Jennifer Lahl interviews Jane Doe.
Lahl – Yesterday the Wall Street Journal had a story on, " Ova Time: Women Line Up to Donate Eggs -- for Money". This seems like a good time to remind people of the dangers of egg donation and tell your story. You made the decision to sell your eggs at a time when you weren't sure if or when you would have your own children. What seemed at the time a nice thing for you to do didn't turn out so well. How many eggs were taken from you and what do you know about any pregnancies which resulted from your donation.
Jane - They got between 50-60 eggs from me. The couple was Asian and wanted an Asian egg donor. They retained rights to all my eggs and any subsequent embryos created using my eggs and the husband's sperm. What little I know was that there was a pregnancy and perhaps twins. I didn't follow-up any further than that. The woman had premature ovarian failure therefore she needed to use an egg donor.
Lahl – Tell me what medications were used, how you were instructed in administration of the drugs and any short or long term risks, or problems you should look out for.
Jane - I believe they used the regimen described in your talk – I gave myself Lupron injections for synchronization with the woman who would get my eggs, followed by stimulation to mature the eggs, then an injection to release the eggs for the retrieval process. The instruction was done by the egg donation agency. None of the women were health care professionals. I searched the internet and medical literature and didn't find any evidence of long-term side effects. I was warned about possible effects such as ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, but they were very confident that nothing would go wrong based on anecdotal and personal experience. I was told they never had any complications. Some of the women were donors themselves in their 30s and had gone through 5-6 cycles already. I don't recall them telling me anything about future infertility or cancers, only that they never heard of anything going wrong.
A few days before the eggs were to be retrieved I had to fly to the fertility clinic to have lab work and an ultrasound to see how many follicles were developing. Two days prior I took medication to mature the eggs. I think Clomiphene was one of the drugs. They stimulated me too much based on the lab work, even though I didn't have severe "hyperstimulation syndrome" symptoms. They were measuring the progesterone or estrogen levels and it was way over the target--they even commented on this. I requested they back off on the stimulation but they were adamant that in order to have a good result, I needed to follow the protocol. I don't think they took into account ethnicity or weight in their protocol, which is just ludicrous. I injected myself with the last medication that night to help release the eggs. For the retrieval, they did inform me of possible negative outcomes such as bleeding and infection.
Everything went well until the retrieval. I woke up in the recovery room and realized I was weak and dizzy and could not get up easily. I went to the bathroom and I felt extremely nauseous and dizzy. They gave me more IV fluids because they thought I had side effects from anesthesia and low blood pressure. I then started having trouble breathing. They did an ultrasound and said there was nothing wrong with me. They kept trying to get me to go home, which would mean a plane flight, but I could not even stand up. The pain in my belly got worse and I was convinced I was bleeding internally. It felt like there was something irritating my diaphragm and preventing me from breathing. It was a burning sort of feeling in my chest and abdomen. My blood pressure was low and they gave me medication to increase it. Later they admitted me to the hospital and tried to get me to eat. I could not even sit up without extreme distress and painful, difficult breathing. I had only been evaluated by the fertility doctor and the ultrasound tech. I was pretty sure I was going to die. They took my blood pressure and I remember them calling out "40/20", but it was documented as much higher, around 60/30 in my medical records. They decided to take me in for emergency surgery. As it turned out, the fertility doctor had punctured an artery somewhere near my ovary. They did an exploratory laparotomy and flipped through my intestines several times before they found the small but gushing bleeder, and cauterized it. I woke up on a respirator in the ICU and stayed there for a day or so. I knew that bleeding was a risk, but to ignore my obvious signs of bleeding for 6 hours and then try several times to put me on a plane home -- that could have killed me! I got 3 units of blood transfused. Afterwards, the doctor kept reiterating that it was my fault and that this has never happened to her, in the hundreds and hundreds of times she's done this. The overall statistics for bleeding was 1:3000, she said. Then she checked me for bleeding disorders that I knew I did not have. I had a lot of problems with equilibrium after this and was unable to walk long distances after 3 days. Luckily I had a friend with me at the time and eventually I got home.
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