So…we have good news! After far too many days of me injecting her with hypodermic syringes, a Baker’s Dozen of eggs plus one (ie. 14), were extracted from Brita on Saturday afternoon. Of these, we were told (24 hours later) that 10 of them had fertilized – which is a pretty good percentage. As of 48 hours into their petrie dish holiday, 8 were still going strong. We should be hearing one further update before we hop on the plane this evening. The plan is to keep them swimming away in the petrie dish for 4 or 5 days (depending upon quality of the embryos), then choose the best to insert into Leena. We should know the results (hopefully, a positive pregnancy test) by December 21st or so… Fingers crossed!
The Adiva Clinic in Delhi touts itself as being a “world class” institution – no doubt, to soothe the frantic nerves of any westerner who is considering crossing its threshold. From our experience, this is well, at best, a hope and a prayer, rather than the reality. There is no question that the medical expertise (at least, with our Dr. Banerjee) is as good as you’re going to find anywhere. She gets a ringing, unreserved, endorsement! The rest of the experience, on the other hand (comparing it to our previous experience at PCRM in Vancouver), doesn’t come remotely close to a top clinic in the West. In other words, if you’re going to go…expect India with all its madness…and you’ll be fine!
Frankly, the place is completely chaotic and, for the most part, the staff seems to only have a vague understanding of what’s going on and when. Almost nothing of detail is communicated in advance and, when it is, rarely is any context provided for what needs to be done and why. I suppose part of the problem is that many of them don’t speak English, which would be fine if the target market was mainly local – but crazy if attracting foreigners is the objective. Brita had some “fun” herself – so check out her latest blog entry for details. My experience was mostly about waiting (hours….) interspersed with providing my “genetic contribution” in somewhat trying circumstances. While Brita was getting her prep-work done, I was signing, for about the 3rd time, the same set of consent documents which I’d reviewed about 30 minutes earlier. Apart from the fact that they should be presenting you with these documents a couple of weeks earlier (when the hormone stimulation was started) rather than when the extraction is about to commence and you have no option but to sign…., they insisted on signatures appearing in places where the documents didn’t even call for them…ahh well.
I can live with disorganized documents but the “contribution” experience certainly didn’t leave me looking for a satisfactory cigarette. One of the staff beckoned me over to his office and handed me a sealed plastic collection container and asked me to write our names on the label (try doing this when it’s already stuck onto the container). Then, he escorted me next door (to the scary looking room mentioned in the last post). It turns out that this room is only the outer room – the real action happens behind the inner door. By the way, the hallway outside was lined with interested spectators with nothing much to do except cheer on the hapless participants. Back to the narrative: the inner door was locked when we arrived. So…instead of assuming that someone might be “busy”, he proceeded to wiggle the handle and bang on the door…repeatedly! This, as you can imagine, did not do anything for my confidence that I would be left in a serene state myself. Finally, he gave up…suggested I just wait until whoever it was came out and then left me to lean casually in the doorway, nodding politely to the peanut gallery. A quick game of “Madden NFL” on the iPhone seemed in order…
Finally, the inner sanctuary opened and, much to my surprise, out walked a woman. No idea WHAT she was doing in there… So…in I went, expecting (half-heartedly, I must admit) to find the usual paraphernalia one finds when required to perform in such unusual circumstances. No such luck! Instead, I found a small bed with rumpled sheets (ugh), a small tv with a DVD player (empty)…and an attached bathroom. The only upside was that the contraption with the stirrups was safely in the outer room. That about covers the visual landscape but it does nothing to provide an impression of the soundscape which enveloped every corner of this small heaven. Bollywood music thumped from the left, loud voices of clerks came from the right, shrill complaints of waiting patients & families trailed in from behind. They all seemed to reside in a slightly different octave from each other so one got the impression one was living Pink Floyd’s “wall of sound”. Having said all that, performance was imperative, so I locked the door and told myself that any distractions were mere crumbs to be ground under my feet! Focus needed to be the order of the day so I set off (metaphorically) on the path….and all was going to plan…until…bang, bang, bank, knock, knock, knock….wiggle the doorknob, wiggle the doorknob, bang, bang, bang! Seriously! A loud “HELLO!”, followed by an “OI!”, and an “EXCUSE ME” followed in rapid succession from my lips. A “BUGGER OFF YOU IDIOT” was waiting in the wings should another volley of knocking have commenced. Fortunately, for both me and the fool outside, there were no further intrusions into my karmic space and, having done my best to eradicate all hostile thoughts, and summoned every meditation trick I could remember, I managed to produce the medically required stuff in record time. Needless to say, I was not in the usual blissful mood usually experienced after such exertions when I emerged from the inner sanctum. Of course, the outer door was wide open and my fascinated fans were all agog at my re-emergence. On top of that, the guy who’d provided me with the sample container had gone for lunch (& no one had replaced him) so I had to hunt down someone else to ensure that the valuables were properly put away in readiness for completing their fertilization duties… Mind-boggling!
