Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Egg Retrieval Story

Hey there, folks. How are you? I'm much better than I was, happy to say. I have been all blown up like a water balloon from a touch of OHSS, which wasn't particularly painful but was kind of tiring, but on Sunday night I peed like I have never peed before -- I think someone told my kidneys there was a talent scout in the house -- and suddenly I can wear pants again. If I do end up pregnant, I know this will be only the eye of the storm, but I am enjoying it nonetheless.

As far as other ailments, I know Sugar told you I've been rather sick, but I want to make clear that pain and vomiting did at least happen on different days. The pain was very bad the day after retrieval -- probably because of all the endometriosis -- and then not. The nausea was bad around transfer (5 days post-ER), and I am convinced was a side effect of the progesterone. Now that my body's used to it, I'm fine. (The doctor tried to sell me on nausea as being because of the bloating, but I haven't felt sick when at my most bloated; when I felt nauseated was between the post-ER bloat and the real OHSS ballooning.)

I said before that your ER stories were all of so much help to me at my own retrieval, so I figured I'd better tell mine before it fades in the haze of the percocet-filled days that followed it. It's looooonnnggggg. I hope it will help someone later.

On the morning of retrieval, I was hungry and scared. My clinic says no food or drink at all after midnight the night before, and my procedure wasn't until midmorning. I have a touch of hypoglycemia, and that long without food leaves me a hot mess: shaky, frightened, easily confused, possessing the emotional self-control of a nap-less toddler. On the other hand, my ovaries felt so big and my back was so sore that if someone had handed me a grapefruit spoon, I might well have dug the eggs out myself. I was, shall we say, ready as I'd ever be.

We took a cab to the clinic, which was very empty because it was Saturday. After filling out payment contact forms for the anesthesiology department, we went up the the second floor of the clinic, where they have operating rooms. I really liked that I didn't have to go to a separate hospital. Not only was it less nerve-wracking to be in a familiar place -- a VERY familiar place, given how much monitoring I'd been having -- but it was also calm and uncrowded. Most of the nurses I saw that day I had met in the blood draw room at one point or other, which was comforting.

When we got to the second waiting room, there was one man by himself and one male/female couple. After a few minutes, the woman was called back. About ten minutes later, the nurse called her (presumed) husband back through a different door.

Wow, I thought, if he's already going to meet her in recovery, this really IS a quick procedure.

Very soon, a brusque nurse I hadn't met before called me back. "Okay, she'll come find you after she's done," she said to Sugar, prompting a freakout from me. The materials we'd been given all said that "depending on time and patient flow," she could meet me in recovery. Not anymore, the nurse said, new policy. I felt angry and even more scared. I would have been okay if I'd been expecting it, but I was in no state for surprises. I began to suspect that the nurse thought Sugar and I were just friends, that we weren't being treated like the het couple that had gone before us.

"What about that guy? How come he got to go, then?" I demanded. The nurse claimed no knowledge. I was rattled and pissed.

After that, I went to the locker room, where I exchanged my clothes for two nice, cloth gowns (one tied in back, one in front), little socks with rubber treads, and a shower cap that was extremely awkward for my long, heavy braid. The key was on a springy loop that I put on my left wrist. I then met the nurse in a tiny room with a table, where she took my pulse and BP (high for me -- "maybe you're a little nervous?" she said, rather kindly) and had me fill out more consent forms and so on. When we were done and the OR still wasn't ready, she totally redeemed herself in my eyes by fetching Sugar and letting us sit there together until it was time for me to go.

When they were ready, I walked with the nurse to the OR. The way there was through recovery, and I suddenly understood why Sugar couldn't meet me there -- there were just too many patients. The recovery area at the clinic is a series of curtained nooks (like you see in ERs sometimes) arranged around a nurses' station. Because some of the patients weren't conscious yet, all of the curtains were open. No partners were there, and I did understand that the nurse was right when she said that having partners come in had been a problem, since everyone was talking and people who were just coming to got confused. The atmosphere was very quiet and calm, even if it was still pretty weird to walk by the woman from the waiting room, out cold with her mouth wide open. She looked like a child or a rag doll.

The OR itself looked, well, like an OR. There was a table with white sheets and "stirrups" that were really just long things to put your calves in. I was standing in the big, open part of the room on the right hand side of the bed. To the left was lots of equipment. There were what seemed like a ton of people but was probably only 4 or so doctors and nurses bustling around. Everything was moving really fast. I got scared again.

"Hop up," they said, after having me take off one gown and "loosen" the other. (It turned out that by "loosen" they meant "completely untie." It would have saved some time and frustration on my part if they'd just said that. I felt like I was already supposed to know all this stuff, like in a weird dream.)

