IVF update: forms and needles

Syringe

This afternoon Jane and I drove over (drover?) to Dundee to Ninewells Hospital to sign consent forms and give a blood sample for screening (Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and HIV) prior to our IVF treatment beginning sometime this year.

Seemingly we were supposed to have done this preparatory work a few months ago but with the complications and Jane’s operation the paperwork got lost in favour of treating Jane. Which I think strikes the right balance: people before paperwork.

The nurse who talked us through the forms and extracted some blood from us was lovely. She was friendly, fun and made us feel quite special which, not surprisingly, made us feel quite at ease.

With that done, and assuming that the blood tests are okay (and we have no reason to believe otherwise) we now just wait for the process to carry us through to our first cycle. More on that in a minute.

What happens with IVF

For those who don’t know what the procedure is, here’s how having a baby should work (assuming that all goes well):

  1. Man and woman have sex. (Drugs prior to sex are entirely optional at this point, but not recommended.)
  2. Man and woman have nervous wait.
  3. Woman takes pregnancy test.
  4. Couple celebrate, like it’s 1987.
  5. Nine months later woman gives birth to a healthy baby.

Now, here’s how it (roughly) works with IVF:

  1. Woman goes on drugs for a few weeks to reduce the size of her womb lining. Drugs at this point are entirely compulsory.
  2. Woman has baseline scan to make sure all is well.
  3. Woman begins ovarian stimulation to (hopefully) produce more than one egg. More drugs, again compulsory. More scans too (probably).
  4. Woman goes into surgery for oocyte retrieval, a small operation to remove the eggs.
  5. Man goes into a room with a pot to produce a sperm sample.
  6. Scientists mix the retrieved eggs with the pot of sperm to fertilise the eggs. (They don’t use an egg whisk, I’ve checked.)
  7. Scientists analyse fertilised eggs (embryos) which are selected for quality. (It’s a bit like Min Div, but different.)
  8. Woman goes in for another minor operation for embryo transfer. In other words, a maximum of the two best embryos are placed in the womb.
  9. Man and woman have nervous wait.
  10. Woman takes pregnancy test.
  11. Couple celebrate, like it’s 1987.
  12. Nine months later woman gives birth to a healthy baby.

As you can see the two procedures are almost exactly the same. Except for the intervention of scientists and the clinical environment in which it all happens. And the operations. And extra drugs.

Ethics

During the last few months I’ve been doing some reading on the ethics of IVF, which has been really helpful. When a couple has sex naturally there is usually only one egg, and one embryo, and if that dies then it dies.

But with IVF there could be 10 eggs and 10 embryos, each with the potential for life. Only two at most are transferred back into the womb. The question then is what you do with the other eight, assuming that they all survive. Do you let them perish? Do you freeze them? If you freeze them, for how long? Do you allow others to use them? Do you allow them to be used for research?

Similarly, only a small amount of sperm is used to fertilise the egg, so what do you do with the excess? Do you let them perish, freeze them, donate them, allow them to be used in research?

These are the kind of questions that we’ve been pondering for the last few months. Today we had to give our answers, to say what we wanted the hospital to do with our biological material, our building-blocks of life. I think we made the right decisions for us.

Next

I’m not going to blog much about the process as we’re going through the first cycle, whenever it begins — and we’re assured that it can’t be that much longer (surely!). This is to protect Jane as much as anything. It’s going to be an emotional and physical roller-coaster.

Prayer

I have an online-friend in Pakistan, Arsi; he contacted me on MSN Messenger to ask a Psion-related question or two about a year ago. Last year Arsi went on Hajj, the Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca. It’s not just a pilgrimage. Hajj is the fifth pillar of Islam, all able-bodied Muslims who can afford to do so must carry out this pilgrimage at least once in their lifetime. This was a big deal.

And yet, there he prayed for us. For Jane and me, that we would have a child. When he told me this on MSN I had tears in my eyes. I felt truly blessed and really touched. He didn’t have to remember us on this most important of journeys for him, we’ve never even met, and yet he did.

If you pray: please pray for us — you don’t necessarily have to travel to Mecca to do so; if not then please simply hold us in your thoughts. We really appreciate your love, concern and support.

I’ll write updates as and when I can.

Jane’s operation today

Surgeons in an operating theatre
Photo by asterisc21 at stock.xchng

Today is St Andrews Day — patron saint of Scotland and Russia. Which, this year, means one thing in our house: it’s the day for Jane’s IVF-related operation.

For those who don’t know: we’re on an IVF programme at Ninewells hospital, Dundee and a few months back during a routine scan the doctors discovered something – they’re not 100% certain what it is (a lump? a cyst? something else?) but know that it shouldn’t be there. Today they plan to investigate and remove it.