Shortly after I’d found a seat in an incredibly crowded lobby (I find it amazing that entire families seem to accompany a patient to this clinic – so, of course, there’s almost nowhere to sit), Brita showed up in a hospital gown (and a most attractive cap). I don’t know who designed this building but walking prepped patients through a crowded lobby seems like a particularly daft idea. At least I could confirm to her that I’d done my bit and she whispered something about an odd barber experience she’d just endured (see her blog for details). Then ensued a few hours of reading & playing games on the iPhone while observing all sorts of entertainment in the lobby – complaining patients, a kid attempting a cartwheel, what seemed like a family reunion…frankly, I was expecting a herd of goats to pop by at any moment. Why they can’t restrict visitors to one or two per patient, especially with limited seating, I have no idea. Here’s a little snippet of the view from my top-secret spy cam:
A couple of hours later, I was told to pop into one of the ground-floor offices where Dr. Banerjee would join me shortly to provide an update. She turned up about 10 minutes later and gave me the good news of the 14 eggs that had been retrieved plus instructions for Brita’s post-operation medication. What I didn’t know at the time was that, while the good Dr. B and I were discussing eggs and meds, Brita had been rolled out of the Operating Theatre, down the elevator, and out into the, now famous, lobby. She, in her half-drugged state, was, fortunately, quite amused at this since we’d seen exactly the same scene being played out with a distraught American woman just a couple of days earlier. The attendants, like on that occasion, seemed to be completely confused as to what to do with the patient and, eventually, after the attendant crowds had seen their fill, wheeled her back into the elevator and took her upstairs. What’s amazing was that we’d mentioned the American woman’s experience to Dr. Banerjee who had, immediately, phoned the responsible party and told them that anything like that was completely inappropriate and shouldn’t happen again. Yet, here we were only two days later….maybe that’s why the crowds show up! Brita tells me she was peering around in her hazy state looking, in vain, to see where I was- no doubt ready to pose for a pic!
I was finally summoned to go and see the recovering patient about an hour later – when she was actually in a rather decent recovery room. God knows why she’d had to have the building tour first, but she was looking quite chipper when I found her:
A celebration was definitely in order once we heard that all had been successful. Brita was feeling a bit “off” after the surgery so she stayed in bed while I went off to check out the Asian Tour Event (the Delhi Open) being played at the Delhi Golf Club. This was Englishman Paul McGinley teeing off in front of some of the very cool monuments the golf course is built around.
There’s plenty of wildlife around the course (I gather cobras are considered a hazard in the jungle – but not sure how many penalty strokes one gets) but the most colourful of the bunch has got to be this fellow and his kin.
That evening Percy treated us (and Aprajita) to a fabulous dinner at a fusion restaurant called the Indian Accent (it’s in a boutique hotel called The Manor). The food, and the company, of course, was terrific! I do have to mention one particular appetizer for which I hold a particularly fond spot. A popular street food in Calcutta is the “Puchka“. These are puffed, crispy balls stuffed with a spicy mixture (usually potato based), then filled with a tamarind-like sauce. You pop the whole thing in your mouth…and wait for the flavour to explode! Given my immune system has long-ago given up any hope of surviving an experience with Calcutta street food, imagine my delight when a seriously up-market version showed up on the Indian Accent menu! They were awesome!
It’s time to hit the road on the long flights home. First, a 5 hour jaunt to Shanghai, then another 10+ to Vancouver. Somehow, I seem to have started to catch a cold before I get on the plane, rather than after! Here’s hoping I can leave it on this side of the International Date Line…
[Editor’s Note: Hot off the press…the 8 little buggers are still going strong on Day 3…woohoo!]
There are many things that have an adverse effect on the scheduled departure of an airplane flight. During the winter in Delhi, the most common reason is fog (when the regular stuff created by the atmosphere combines with the irregular stuff created by thousands of puffing cars and transforms the air into a reasonable facsimile of the pea soup of 1850’s London). If all had gone as planned, given the absence of apparent fog as I peer out the window, we would be getting ready for Rai (driver, most excellent) to take us to the airport. Given this line of introduction, you’ve probably guessed (correctly) that any imminent arrival of fog will have no effect whatsoever on whether we depart tonight or not. Nope! The follicles have rebelled and have pointedly refused to take part in any itinerary booked for us by the good folks at Bains Travel in Vancouver. Note: We’re now booked out on the 7th evening.