Hop up HOW? I thought. The bed was too high for me to get onto easily. They pressed something and it lowered down, I got on it, and everything started happening really fast. A man in green scrubs grabbed my left hand and pulled it out to the side, where there was a little table at a right angle to the bed. He started telling me to make a fist and so on, so he could start the IV. At the same time, a nurse I knew from the blood draw room was telling me to scoot down the table farther, so that my butt was at the edge of a hole in the bed that I could see because it was covered with a pad. Then she told me to put my legs up, then scoot more. Also at the same time, the anesthesiologist was asking me lots of questions about my history with IV anesthesia, my drug allergies, and so on. Only the anesthesiologist, on whom I have developed a bit of a crush, introduced himself.

At this point, I came a bit untethered. The man in scrubs -- who I recognized at some point as the surgeon, Dr. Saturday (and wouldn't it have been nice if he'd introduced himself?) -- put the IV in. It hurt like hell. In fact, it never stopped hurting for the rest of the day and I still have something of a bruise there, because it wasn't in right. I wish I had known that it wasn't supposed to be like that and that I should have asked him to do it again. (On the bright side, many people reported that the first stuff in the IV stings, and I barely felt that....) Everyone kept telling me to do things all at once. Someone put a BP cuff on my right arm, which inflated itself every minute or two. I started to cry, just a little.

"Oh, no! Don't cry!" said the sweet anesthesiologist, an Italian man of roughly my father's age. "Whenever I see a pretty lady cry, I start to cry too." I pulled myself together and explained that I was worried about the IV sedation, because when I had that for my wisdom teeth, I woke up in the middle and threw up for several days afterwards. He listened to that and to my saying I was going to need real pain medicine after, because tylenol doesn't do jack for me, and assured me that he would make sure everything was ok.

It was then that I really appreciated tbean's story, which scared the hell out of me when I first read it, such that I required much buoying from friends who'd done IVF themselves. As upset as I was at the time, my experience wasn't anything truly traumatic, but it helped during the worst part to remember what tbean had said about how this is surgery, no matter how much they act like it's just a "procedure." I looked up at the ceiling and told myself that everything that was happening was normal and how it was supposed to go, that these people were doing their jobs and that my job was to look at the ceiling, try not to think about how much my hand hurt, and trust that Dr. Italian would take care of me. The nurse tucked a white blanket around me so that my right hand was against my chest (nice touch), and the next thing I knew, I was in recovery.

My bed was facing the window, so I could see the green vacant lot next door and the bridge beyond. It was a sunny day, the view was pretty. I don't remember feeling anything but awake -- no groggy period or confusion. I knew where I was, why, and everything else. A nurse noticed I was awake and came over to check on me. She took care of me for the whole recovery period and was great in every way. She asked if I was in pain, and except for the &^$%ing IV, I mostly wasn't.

After a few minutes, I started to be. My belly was sore in the gas/endometriosis kind of way it had been that morning, my back was a little bit achey, as it had been for a week or more. My vaginal pain was very slight and never got bad, ever. Less pain than I have after a pap smear. I told the nurse and she said she would have the anesthesiologist see me as soon as he was out of the OR. That took 10-15 minutes, by which point my belly had started to be more of a problem.

Dr. Italian came out and gave the nurse something to put in my IV, and I started to feel better right away. He later gave her a syringe of the same something to give as an IM injection, which would last for the ride home.

I was my typically chatty self under the influence of drugs. I asked Dr. Italian to repeat his name a few more times. I ended up remembering it almost right. I told him, somewhat in awe, "I didn't wake up!"

"That's my job," he said.

The nurse brought me some apple juice and graham crackers, which were awesome. At some point, the nurse asked if anyone had told me how many eggs they got. She brought me a paper and pointed at the number 32. My eyes bugged out of my head.

I reminded her that I really needed a scrip for something that wasn't tylenol, and she had the fellow write for what turned out to be very necessary percocet. "Tylenol doesn't do anything," I said, "I might as well take water; it tastes better."

"That's my kind of lady!" said Dr. Italian, passing by.

A while later, she said it was time for me to try going to the bathroom, and helped me very slowly get up, carried my IV bag to the hook in the bathroom, and left me sitting there, with firm instructions not to try to stand if I felt weird.

So I sat there.
For a long time.

I had had two bags of IV fluid by that point, but nothing was happening. The nurse called to me that I should come out if it wasn't working. I was desperate not to stay longer than I had to, so I asked for an extra minute, turned on the sink, tried every mental trick I know, and peeds maybe 3 drops. When I wiped, I was shocked by how bloody the toilet paper was.

