Thursday 9th September 2010
One year ago.
I dial and wait.
“Hello, it’s Shirley speaking,” says the voice in an Irish lilt.
“Hi Shirley, you’re Shelley’s supervisor?”
“That I am.”
“Are you all Irish there at Monash IVF?”
“No, not all of us.”
“Just the ones we deal with.” She laughs. “I’m just checking to see how our embryos are going. Mark Nethercote and Susan Brock, IVF Numbers…”
“…Yes, yes, yes,” she says, imitating a leprechaun, “I was just looking at your little one.”
“Our little one? Not two?”
“No, one didn’t make it.”
“I’m guessing that was the slower one? It was only six cells on Day Three. It had a bit of defragmentation,” I add.
“Oh,” she says, like I just told her our embryo had special needs. “Just let me check the database.”
I hear clicking sounds in the background, her fingers dancing on the keys. A moment later, she takes a breath. “Yes, that’s right. The six-celled one degenerated.”
I let out a little laugh. “It degenerated? Go on, Shirley, don’t sugar coat it for me.”
“I’m joking. I’m just, it’s a new term. I guess that degeneration is a few notches up from defragmentation.”
“It doesn’t sound like a good thing.”
“So what does that mean, exactly? What actually happens?”
“Well, your embryo pretty much stopped dividing. From day three to day four it only increased by one cell, and then there was no further progress. And then on day five to six, it just sort of…fragmented and degenerated.”
“Okay then. So, then – I guess you just dispose of them?”
“Fair enough.” Bye, fella. “And the other one?”
“Oh, that one’s done really well.”
“How many cells has it got to?”
“It’s a blastocyst.”
“So how many cells is that? I need numbers, Shirley.”
“Well, once they’re beyond about ten cells, they start to expand very quickly until they’re sort of like a blob of irregular jelly. That’s a blastocyst.”
“Excellent. So is our blob of irregular jelly doing well?”
“Yep. No fragmentation.” No special needs. “It’s been frozen.”
“Great. A Day Five Blastocyst. And it’s frozen.”
“For a rainy day.”
“One rainy day out of two ain’t bad, I guess?”
“And when it comes to thawing what’s the survival rates?”
“Oh maybe 70%. No, in fact, it may be up to 85%,” she says, plucking a number out of her arse.
But I don’t care.
It’s not 20%.
It’s better than 50/50.
And beyond that, it doesn’t really matter.
“Excellent. Thank you so much.”
“Any other questions?”
“Yes, actually. I’ve just got a couple of questions after the other day. About the transfer.”
“What about it?”
“Well, I was up the top by Suse, so I couldn’t really see what they were doing. All I could see was the Embryologist passing a pick-up-stick to the Obstetrician, which disappeared for about thirty seconds, and then they checked under the microscope to see that it wasn’t there anymore. How do they know that it went into the uterus, and that he didn’t drop it on the floor, or get it caught under his fingernail?”
“Well, the embryos are loaded into a very fine catheter, like a terribly fine drinking straw. It’s placed into a bubble of media, which is sits in, right at the end of the catheter. They check it under the microscope for its placement, prior to the transfer. And they don’t inject that little bubble until the catheter is right inside the uterus.”
“Okay, that makes sense.”
“Does that help?”
“Sure. I mean, on Monday, it just kind of looked like they were balancing Brock #93486 on the end of a stick. And then he stuffed it somewhere and kind of went, ‘oh well, it’s gone.’ ”
“No, it’s a little more sophisticated than that.”
“I guessed it would have been,” I say, laughing.
“You didn’t feel like you could ask about it when you were in there?”
“Oh, I would have. But at the time, mostly we were concentrating on Susan not urinating on his head.” Silence. “That was taking up all of our… effort.”
“You don’t get that a lot?” The line is silent. “You don’t have women with their bladder… never mind. Thank you for all of your help.”
“Okay, bye then,” she says, hanging up quickly, and writing a warning on our file in big red letters about our urine fetish.
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