Thursday, February 4, 2010

In the Light of Day

Yesterday needs to be an all's-well-that-ends-well memory as it sure as heck wasn't fun or easy. Objectively, the surgery was a success - the doctors were able to harvest healthy eggs and, through ICSI, create six embryos that are now growing in the lab. Subjectively, it was a physical and emotional strain on Shannon (and me too, but there's no comparison), a process we'd have to think long and hard about before ever considering a second go-round. Shannon's dealing with some really bad abdominal pain and is essentially on bed rest - though we did pull off a waddle pool-side earlier today. Thankfully, relatively speaking, she is feeling a little better - her energy level is up and her email-response addiction is in full swing.

In this Men are from Mars installment of the blog, I'm going to reenter list mode, try to make some lemonade out of these lemons and share a few take-aways for folks considering or about to go down this path. Should Shannon and I ever have to go through this process again, we'll be sure to remember the following. (Far as I can tell, this advice applies to any city in India, not just Mumbai.)
  • IVF drugs are known to increase a woman's sensitivity to taste and smell. It sure did for Shannon. (Shannon found our lost hotel room key the other night just by sniffing the air.) When preparing for the hospital trip, bring lots of familiar, bottled water. Sure, the hospital has water, but it's warm and tastes funny and you never lose the thought that it's India water, it's going to make us sick. (Food can not be brought into the hospital and, even if you could, there's a nil-by-mouth order before surgery and a nil-by-mouth window after surgery as well. The hospital does have a cafeteria. What's it like? It's like a hospital cafeteria.)
  • Seems most women don't need laparoscopic retrieval for egg pick-up (aka EPU or OPU for 'ovum pick-up) - the vaginal procedure is fine - so the anesthesia used is lighter and the recovery much quicker. Nevertheless, bring some cough drops or sucking candy to soothe a ragged throat. This would have been very helpful for Shannon.
  • While we're at it, bring laxatives and strong pain medicine. Extra Strength Tylenol seems to be a safe bet for pain meds as ibuprofen products like Advil aren't always permitted after surgery.
  • If at all possible, consider a hotel relatively near your hospital. A ride that takes 20 minutes at 5:30 in the morning takes about 75 minutes between 6:30am and 10:00pm. There's just too many people going too many places. The last thing you want to do is walk out of the hospital and sit in a car for two hours. Worse, though many of the roads are in decent shape, some are decidedly not, resulting in an off road-like adventure that's not incision-friendly. (The Novotel's been perfect for us.)
  • Bring an iPod, walkman, whatever for both you and your spouse. You will not have a room to yourself and you can not expect silence. There is no mobile phone ban in the hospital and phone calls - sent and received - are frequent. Conversations of any kind are common. Now I don't actually believe the volume of conversation is any louder here than in the west but the use of a foreign language tends to amplify the disruption. Your only escape is through headphones and some familiar music or interesting audio book.
  • Socks are considered no more sanitary than shoes when it comes to entering the surgical area. India hospitals supply flip flops for folks walking into sterile areas. Just a heads-up that if you're going to make an appearance in the operating area, you'll need to go barefoot and then put on previously worn sandals.
  • Don't rule out striking up a conversation with other families. It has been our experience that the locals are extremely friendly and not remotely shy about personal matters. If you're ok with the accent then you can expect an interesting, candid conversation. As Shannon had mentioned in her last post, a few very pleasant minutes were spent speaking with the sister-in-law of our roommate, a mother of twins through IVF. This sister-in-law literally walked up to Shannon, who was lying in bed, and asked, "So why are you here?" [Of course, be sensitive to why those families are in the hospital. If a loved one is on his/her deathbed, that may not be the best time to pry.]
  • If at all possible, arrange to have someone handle registration and other hospital minutiae. Our clinic, SI, uses Heena and she's a lifesaver. I won't even try to picture how yesterday might have gone without her.
  • Verify everything; assume nothing. This isn't about not trusting your doctors or the hospital or anyone else. It's just that mistakes can be made and ultimately you need to bear the responsibility of ensuring all is in order. Educate yourself about the process, question guidance, think through implications and hold folks accountable. We're reading every line and are likely pains in the butt with our endless questions but the doctors understand and respect the attention - not to mention that we prevented Shannon from taking an antibiotic she's allergic to.
  • Watch this commercial, playing on India television, if you ever need a pick-up. Shannon can't get enough of it and wears a big smile every time the little boy and girl wish each other a happy holiday.
Today, Thursday, was a rest day. We head back to Lilavati Hospital tomorrow afternoon for the transfer and for a check of Shannon's bandages and sutures. (The bandages are some sort of waterproof, super bonding plasters that pull on the skin and are thus fairly uncomfortable.) This means we'll know around 5:30pm (Mumbai-time) how many embryos will be placed in our carrier and how many will be left over for freezing. Hard to believe that with all we've gone through, there are still no guarantees. This'll be an anxious few hours!

As always, thank you for your attention, prayers and good wishes. We feel far from alone out here.


  1. This courageous journey you have taken on to bring a child or maybe two!! into this world is beyond words. Hopefully you are sound asleep now for tomorrow will bring tears of joy as new life begins.
    Love from all of us in Greenville, Me. xxxooo

  2. Well said Geoff. I pray for a positive result in the not too distant future for the two of you.