The good news is that the afore-mentioned follicles, however uncooperative they are being on timing, are doing all the right things on their own schedule. There are about 12 of the little fellas coming along nicely in Brita’s ovaries with the “lead” one blowing past the goal of 14mm (that one reached 16mm last night). So, now that they’ve got their way on the timing, they are doing all the right things. Ideally, from the perspective of travelling on time, they’d have been yanked out and dumped in a petrie dish yesterday but now they’ll be making their entrance on Saturday afternoon. This will require us to descend on the Adiva clinic at about 2:30 in the afternoon and, after the prep, the procedure (about 30 mins), plus the recovery time from the general anaesthetic, we should be set free at about 8:30pm. You may ask what I’ll be doing while all this is going on and, yes, a good book will be present. However, I too have tasks to perform…on demand, I might add!
I should point out that, having gone through this IVF thing twice so far, I’m quite happy to “put out” for a good cause, but this time my focus will have to be like none other! One only has to have had spent a few days coming and going through the insanity of the Adiva lobby (and this room is right off it) to understand that solitude and, hopefully, bliss will not be accompanying me on this journey. Unlike the leather sofa splendour of the “collection” room at Vancouver’s PCRM, with its spa-esque environs and gentle music wafting around , this place is all business. From a brief, and nervous, glance as we walked by the other day, it appears to have glaring fluorescent lights, various types of lab equipment…and a set of stirrups! Between that, and the propensity for anyone and everyone to walk in without any semblance of a knock, there is no question that if performance anxiety were ever to raise its ugly head, it would likely do so then. I seem to recall that East German athletes (given they were hopped up on all sorts of performance-enhancing drugs) used to gain great benefit from using creative visualization techniques while they were practising. Having had a glimpse of the terrors awaiting me, I might just give that a try….
This, by the way, is the kind of activity that goes on in the Adiva lobby (it was, actually, even more insane about 10 minutes before I took this).
I was going to do some venting about the idiotic lawyer we’ve had to deal with for the surrogacy contract (sloppy, un-professional & egotistical) but, frankly, there are more important and positive things. Suffice to say, I doubt the clinic will use him again and I think I’ve helped them improve their documents. Onward…
A vastly more important event in the past couple of days was the arrival of a new member of Percy’s family – a dog who had been at a local shelter. The poor thing had her front paws run over at some point in the past and the idiot owners just abandoned her to the streets. She’s a yellow lab named Zara who hobbles around on about two and a half legs (she raises one of her front ones when she runs) and spreads love in every direction. Brita and I went to pick her up at the Sai Ashram shelter down the road from Percy’s place. It’s hardly the lap of luxury but it’s paradise for any street dogs lucky enough to find their way here. We were surrounded by about 20 as soon as we hopped out of the car.
We got Zara home (much to the chagrin of Sophie, the other 3-legged resident of Percy’s homestead) and she’s settled right in. She’s been to the vet three times already to get her on anti-biotics and vitamins…and is now running around with a large cone on her head to prevent her licking the wounds on her paws. Through it all she’s been incredibly easy-going and friendly. She’s gone from getting all the bad breaks to being one lucky hound – the rest of her life is going to be great! This was Zara having a nap this afternoon – before entering her cone-head phase.
There’s almost always a silver-lining to plans gone awry. Sure enough, our extra few days spent in Delhi will allow us to hang out a bit longer with Percy and various other new friends…and, much to my great delight, check out an Asian/European Tour golf event going on in Delhi (the Indian Open) over the weekend. There’s even a possibility I might get a round in at the Delhi Golf Club (which is hosting the tour event) on Monday and get to experience what it’s like to play on a course already set up to host a championship. Now that should get the ego crashing to the ground even if I manage to survive my Saturday experience at Adiva!
Over the years I’ve learned (sometimes painfully!) that when certain hormones are coursing through a woman’s body, it’s best to strew around the eggshells (liberal helpings, I would suggest) and tiptoe across them with extreme delicacy. Given such experience, you can imagine my consternation when advised by the good Dr. Banerjee that my job over the forthcoming 12 days was to poke my wife in the backside with a hypodermic syringe full of just those hormones – ie. a vicious circle of increasing hormones – inflict painful needle – increasing hormones – inflict painful needle – etc, etc….egad!!!! I’m pleased to report, however, that we have now passed Day 7 of such insanity, and that, for the most part, I’ve escaped relatively unscathed and that not too many eggs have been broken in the process. The particular hormone in question is FSH…which, ironically enough, is the thing that results in multiple eggs being produced. Hence the universal law of eggs neither being created nor destroyed (in the form of strewn eggshells) has been held sacrosanct…or does that universal law concern “matter”…whatever…eggs are matter too!
