I awoke at 4.45am on Tuesday morning feeling like I had been punched in the stomach.
Normally I feel sore and crampy before an egg pick-up, but this was a different type of pain. I wondered when I lifted up my nightgown if I would see a gigantic bruise across my torso. Thankfully I didn’t, but I was certainly hurting.
We left the house just before 5.30am and drove to the hospital so I could be admitted. The one thing I love about the hospital where I have my day surgeries is the efficiency of the place. Almost straight away my hospital ID tags were strapped onto my wrists, my weight was checked (I’m up to 77.5kg ugh no I DIE! I DIE!) and I was dressed in my sexy hospital gown.
Before I knew it, I was kissing Doug goodbye and being wheeled by an orderly towards the surgical theatre.
“Have fun!” I called out to Doug as he watched me leave. “At least I get to be asleep for my part!”
I think the orderly got a bit of a chuckle out of that. I’m a funny girl.
My egg pick-up was scheduled for 7am, exactly 38 hours after my trigger shot. I was wheeled into the pre-surgical room where I had a clear view of a large old-fashioned analogue clock on the wall. The type that goes tick tick tick tick loudly enough to give you anxiety. It quite clearly read 6.50am.
The IVF nurses Shirley and Flo came in soon afterwards, all smiling and happy. I was glad to see them. When I am nervous I am often comforted when I see familiar people.
“Hi Sadie! How are you feeling? We’ll see you soon!” they both called to me as they continued into the theatre to prep the room.
Next the anaesthetist arrived. She was dressed in blue scrubs and I liked her immediately. She explained that she was placing an alertness monitor on my forehead because she was using a type of anaesthetic that is best suited for an egg pick-up to take good care of my eggs, but it was also essential to closely monitor patients when under because it created a lighter sleep than more commonly used sedatives??
I dunno really, I was too nervous to pay much attention. All I know is when she placed the monitor across my forehead it felt like she was sticking huge velcro strips onto my skin. It kind of tickled but it wasn’t painful.
“We will wait for Doctor Eventi to arrive,” the anaesthetist said. “Once you have had a chat to the doctor then we can start the process of putting you to sleep.”
So there we were in the pre-surgical room. Me in my backless gown, lying on the hospital guernsey under warm blankets. And the anaesthetist in her blue scrubs. And together, we waited. And waited. And waited.
Then the clock ticked over to 7am.
I looked at the anaesthetist and she looked back at me. Neither of us said anything. I knew we were both thinking the exact same thing – where the hell was the doctor? The replacement doctor who I had never met before. The replacement doctor who was apparently so fantastic my actual doctor was losing all of her patients to him.
At 7:05am the anaesthetist actually bit her lip and checked her wrist watch.
“My eggs.” I said feebly. “My eggs need to be picked up. It’s been 38 hours.”
“Yes I know sweetheart.” she replied. “I’m sorry there’s nothing we can do until the doctor arrives.”
At 7:10am the anaesthetist sighed audibly and shook her head. I could feel the frustration radiating off her, and I’m sure she was feeling my anxiety. Suddenly she spun around, walked over to the theatre door and called her assistant into the room.
“Look the doctor isn’t here but we need to prep her now.” she said. “Right now.”
“But…” the assistant started.
“No this is ridiculous! We need her ready to go or the eggs will be gone by the time we start the procedure.” the anaesthetist snapped.
So suddenly I was wheeled into the theatre and transferred across to the operating table. Then I had a little army of people buzzing around me, checking my vitals and repeatedly asking me my name, date of birth, and reason for surgery. The anaesthetist put my IV cannula into my arm and she was rushing so much she actually hurt me. Normally I don’t mind a bit of pain, but it was actually so bad I had to let her know and she had to readjust where she had set the cannula.
Honestly I was just so grateful that she understood the urgency of the situation. She was truly so fantastic. I so much appreciated the fact she was clearly on my side and doing everything she could to help me. She talked me through exactly what she was doing, and explained the quickest way to get me to sleep.
“As soon as the doctor speaks to you, I’m going to put this mask over your face.” she told me. “When the mask is over your face tilt your head right back and take four deep breaths. The deeper the better. Then we’ll get you off to sleep ok sweetheart?”
Once I was fully prepped and ready to go I looked back up at the clock.
I started to quietly hyperventilate. This was a doctor I had never met! What if the eggs were gone when the procedure began? What then? I kept thinking over and over again I’m going to sue this bastard I’m going to sue him!
Then I could hear one of the IVF nurses on the phone in the pre-surgical room.
“I need you to urgently patch me through to Doctor Eventi’s phone.” I heard her say, and my stomach begin twisting into knots.
Then a few moments later, her voice changed. “Doctor Eventi! Where are you? We need you in surgery you know!”