The nurse declared that even three drops counted, and I graduated to a recliner with the leg cushion out. Eventually I was allowed to sit up normally. Dr. Italian dropped by again and said "Good work, young lady," which I loved. (Seeing a theme? Why can't this man just be constantly passing through my life, praising me?) A while after that, she detached my IV from the cord (leaving it in my hand), and sent me to go put my real clothes back on. (I stopped to get a dreaded hospital pad from the bathroom, as I'd cleverly left the one I brought from home with Sugar.) Once in the locker room, I realized my fatal error: my key was attached to the wrist of my IV hand, which still hurt like hell. I had to gingerly stretch it over everything, which sucked. Nicole: put the dang thing on your right hand.

I returned to the chair, carrying my bra, because hell, no, it was not going back on. The nurse took out my IV, gave me my scrip, and sent me home with Sugar. As we left the 6th floor, I explained to Sugar my understanding why she couldn't be in recovery, but said I was still confused about where that first husband had gone.

"Dude. He went to give a sperm sample."

Oh. That's probably why the nurse didn't explain, huh? I hope the other waiting husband at least thought my outrage was funny.

We took a cab home, I retired to bed with my percocet, and everything was basically fine. I ate and drank normally. I peed. At some point, I stopped bleeding. The pain got bad the following day, probably as a combination of some OHSS and a lot of endo, but I don't think that's typical. In short (TOO LATE!), I was scared but nothing terrible happened. If I have to do this again, I don't think I'll be that upset.


  1. 32 eggs?! That's amazing. Totally worth the scary stuff, right?! Congrats. Good luck with fertilization and implantation! !

  2. So great to hear a full update from you! Listening to your story brought back a lot of memories for me and made me slightly apprehensive about my retrieval this Saturday. Fucking I.V.s!!! haha

    I'm so sorry that Sugar wasn't allowed to be there for you for a majority of the time. =( Just having your partner there to hold your hand makes everything much more bearable. But hooray for Dr. Italian! Partner comfort by proxy! =)

    And holy geez lady! 32 eggs! Impressive, to say the least.

    I'm happy you're recovering from the dreaded OHSS, and I look forward to you BFP! (I can be optimistic, right?)

  3. This sounds scary, but do-able. Thanks. Also, I heart your wife.

  4. I agree - totally not too scary to do again. Though I'm sorry about all the bloating and Gatorade and the painful IV.

    Sperm sample! Ha, ha! I didn't think of that either. Imagine THAT performance anxiety!

    When will you test? Beta or POAS?

    PS: I have to geek out for a minute on my word verification for this post. My word verification is "WAXSQUA." If you a word origin junky like I am, you know that "squaw," meaning woman, is likely derived from the Mohawk word for "female genitalia." You seem like the kind of folks who'd appreciate that being your word verification.

  5. I'm sorry it wasn't peaches and cream, but glad it wasn't terrible.

    Sending lots of sticky embie vibes your way.

  6. starhillgirl, you can totally do this. you probably won't even be very scared -- i am a huge wimp, and i made it.

    ruby -- hah! love the vulvar verification! very apt. no decision here about poas. we may just wait it out until beta on saturday. then again, it's barely wednesday....

  7. 32? That's terrific!!! I know it can be scary, I had a "procedure" recently and it turned into a bit of drama too... you can read about it here if you're interested (http://kaitake.blogspot.com/2010/05/my-operation-went-well.html).

    I just want to say thank you so much for writing this story, as we're facing IVF too. Every bit I learn makes me a little less scared. Best wishes :)

  8. WOW. I love highly detailed descriptions of these things--so useful. It sounds like a weird combination of being treated like a farm animal and being cared for well by at least a few kind people. I'm very glad it's behind you, and hope very very very much you never have to do it again.

  9. Congrats on 32! So glad this wasn't traumatic and you came through it ok. And yay for nice Italian doc.

  10. I knew you were writing this story just for me! :-) Seriously, it scared me a bit but was so good to hear. When my time comes I'll feel like I'm just walking in your shoes. I'm sorry Sugar couldn't be there. For us that will probably be good since Col does NOT do well in hospitals. And Go Dr. Italian! I wonder if I can request him :-)

  11. That sounded tough in parts, eh? But thirty-two is wonderful. 32! Fingers crossed you never have to do it again. Would that be great?

  12. Glad to read your story as well, sorry mine was so scarring! FWIW, my wife's retrieval on Monday was at a different location of our clinic (the main one) and was in their own retrieval suites (i.e. NOT a surgical center where I was) and thus, her experience was MUCH MUCH better and much less "hospitalized". So, we're all happy about that.

  13. That anesthesiologist sounds fabulous. We could all use someone like that drifting through and praising us. Glad the whole experience wasn't as bad as you thought it might be.