully there were some goodies in there – but, as usual, I try not to think about it too much in case I jinx anything. (I’m horribly superstitious. Send out some positive vibes, okay?)

If you want a much more in-depth account of my first two rounds, plus a more detailed description of the process, check out my very first egg donation post.

This donation was for a foreign couple, and while I had been scheduled to donate in April we had to push it back to accommodate her. I must admit, it has been awesome to give my body a little bit of a break after my second donation – during which I was on the stims slightly longer because my body just wasn’t playing the game.

This time, however, it was all smooth sailing. It is a strange thing for the doctor to tell you that you are a “pleasure to work with”, just for doing something your body is meant to do naturally – but I’ll claim it!

I’m free-range, baby! (spiralmushroom/flickr.com)

What was awesome about this couple is that they sent me quite a detailed email telling me about themselves. I can’t tell you how cool it was to have a slightly clearer picture in my head going in – and they both sound like total rockstars! For a number of reasons, I connected so strongly with this recipient – and the chance to help… Well, there’s no feeling like it. Third time down the road and I’m still overwhelmed by this whole amazing process.

So, as for the technical stuff? Well, I’m still – and will probably always be – a little paranoid about the initial tests. HIV, syphilis, hepatitis… Never mind that I’ve not had sex in months, it’s a case of “What if?!” that does my head in. Initial scans, too, are also quite scary. But once the ball’s rolling, well, I know I’m in the best hands possible.

The only different thing this round was that I had started the crazy gym programme. I’d read all sorts of articles from various sources stating why you can/can’t exercise while on the Gonal-F (ovarian torsion, anyone?) but the Amazing Doctor H at the clinic pretty much put the ball in my court – as much as I’m comfortable with – but nothing for the first six days after the retrieval. Which, I might add, I was 100% okay with. Doctor’s orders to be able to veg out for a week? Sign me up!

Me, in kitten form, napping. (PyryM/flickr.com)

So everything went super smoothly – it’s amazing how much better I’m getting at self-injection, only one bruise from myself. An overzealous sister at the clinic and a fuck-off big shot of Cetrotide was another story… Not only was I itching like mad (“The rash is good,” my first doctor assured me. “Means it’s working!”) but I also ended up with a massive bruised spot. She did apologise like mad – because of the size of the shot, she said, she wanted to inject it slowly. And the trigger shots of Lucrin went a lot more smoothly this time, too – largely because I didn’t put them in the fridge and they didn’t freeze!

Retrieval day I managed to wangle a lift from my dear friend T, who bless his socks is an absolute dear about something completely foreign to him. I was feeling a little nauseous (no drinking or eating AND a case of nerves is no fun at all) but he managed to chatter away and distract me. I was whisked pretty much straight in and got right to it. By the third time, everybody keeps telling you you’re a total veteran – which is awesome, I do like feeling good at things! – and the whole process goes a lot more smoothly. Checked in, dressed in gown, tagged, consent forms signed and checked by the anaesthetist and we’re all A-for-Away. I’ve had a different anaesthetist each time I’ve donated – this one placed the cannula in the crook of my arm as opposed to my hand – which was oddly more painful.

Syringes. Not that scary, actually. (hitthatswitch/flickr.com)

Anyway, the amazing nurses do a great job of fussing over you and with a reassuring arm on my shoulder from Dr H, I was out. Woke up this time with very little pain (apparently after the first time, when I hurt so badly, they’ve now started giving me painkillers while I’m out) and no nausea – in fact, I recovered super quickly this time.

My wonderful colleague B was there to pick me up – she’s been a trooper every time – and I was back home and out for a nap.

Aside from a little more bleeding than usual that led to a trip back to the clinic a few hours later (hey, rather safe than sorry, right?) and a few less-than-subtle questions from the staff as to whether I’d be donating again, we were all done. I sneakily took an extra day off work the next day, and by the time I was back in on Wednesday, I was back to normal.

Am I doing a fourth round? Well, I haven’t officially confirmed with the agency yet, but honestly my belief is that I will donate as many times as I’m legally allowed to. If I can, why not? I’m not being melodramatic when I say that this entire process has changed my life.

It’s changed my life, made me more aware of my body and what a freaking miracle it actually is, and – yes, kickstarted my desire to have a family of my own someday.

If you and yours are in South Africa and think that egg donation is something you want to do, I won’t hesitate to recommend Nurture. Tertia, Melany, Lee and the rest of the team are absolute angels.