Some how the time came, racing along at full speed, and I was heading to Athens to visit Serum for my first initial tests.
Due to the excuse of busy-ness and also trying to be as even and zen about what was happening to me, I had wanted to appear as relaxed and laid back as possible by putting all of my trust in the team at Serum and hadn’t asked too many questions. Of course this was also part of my step by step, one foot in front of the other strategy.
I arrived in Athens on time and decided to make my way to the clinic via Metro forgetting that Greece runs on island time. I had printed out directions and had made an appointment directly from the airport on the advice and suggestion of almost everyone involved in the process and from the many, many posts on ‘Fertility Friends’ websites. Dragging my suitcase behind me over cobbled, narrow and uneven streets I arrived 20 mins after my ‘rough time’ which seemed to be no problem as it appears they keep quite a loose scheduling system, very well suited to cases like mine and overseas clients.
It was strange not having to fill in forms or confirm payments, they seem very laid back. After a small wait I was told to go to the 3rd floor where I was greeted and lead to a small room where I was told to empty my bladder and then get changed. Ok – straight into it then.
Upon returning the nurse asked me what tests I was getting done – I looked at her blankly. Finally we cleared up the fact that it was my first visit, that I had no clue and she then confirmed a few other details. We had a laugh and were back on track. My initial thought was – stay calm, I am sure this was just a small hiccup.
I had to don this hilarious too small wrap around sheet about the size of a hand towel, I think I am going to have to get used to manovering it over my left thigh to ensure the least flashing possible….ooooo sexy! I sat for a few minutes and then was told to come into the next room where 3 people were – 1 being the famous Penny, who is the clinic director and founder of Serum. She had a huge smile on her face in greeting but was straight to business – ‘Please sit down and put your legs up here, I will first do a scan’. My god, it is run like a tight ship around here, understandably so but for someone coming off 4 and a half hours sleep, an early flight and going into the unknown it was all a bit much.
It was amazing to have someone be very quick and precise and so obviously know what they were talking about minus the judgement – all things I have had to endure during this process.
She informed me that my left ovary had 4 follies and that unfortunately my right ovary was not a good producer and that it may have 1-2 follicles. We then got into a conversation about my eggs being accelerated to the state of a 41 year old, she then looked at me in disbelief and asked who had told me that? While answering, it caused me to lose it and get emotional, tears leaking out. All 3 tisked at doctors, then she put my legs together sat me up and gave it to me straight:
P: “How old are you?”
P: “How old are your eggs?”
P: “If I scanned a 41 year old and they produced 19 eggs. What eggs would be better?”
Me: “32 year old eggs” (I was sobbing at this stage)
P: “ Thats right, it makes me so sad to see beautiful young girls so upset by the words of others. How many eggs does it take to make a baby?”
“1” – We all chorused -laughing now (well, I was laugh crying)
She gave me a huge hug and asked: ‘So, why are you crying?”
Next she explained that she wanted to do an Aquascan. Luckily I had read that this was quite a common procedure at Serum. It involves inserting a catheter into the uterus (“There are 3 things that you need to make a baby – an egg, sperm and a good baby growing environment” repeated Penny), passing saline through the catheter, blowing up the uterus to gain a look at every nook, crannie, scarring, mark etc. It was amazing to see it on the monitor, it looked so small. Excitedly she told me this was a perfect looking uterus, absolutely nothing there to impair anything and that it was able to be ready for 1 or even 2 babies. It was a textbook scan.
She then scraped the side of my uterus to make it more optimal for implantation. Thankfully I could not feel that at all (until an hour or so later when I got some pretty intense cramping). Unfortunately she then told me that because the liquid had only stayed in the uterus that meant that my tubes were probably blocked, however because I am doing IVF this was not a problem. I decided not to press for more information and find out about that later if it would influence things further down the track at some point….small step by small step. I decided to flag this bad news and move on.
I was able to get dressed and then went to meet with her and the embryologist in her office on the 4th floor. This proved to be the most informative part of the day and enabled me to ask the questions I needed to ask and get a clearer picture of things.
- Because of my right ovary and the extremely low number of follicles she does not want to use stimulants unless absolutely necessary. She explained it “It’s like if you have a gun held to your head, it impairs you and makes you seize up or act differently than you normally would. Stimulants can do that to your eggs (causing abnormalities or making them ‘freeze’ in growth) and with a limited number I do not want to do that to you, we want it to be as natural as possible.”
- I will be following a protocol called ‘Natural supported cycle’. Which means initially I will only take supplements to help improve egg quality and to prepare my uterus: Steroids, antibiotics (to counteract the scraping and clear the uterus of any bacterial invaders that may be present), Melatonin (to aid egg quality) and extra folic acid on top of the prenatal vitamin I am already taking.
- NO NEEDLES at this point!!! There are some bonuses to sucky egg numbers! There may be stimulants later after my Day 5/6 scan if some follicles aren’t developing properly (to help them along), but they will administer them! Whew!!!
- This part is a little gross: I need to collect drops of my blood when my cycle starts so they can test it when I am back (as I won’t be there during it), to make sure there is no infection and all is good.
- I will be back in Athens on July 6th, straight from the airport to the clinic (taxi this time), to ensure I have a scan to make sure everything is developing ok and then adjust anything that needs to be adjusted before retrieval.
After that it was the logistics of obtaining the medications and payment for the Aquascan (E200) and medication (E47). This was way lower than the E1500-E2000 that I had expected after researching….although I may be paying big amounts for stimulants if they are needed when I am back.
I was then taken through the printed out sheet of instructions Penny had given me 1 more time, given a plastic cup and saline for blood collection and I was out the door on my way to the hotel up the street, emotional and desperate for a lay down but feeling a thousand times better knowing that I am in great hands with someone at the helm who comes across as your Greek Grandma. Just what you need when you are doing this alone – “Amy, the lovely, kind, beautiful girl, who has not yet met her prince. She will have everything ready for him”.