I’m taking her over to Dundee for about 08:00, then I need to get back to St Andrews for a meeting with the Director of Admissions, whom I met for the first time yesterday. I can then call the (an) hospital around 14:00 for a progress update and see if I can get my (fixed but presumably sore and drousy) wife back.

Delayed

A letter yesterday confirmed that it looks highly likely that our IVF treatment will be postponed until Spring 2008. But we’ll just have to wait and see what the surgeons discover and how quickly Jane recovers from the operation. The doctor told her to expect to be off work for three weeks.

Prayers please

Your prayers and thoughts would be greatly appreciated today, for Jane, for her family who will naturally be concerned, and for me too — not least cos my PC is playing up at work and I have an RSS feed to debug!

Update: 14:15

I’ve not long ago phoned the ward and Jane’s fine, still sleeping and they’ve asked me to go pick her up in a couple of hours time. I just have to wait to find out what they did and what they discovered, if anything. Thanks for the prayers folks.

That was the week that was

Kidney bean
Kidney beans don’t get high blood pressure.

Bill e Bob left a comment on my last post “PC absolution” saying “Enough of this techno-geekery, where is your devastating review of the rugby? I think in the words of our more aggressive football-supporting brethren, ‘It’s all gone quiet over there'”.

It’s all gone quiet for one special reason: I’ve been so busy this week that I’ve hardly had a moment to sit at my PC and write anything. Which is why I’m now up at 05:30 sitting in front my PC staring at an empty blog post. Honestly, the sacrifices I make for you guys! 😉

So here’s my run-down of the past week:

Sunday – Argentina v Scotland

Having reached the quarter finals in the Rugby World Cup Scotland met Argentina on Sunday. The great thing about being a Scotland rugby fan is that you are always living with a sense of hope. It does wonders for your faith!

The first half wasn’t a particularly pretty game, from a Scotland point-of-view. About an hour into the game (rugby comprises of two halves of 40 minutes each) Argentina were ahead by 19-6.

And then … from somewhere Scotland just shone. They were incredible! I’ve not seen that kind of exciting, dynamic rugby from Scotland for ages — it was a magnificent effort. In places they reminded me of The All Blacks (when they are playing really well, not — guttingly — being knocked out of the RWC). The forwards drove the ball, the backs used the full width of the pitch. I was literally on the edge of my sofa.

And Dan Parks … well, his kicking tactics led to a charge-down and an Argentinian try (which arguably lost Scotland the match), but to give him his dues, during the last 20 minutes of the match I was his biggest fan. I’ve never seen him play so well, he almost couldn’t do anything wrong. He kicked the game of his life in that final quarter: accurately placing the ball exactly where he intended and the team needed him to.

But crucially he didn’t just boot the ball up the park every time he got his hands on it, and that allowed the game to flow and demonstrate what Scotland are capable of.

Frank Hadden (the Scotland coach) is a hero.

Update: Scotland lost, by the way, “Bill e Bob”, 19-13. (See Rugby World Cup website for more details.)

Monday- Working late

This was always going to be a long week. In order to leave work early today (Friday) in order to drive up to Inverness for Mark Strange’s ordination as bishop of Moray, Ross and Caithness I knew that I was going to have to put in the ‘overtime’ hours.

Monday I stayed in the office until 19:00. When I got home I got a call from the Christian Fellowship of Healing (Scotland) asking about the progress on their website.

The answer was, unfortunately: no very much.

Tuesday – IVF clinic

That’s what you need first thing on a Tuesday morning: a drive to Ninewells Hospital in Dundee for a 09:00 appointment.

Disappointing news as we learn that Jane’s operation still hasn’t been arranged. In fact the doctor hadn’t even notified the department will carry out the procedure. That’s been two weeks. More unsettled waiting ahead. More tears.

On my way home the police had closed off Church Street (my route home). There was a man standing on the roof of Holy Trinity Church, South Street. He was protesting in a Fathers For Justice stylee. All I could read of his banner was “Full custod…”. I assumed that it said “Full custodial sentence for me please”.

Wednesday – Renal clinic

As if one visit to Ninewells wasn’t nearly enough, I had my renal appointment on Wednesday afternoon.

On one hand the doctor was pleased with my weight loss: I’ve lost over 2 stones so far this year, and my waist size has gone down from (an embarrasing) 44″ to 38″. On the other hand, my blood pressure is still too high — it was 141/101 at the clinic.

So, I’m now resigned to have to go onto blood pressure tablets: perindopril — it’s an ACE inhibitor whose side-effects include reduced blood pressure.

I sat there feeling rather dejected and a bit of a failure. I’ve worked hard on my weight-loss and was really hoping that it would also bring my BP under control.

“Now,” said the nice lady doctor, almost as though she could read my mind, “don’t feel as though you’ve failed. You’ve put in some good, hard work on losing weight: well done!”