The clock ticked over to 7.30am. The anaesthetist had her hand on my shoulder, patting me reassuringly and telling me it was going to be okay.
Finally five minutes later the doctor breezed into the room, followed closely by Shirley the nurse. He looked calm and relaxed. Not at all like a man in a hurry.
“Hullo!” he said, breaking out into a huge grin. “We haven’t met before have we?”
“No.” I managed to get out, between my clenched teeth.
“My name is Doctor Steve! Pleasure to meet you! ” he said, holding his hand out for me to shake.
First of all ‘Doctor Steve’? What kind if lame-o doctor uses their first name? Secondly what the hell did he expect me to do? I had an IV in one arm, and they were monitoring my blood pressure with the other. It was almost impossible for me to comfortably shake his hand. Thirdly, why the frig would I shake that man’s hand?? He was over half an hour late for an extremely time sensitive procedure.
He held his hand in front of me for a few moments, then slowly withdrew it. He frowned at me and then shrugged a little, apparently hurt that I had snubbed him. Meanwhile, the anaesthetist was still hovering the oxygen mask inches from my face ready to pounce as soon as she was given the okay.
“What are you having done today Sadie?” the doctor asked.
“Egg pick-up.” I confirmed quickly.
“And how many eggs will we get?” he asked.
“Doctor Holiday thinks maybe 10 to 14.” I replied. “My guess is 10.”
“Can I put her under now? Please?” the anaesthetist asked.
Doctor Eventi nodded and the mask was pushed onto my face. Immediately I started breathing deeply. My final thoughts were that the eggs had better still be there, or that doctor was in deep deep trouble.
When I woke up in the first recovery room, the first thing I did was check for a sticker on the back of my hand that would tell me how many eggs were collected.
The number I had predicted! I was relieved and elated both that we had still managed to collect the eggs, and that we’d picked up 10. I thought it was a great number. Enough to give us a great chance of making a real take-home baby, but not so many that it would give me OHSS again. Perfect!
The nurses in the first recovery room found I was responding really well and hadn’t had any of the dramas I’d experienced after my last egg pick-up when I’d passed out. I was, however, complaining constantly that I needed to pee.
“But the doctor drained your bladder during surgery.” a nurse told me. “You shouldn’t need to pee, dear.”
“But I do!” I insisted.
So they brought me in a bed pan. But ugh I hate those things and just can’t use them. After about 10 minutes of wiggling around trying to get myself at an angle so that I could pee, I eventually used the sides of the bed to haul myself up into a sitting position.
“No no no dear!” the nurse cried. “You can’t sit up like that! You need to rest!”
But eventually, she agreed to release me into the second recovery room, seen as I was clearly wide awake and also determined to find a way to empty my bladder. In the second recovery ward I was allowed to get up out of bed so a nurse helped me to shuffle to the bathroom, wheeling my IV drip beside me, and let me use the toilet. Yep, my bladder was full. My mama didn’t raise no fool.
After that my blood pressure dropped suddenly and I was made to get back into bed again. But I was allowed to eat some breakfast, and also have a cup of tea. I always reward myself after a successful egg pick-up with caffeinated tea. Yep, I’m a rebel. But it was delicious! I also scoffed down sandwiches, crackers with cheese, sweet biscuits and a bowl of fruit. I guess I was hungry…
I also had a chance to peep at my surgical notes as they were briefly left on the table beside my bed. I had 5 eggs picked up from each ovary, which I thought was great. The last time I’d gone through egg pick-up only my left ovary had eggs within the follicles. This showed both my ovaries were still doing something right.
I did notice that the doctor had scribbled down notes about a haemmorhaging cyst. It must have been the endometrioma that Doctor Holiday had picked up in her final scan. Doctor Eventi had written down that it was “large + + +” so obviously it had grown even bigger. And if it was seeping blood no wonder I’d been in so much pain before my pick-up. The doctor had drained the cyst, but made no other mention of it on the notes.
Before I was allowed to go home I had to go through the usual ‘toilet and scan’ protocol. To make sure my bladder was emptying properly after the procedure I had to go to the bathroom, and then one of the recovery nurses scanned my bladder. In order to be discharged from the hospital the reading had to show under 100ml of residual fluid in my bladder. This never, ever, ever works for me the first time. Sure enough, even though I felt like I’d emptied my bladder fully it showed 150ml of residual fluid.
The nurses then made me drink two cups of black tea and go to the bathroom again. When they scanned my bladder I had 200ml of residual fluid. And so began my nightmare.
“Oh my gosh it’s gone up!” the nurse said, super confused.
“It’s fine.” I explained calmly. “The ultrasound is picking up free floating fluid in my abdomen from the egg pick-up. It’s not in my bladder.”