These afore-mentioned eggs are, apparently, the end-result of follicles being created in the ovaries. Not to get overly technical, but we’re waiting for the little fellas, the follicles that is, to reach approximately 14mm across (last Wednesday, they’d grown to 7mm), at which time, my tension level will rise once again. You may well wonder how, given the eggshell scenario set out above, this could be possible. Well, the simple answer is that I will then have to provide hypodermic pokes both in the morning and the evening, thus increasing the potential hostile risk by a factor of 2! I sympathize more and more with the South Koreans, notwithstanding Sarah Palin’s vacant ramblings on the issue…
We have another visit to the clinic tomorrow to see whether our follicular friends have grown to the hoped-for 14mm (I’m thinking of naming each of them) and to finalize the contract (which has been back and forth about 3 times and has confirmed my view that most Indians are great and easy-going with the big picture but details are often the problem). I’m sure we’ll get it done tomorrow since the clinic’s lawyer will finally be present…and it would be far too embarrassing for him not to get it right!
The second theme of this post (vaguely continuing on the egg subject) is the awesome domestic staff that Percy has surrounded himself with. Starting off with the cook, Ahmed, who is an expert on breaking, if not strewing, eggs himself. Every morning, he prepares us a great breakfast (his “masala omelette” is fabulous) and, usually, lunch and dinner as well. In between, he delivers hot tea on demand and never fails to have a smile on his face…. Here he is, the master of his domain…
Next comes Rai, one of Percy’s drivers. Rai is a master of many skills (and you have to have untold numbers of those to manage any number of large vehicles through Delhi’s insane traffic). He has tracked us down outside numerous, confusing, airport terminals, ferried us to and from the clinic, put up with waiting countless hours for us to potter around various shopping areas across Delhi…all the while being completely unflappable and professional. I should point out that he’s picked us up at the airport well after midnight and taken us there at 4:15am (separate occasions) so is on call as and when necessary. Talk about stellar service! Here he is from earlier today at the Khan Market where Brita shopped and I sipped my first latte in over a week…
My final comment on the great domestic staff around here concerns something that, initially, left me completely confused. I have now discerned that there is a particularly rare variety of bird to be found in these parts (I’ve dubbed them the “Security Birds”) which only come out at night. They insist on announcing their presence every hour, on the hour, starting at 11pm and continuing until about 5am. They tend to have a shrill call which is repeated in rapid succession over about 30 seconds, after which they go quiet for the balance of the hour. I was quite baffled by all this until I was advised that these are the birds in question:
Apparently, there are three of them stationed around the property and are required to switch positions every hour, whistling as they move to their next station. This is so none of them fall asleep on the job and, I suspect, the first fellow’s whistling serves to wake up the second one while providing evidence to those inside that they’re actually working. Oddly enough, I now seem to sleep through all the whistles after midnight. That’s probably because I’m getting good at tuning out all the other noise as well (fireworks every night, marching bands playing up a storm….it’s wedding season and one of the big centres for this is the Tivoli Gardens next door).
I should point out that when I took this picture earlier this evening, given my abysmal Hindi, I think these poor fellows thought I was doing an inspection (Percy’s away in Bombay) so they insisted on blowing their whistles with great gusto (until I asked them to stop)!
The last, but certainly not least, subject on the agenda is another reunion with an elementary school (the afore-mentioned Higgins School in Calcutta) friend. In this case, not just any old friend…but my first crush! Yup…36 years later, I finally got to see Sanober Randeria (now Sanoo Katrak) again. I was just a tad nervous because when I tracked her down via Facebook a few months ago (she lives in Columbus, Ohio), she had no idea who I was. Hah! Oh, the ego slap! Even after telling her that I was sure our Grade/Class 5 romance was mutual, she still insisted that she wasn’t sure who I was. Oh dear! Subsequently, she claims to remember the kid with curly hair, so I’m slightly placated…I think… Anyway, it was great that she happened to come to Delhi for a friend’s son’s wedding so Brita and I met her at her hotel for dinner. It was really a lot of fun and it was so nice to catch up. See…we all got along fabulously!
In fact, we got along so well that we got together again a couple of days later. We ended up in Greater Kailash 2 (GK2 to its friends) and wound up having some masala chai at this place – which held itself out as a cafe but, it turns out, doubles as a nightclub in the evening! You know you’ve got pretty comfortable with each other when you can sip chai with pole dancers lurking in the background….welcome to the Mannekin Club! Made my day….