I returned to St Andrews and worked until 19:15, and let the news sink in. I walked to the biology car park, where I usually park, and then remembered that I hadn’t parked my car there today.

D’oh!

I’d parked in the nearer car park at the Bute Medical School … so that it wouldn’t be quite as long a walk. It turned out to be an even longer one. But at least I could laugh about it: ha-ha ha-ha ha …. ha!

I came home and rewrote someone’s website. It’s a site that’s comprised of 100% images. No text. No alt attributes. Nuffink! So I recreated it in 100% validating XHTML and CSS. I hope they like it. (Even if they don’t it was good practice, great fun to do, and a good stress reliever.)

Thursday – Not going to see Dream Theater

I began the day with Morning Prayer at Holy Trinity Church, South Street, St Andrews, and caught up with the minister Rory McLeod, with whom I was at St Mary’s College (across the road from Holy Trinity!).

Another productive day at the office. I’m currently working on improving the XHTML/CSS code for the main University website, so that it displays consistently in more browsers (particularly Firefox 1.x, Netscape 7 & 8 and Internet Explorer 5.5).

With my earphones in my head, and my head in some code, I was listening to Dream Theater‘s latest album “Systematic Chaos” when there was a knock on the door.

It was Chris from IT Helpdesk, and his brother, coming to see if I wanted to go see Dream Theater in concert in Glasgow — someone had just pulled out and they were about to leave.

It was a sign!

Actually, it would have been had it been next week. Instead I had to go home and see my parents-in-law, go out for a delicious meal and then come home and fix some code.

I crawled into bed a little after 22:30. That’s the kind of rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle I lead!

Conclusion

It feels like it’s been such a long week. We’ve had our ups and downs, but on the whole it’s been a really good, productive week.

If it’s in your discipline to pray, please remember

  • my Mum (Rosalie) who is attending an eye clinic in Edinburgh today for the her first (of many) monthly treatment for wet macular degeneration. This involves injecting a new drug directly into her eye.
  • Jane — that she gets the date of her operation soon.
  • Mark Strange — that God will bless him and through him will bless the United Diocese of Moray, Ross and Caithness.

Two visits to hospital

Stethoscope

The last couple of days have had a strong hospital theme to them. One was a planned visit, the other wasn’t.

Monday

On Monday Jane and I went over to Dundee for a meeting and more tests to try to progress us towards starting IVF. Unfortunately it’s not going to be quite as straightforward as we’d hoped. Before we can start the IVF treatment it turns out that Jane will have to be admitted for an operation to remove something — they don’t know what.

By that I don’t mean that they’ll decide what to remove when they get into theatre — “So chaps, what do you fancy removing today?” What I mean is that there is something they need to remove, but they don’t know from the scans what it is. Except that it shouldn’t be there.

We both felt quite, quite gutted. Monday was a long and emotionally painful day.

Tuesday

Yesterday afternoon I got a phone call from Jane. She was being taken to hospital in Stirling having accidentally and awkwardly fallen down a flight of stairs at her work’s head office.

Thankfully Jane hadn’t broken any bones, or torn any muscles or ligaments. She was ‘just’ quite bruised and very sore, and no doubt will be for a few days to come. Our good friends Ian and Yvonne in Cellardyke drove me down to Kirkcaldy to pick up Jane and her car — both having been brought over from Stirling by colleagues of Jane. She was certainly well looked after.

Wednesday

I’m not planning on going into hospital today.

The mouse factory

A computer mouse

I didn’t get much sleep last night, despite going to bed early (before 22:00). You see, our cats, Spot and Smudge, appear to have founded an Ian Banks-inspired Mouse Factory.

During the night they brought in four mice. Well, okay, if you want to get technical about it: three and a half. In they’d bound, with a triumphant yowl: “Look what we’ve brought you!!” There’s a particular tone to the cats’ meows that lets us know that this is not just their usual “I’m back! … where are you?!” The Announcement Meow has a bite to it. Literally.

The farmers have been working with combine harvester machines in the fields to the back of our house, which I’m sure is scaring the field mice out of field and right into the clutches of our delighted and awaiting cats.

The final mouse was brought in around 07:00 this morning, and still alive, if bleeding slightly. I found it cowering in the corner of the living room, and chased the Smudge away. It looked half dead.

I thought I might have to put it out of its misery. (That was a euphemism for “kill it”.) But then it moved. It was still very much alive, albeit in shock.

I couldn’t do it. I’d already fetched a plastic bag and a heavy rock (shaped like a giant hedgehog) from the garden, but I couldn’t do it. I can kill (most) insects (but not spiders) quite readily. Mammals are different.

Jane and I were getting ready for an appointment at Ninewells Hospital in Dundee at 08:45 as part of our IVF preparations. Standing in the living room with this tiny creature in my hand I was vividly aware of both the wonder and fragility of life.