“No it’s in your bladder.” the nurse disagreed.
And then she went off to phone the doctor, who decided I certainly wasn’t allowed to be discharged. Instead I was told to keep drinking and peeing, and then having my bladder scanned.
“But Doctor Holiday would let me go home.” I tried to argue.
“Well Doctor Holiday isn’t here right now.” the nurse scowled. “And Doctor Eventi will not let you leave until your bladder is empty.”
The hours started to slowly pass in the recovery ward, where patients normally spend around 30 minutes before being discharged or moved to a proper ward. Patients came and went all around me. But I kept repeating the same process: drink tea, heat pack on my abdomen, urinate, scan. Each time they scanned me, my bladder was more full than before, even though I knew I was emptying properly.
As the clock hit midday, the head nurse came to visit me and scan me herself. She couldn’t figure out what the problem was, and suggested I walk up and down the ward with a heat pack firmly on my abdomen to try and wake up my bladder. She also told me to completely stop drinking liquid, and start double and triple voiding. She was confident that protocol would see my bladder empty before lunch.
She was wrong. So wrong! Every time I went to the bathroom and they scanned me there was more residual fluid. By 3pm it was above 400ml and I had spent basically the entire day in the recovery ward. The head nurse decided to call down a consulting urologist, and also call Doctor Eventi again because it looked like they were going to have to keep me overnight at the hospital.
Then they decided to try a catheter. I wished they’d just tried the catheter right at the beginning of the day. Last time I had an in-out catheter that’s literally all it had been. They put the catheter in, pushed on my bladder, and then removed the catheter. This time, the head nurse inserted the catheter then tried to jiggle it all around to get the best result. It was super super uncomfortable. When they pushed down on my bladder they got basically no urine out.
“See!” I said. “It’s not in my bladder. It’s free floating fluid.”
But still that head nurse was determined to prove the fluid was in my bladder. She kept wiggling the catheter in me, had one nurse scanning my belly with the ulrasound wand and another nurse forcefully pushing down on my bladder. The three of them tried for about half an hour while I lay there in an awkward position with my legs in the air and completely spread open. When I eventually complained that it was a bit uncomfortable, the head nurse dismissed me with the good old “if you’re complaining about this, how are you going to handle child birth?” line.
But for all of their efforts they only managed to get about 70ml of urine out of me. And only because it slowly dripped out over the course of the half hour, which would be fluid naturally arriving in my bladder anyway as my body digested my lunch.
The head nurse sent one of her assistants off to phone back Doctor Eventi and explain that the catheter had shown there was nothing in my bladder. She returned a few minutes later with a grim look on her face.
“Doctor Eventi says that it’s free floating fluid in the abdomen from the egg pick-up.” the nurse grimaced. “And the patient can be discharged.”
By the time I was released from the hospital it was early evening. I was pretty disappointed, because usually after egg pick-up I like to rest on the couch at home watching movies and eating chocolate. It’s another reward I give myself for a job well done. But I’d missed out on that because the stupid nurse wouldn’t listen to me or take me seriously.
But it hadn’t been all bad. I ended up making such good friends with a few of the nurses they actually walked me out of the hospital when Doug came to collect me.
One of them was only 23 years old and had just found out she has endometriosis and blocked tubes. She asked me for advice on what she should do, because she did want to have children eventually but wasn’t quite ready yet. I talked her through what I had been through myself and how my biggest regret was that I hadn’t started trying for children when the doctors first picked up my problems. She seemed very grateful just to have someone to talk to about her own issues and I felt good that I could give her advice and some things to think about.
As I left the hospital, the nurses said they’d see me next time.
“Nah you won’t.” I corrected them with a big smile. “This time around I’m going to get all the embryos I need so I’ll never need to do another egg pick-up.”
And for the first time ever, I truly believed it when I said it. I felt so positive and happy, like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. This would be my last egg pick-up. My take-home baby was one of those 10 eggs collected. This time I would be successful. I just knew it.
The next morning, the embryologist phoned to let me know my fertilization result. Of the 10 collected, one egg was immature, and one was degenerating rapidly so they had only performed ICSI on 8 eggs. And of those 8 eggs, 7 had fertilized!!!
I was so excited!! It was by far our best result yet. In our first cycle our fertilization rate was 57%, our second cycle was cancelled due to poor ovarian response, our third cycle the fertilization rate was also 57%, but our fourth cycle the rate was 87.5%!!
To me, it just proved my own theory to be true: everything was falling into place. This would be my last ever egg pick-up. We would be able to do a fresh transfer, and also freeze multiple embryos. I would have many chances, without ever having to do another fully stimmed IVF cycle. I was ecstatic.
But sometimes life just doesn’t work out the way you’ve planned……
(to be continued…again…)