Story from a CUBE graduate

To all the doubting Thomas’s out there, I tell you I was once one of you. I heard about Egg Donation a very long time ago, when I planned to donate eggs myself, but when it came time to consider a treatment, my thoughts were - it’s just a game, a con, and an expensive one at that.

My background? I already had 6 children of my own, my ovaries, eggs and uterus had worked just fine. All of my children were normal, with no genetic issues. I had previously volunteered to donate my own eggs as far back as 1998, but I was pregnant at the time, and so it fell through.

I still longed for another baby, and when my eggs finally proved too tired and stubborn to make this happen, I decided to take the leap of faith to technology. My advancing maternal age meant I could not do the process in London, and so I looked overseas.

My first point of call was a very large institute in Spain where I stood in line as part of a steam driven fertility conveyor belt. The treatment was cripplingly expensive, and when the transfer failed, I left feeling financially overwhelmed, but also very let down by the clinic personnel, who showed no concern for their failed cycles. I made a trip to a less expensive clinic in Northern Cyprus where I was assured I was getting a ‘bargain’. Beware, there is no such thing in this game. Upon arriving at the clinic, no one spoke English, hygiene was suspect, more worryingly the doctor had no paperwork, no records of the donor treatment, no ultrasounds, no report. The whole transfer was done on a spurious degree of trust. But…I was shown an image of a very pretty girl!

It was lamentable, and such a mistake that I went back once more to the Spanish clinic where I felt they were comparatively better organised. I waited 7 months for donor matching. By now there were significant changes: the personnel had changed, the infrastructure ‘glitzed up’, the human element (in thin supply before) had now vanished: Cash-cow, please come in, we will let you know what we will do, no explanation will be given. Ask no questions. We are the experts.

This whole treatment ran with a huge sense of foreboding for me, as I was now well versed in fertility knowledge, research papers on beta doubling times, blastocysts success rates, and most importantly, criteria which make for good donor success. They promised me a success rate of around 85% on the transfer.

Arriving for transfer, I was treated as a real nuisance, just for asking how many embryos had made it to day 5. I was not allowed to speak to a Director or anyone except a co-coordinator, and it was not the co-ordinator who had been in communication with me for 7 months. It was a lady I’d never met, one lacking compassion and without empathy. Despite assuring me prior to travel, that all 7 embryos were great, I found suddenly that 2 mediocre blastocysts would be transferred, and the remaining 2 put in observation (what happened to the other 3, I had no idea?). ‘Observation’ on day 5 is an alarm bell, as - not being sufficiently developed or good quality for vitrification - means they are probably failing or have ‘arrested’, most likely due to highly aneuploidy (abnormality of the chromosomes).

They then told me none of the embryos transferred were graded, which set more bells clanging. After sitting in a hard chair in the cold for 2 hours being completely ignored, the co-ordinator finally spoke to the embryologist (not in English, which excluded me from all knowledge), who pointedly refused to classify either the transferred or remaining embryos. In an attempt to shoo me out of the clinic, I was told transferred embryos were A and B grade, and the remaining ones D and E and not fit for freezing. I was given no report, saw no images, and they refused to tell me anything about the donor. All of this was a very bad omen.

I left worried, but still hopeful. Being well read on betas, and research papers, I knew what I was hoping for in the numbers. Although I got a positive beta, the numbers soon stopped doubling at the correct rate (+/- 48 hours at the beginning) to a final doubling time in my case, of 840 hours (35 days). Classically this was the marker of a highly aneuploidy embryo. It was a total disaster.

This pregnancy failure was not mine, I had become a victim of a badly run laboratory and clinic of questionable practise. The Director had even counselled me for a triplet pregnancy, and possible fetal reduction at the transfer. He had seen what my embryos looked like (morphologically) and even a novice embryologist could have taken a guess they weren’t top quality.

After the pregnancy completely failed at around 6 weeks, I finally received information about the donor; she was almost 35, the oldest donor on their books, and they had completely overruled my request for a young healthy donor. Subsequent CGH analysis of the fetal content proved it was a Trisomy 3 fetus, which would not have even made 12 weeks gestation. I had ended up with a success probability of zero. From a good blastocyst I felt I would probably have had a live birth.

I was distraught, financially blown away, and in disbelief. This was NOT going to happen to me again!! It was now Christmas and I had to try and keep a grip on myself, appear happy for my lovely children, whilst reeling from the nonchalant Merry-go-round attitude of this clinic.

Almost ready to give up, but being extremely tenacious, I further discussed the recent disaster with a friend in a holistic clinic in London (Zita West Clinic, London). She mentioned that they had recently started working with a new fertility clinic in Prague, and they reported great success. All 7 of the ladies they sent, were pregnant, mainly on first attempt, and a good number with twins. I needed nothing more than the phone number.

This is CUBE. Welcome to a world which is different from everything you have previously experienced.

In total contrast to the other clinics I visited, this was run from the top by a practitioner of excellence, who plainly has a customer driven desire to be a clinical leader. In short Hana Visnova is the creator of miracles. Her hand-picked team share the same ethos, putting customers first in a business like – but compassionate and caring – way.

Having completed paperwork, I travelled for an initial consultation, at which I left with a bag of medication, and renewed trust in fertility medicine. I went home and waited for donor matching. Six weeks later I had had my transfer, and was ecstatic to be pregnant once more.

I knew basic details about the donor, important to me was phenotype match and blood compatibility, as I am rhesus negative. Above everything else, I trusted them as a clinic. They had excellent communications.

To go for Donor Egg is a very personal and highly emotive decision. My partner was against the concept for quite some time. I was more pragmatic – I saw it as an inventive way of beating the clock. If your eggs don’t work, if you have Repeated Implantation Failure (RIF), if age is against you, Donor Egg is a logical and sensible step to take, rather than pursuing endlessly cycle after cycle of Own Egg IVF, and watching your hopes die each time. I would also recommend genetic testing, with a FISH minimum, but CGH is supposed to be best as it checks all the chromosomes. It is of course expensive, but more likely to give you your happy ending. I have since sent a friend through a 3rd party to Cube, and she gives birth within a few weeks after 8 years of primary infertility.

CUBE went above and beyond the call of what was necessary, and I can only thank them from the bottom of my heart. There is not a day when I don’t look at my daughter, and thank God that I had the courage to jump ship, into the unknown, and discover there are special places in the world, in this business. After the rain comes the rainbow.

This child you see in your dreams, she can be a reality, if you dare to try...

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