All systems go…with one hiccup

In my last post, I talked about how our friend Marie had been approved as our egg donor, but contingent on three pending genetic tests. Those test results weren’t expected until today (25 June), which was basically the last possible moment in order to keep our timeline for donor egg in-vitro fertilization (IVF) on track. Well, our Belgian egg donation nurse, Bernadette, worked her magic again, and we got the test results back already on Friday 22 June (voila!). The same day, I had a blood test, followed by an ultrasound on Saturday to make sure I’m ready for the first injection. All of the tests came back clear, which means we are officially all-systems-go for a July 2018 egg donation.

I know that probably sounds like something in this process actually went smoothly. But you should also know by now that I enjoy (according to my husband) “doing everything the hard way”. This is why I got my PhD in a competitive field, and why I voluntarily moved to a foreign country…twice. This is also why I decided to accept a work invitation to speak at a conference in the US this week, right in the middle of this whole process.

It shouldn’t have mattered, or at least that’s what I thought. I knew I needed to have an injection during the week I was away, but I’ve already given myself at least 50 injections over the course of our three ‘normal’ (non-donor-egg) IVF cycles. I knew I could get a doctor’s note to fly with the medication and needles, and I figured I could just inject myself with a large dose of hormones in the morning and then go chair the plenary session like the modern working woman I am. Easy-peasy, right?


Literally the day after booking my flights (which I’d already waited til the last minute to do), I called Bernadette about picking up my injection, and she informed me that it was not necessary to pick it up, because this particular injection had to be done by my doctor…in Belgium. Apparently this injection was intra-muscular — not subcutaneous* — and it was very easy to do it wrong. She said it was ok if I wanted to do it myself, but that I had to agree to accept the consequences if I did it incorrectly. And the consequence was a canceled IVF cycle.

To go or not to go?

A mild panic ensued, where I briefly considered canceling my whole trip. That probably sounds like the obvious solution, but I’ve already canceled so many work trips for IVF, and I really didn’t want to cancel yet another. Then I considered trying to call a doctor’s office in the US city I was visiting, but I had had previous bad experiences with medical care crossing international borders. I highly doubted that if I called up a random US doctor, they would agree to inject me with some foreign (literally, including the box and directions) medicine.

Next I called up a Dutch doctor friend, who offered to help me practice stabbing the MASSIVE needle into my thigh before I left, but I was still worried I’d mess it up by not stabbing it in far enough, or too far (…is that a thing?) Then another friend had a suggestion: did I know anyone attending the conference who was a doctor? (Technically we’re all doctors, but not the useful kind…)

Luckily, I remembered that one of my fellow conference attendees is originally from the city I’ll be visiting. I emailed to explain my predicament and ask if she knew any doctors. Lo-and-behold, her childhood best friend is a doctor, and she still lives in the area. After some more emailing back and forth, this friend-of-a-friend agreed to help me!

So this is how it has come about that tomorrow, after I’m done chairing my session, I will take a taxi to the home of a woman I’ve never met before and have her stab me with a very large needle.

*FYI, ‘Intra-muscular’ means the medication needs to be injected into a muscle rather than just under the skin. There was actually a whole separate confusion over whether this was still the case if I got the prescription filled in the Netherlands (where I live) rather than Belgium, as the medication is apparently slightly different (because again…hardest way possible!). The box actually said it could be done both ways, but confusingly, there was no subcutaneous needle included in the package. After multiple phone calls to various medical professionals by my (invaluable) Dutch doctor friend — including to the actual manufacturer — we eventually decided it was a safer bet just to do it intramuscularly. (On a related note, I recommend everyone befriend a medical doctor.)

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