Bloody Christmas

So Dr. McScreamy, when not wielding sarcasm and fury at my testicles, gave me what I refer to as his “Bloody Christmas List,” he suggested my primary physician perform the blood tests. He said it would be cheaper, but I have a sneaking suspicion it would be a waste of his time. Of course I do not have a primary physician because I am male and this means: NO DOCTORS! It's really supposed to be a guy code thing, but I'll admit that, even after all of this, it's more a fear thing for me. But money saved is money saved, so I find a local doctor who, ironically is about to go on maternity leave. I make this appointment despite my total and completely rational fear of needles and the havoc they wreak. And of course the list of tests McScreamy wants ran is a mile long so I imagine that my arm's going to be hacked to pieces.

“You know, if you guys are out of needles, I really won't be upset,” I tell the nurse as coolly as possible. “I can always come back another time.”

“I don't think that'll be a problem,” she replies and there is no mistaking the bloodlust in her eyes.

The doctor comes in and she's really cool. Fonzie cool. She explains the tests in greater detail and without all the screaming. There'll be regular blood screens, a cystic fibrosis screening, and some in depth looks at my genetic code. A cornucopia of tests, if you will.

“You know, you can have irregularities in your genes and still look normal,” Fonz shares. Finally, a medical opinion that I am possibly almost normal looking-ish!

This test is to find if there's something deep down that might be messing with seed quality, if ya know what I mean. Makes me feel like an X-Man whose power is producing freakishly unviable sperm. Like Steve.

After giving up on them being out of needles, I man up and ask Dr. Fonz exactly how many times I'm going to end up getting stabbed with a needle. She assures me that there'll only be the one stabbing.

“Um…is there going to be a prostate exam thingie as well?” I ask cause I will NEVER be blindsided again. She looks at me quizzically. “No…not unless you want me to?”

“No thanks, Doc. I'm good.”

Enter the nurse again, carrying two trays filled with vials of different sizes like she just came from Willy Wonka's medical supply torture cabinet.

I eye her suspiciously as she says, “OK, if you can roll up your sleeve for me? We're going to be taking nine blood samples.”

NINE?! But Fonzarelli said….

Oh, yeah. There's only one needle. They just change out vials.

Well played, Fonz. Well played.

Nurse Bloodthirsty asks if I've eaten anything. Nope. Nothing. Sweet! I'm gonna be all woozy after this bloodletting!

But no. No woozy. No hallucinations. No cookie. No nothing.

I get a message from the nurse a few days later: Slightly high cholesterol (“cut down on red meat,” the nurse says like I'm some kind of heartless machine), no cystic fibrosis, and just negative on any bad DNA stuff. And no answers!

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Stop Being Such A Baby!

The link I'm about to share came across my Twitter feed a few days ago. I mainly use Twitter for posting nonsense, giveaways/contests, music blogs and news.

The tweet from Salon read “I Found Out I'm Infertile” so naturally it caught my eye. I thought it would just be an essay about someone dealing with infertility, but I was unprepared for what I read.

Apparently, Salon has an advice column. A reader wrote in with a rather heartfelt confession after being diagnosed with a definite case of infertility. He described the depression that he is experiencing as a result of the news and his emotions are also very familiar to me. (I'm planning on discussing such in the near future.)

But then I read the advice, which I found to be awful. The brusque dismissal of this man's wrestling match with his infertility as just something to let go of really gave me quite a culture shock. And the comments didn't really help much either. They ranged from weird dating advice to berating the fellow for “narcissism!” In fact, there was only one brief comment on the second page that actually understood what that what this man is going through is something to be mourned.

And now that I have tortured you with suspense…here's the link!

Meet The New Boss…Same As The Old Boss

“TELL ME WHAT YOU WERE TOLD ABOUT YOUR SEMEN SAMPLE!!!!”

This is what an accented voice bellows as the door bursts open to the office where my wife and I sit. Our new doctor tosses our medical records onto the table in front of and sits down. My semen sample analysis is very conspicuous on top of the papers.

I think we'll call the new doctor: Dr. McScreamy.

We notice an immediate difference in manner between Dr. K and Dr. McScreamy. If Dr. K was a serene, calm, cloudless day at the beach, then Dr. McScreamy feels like Hurricane Katrina.

“Zero,” Dr. McScreamy says. “You have zero. This makes things very difficult, if not impossible.”

He gives us all the information on the blood work and deposit facility. He performs a sonogram on my wife which comes back great and i find that apparently you can just go and do sonograms at a moment's notice. She gets scheduled for an ultrasound “to get a complete picture” of what he's working with.

“Well,” I stammer, “I have a diminished number of motile sperm…”

He scrawls numbers on a piece of scratch paper. Some numbers are levels of various hormones that create ideal “sperminess” in men. Then he writes the levels that my blood samples indicate of these same hormones, allowing a side by side comparison. And the weird part? All my numbers are within the normal brackets. Hmmm…

Yet my sperm numbers are still alarmingly, strangely low. Low enough where Dr. McScreamy feels like he should keep repeating how low they are. Low enough for Dr. McScreamy to walk us through what might hinder the IVF process. It's odd that Dr. K looked at these same numbers and gave us a 70 to 80 percent chance of success…

His next question throws us for a loop. “Have you given any thought to donor sperm? It's just an option I want to put out there. When I see numbers like these…,” he trails off. “I just want to open that door and let you think about it.” I don't really need to think about it. It's a bad thing, but I think we both feel negatively on the topic. After coming all this way, the last thing on our minds is the idea of using donated sperm. Even if it can swim.

“Well,” he sighs and looks at me, “I think we need to do a few more blood screens on you.” Great. More needles.

“I would also like to get multiple samples frozen to see if we can find more motile sperm.” Wait-multiple? He writes the name of a hospital. “I'd like for you to go to this facility in the morning and make a deposit. Then go downstairs. Have a cup of coffee. Go back up and make another deposit. Then go to the mall and wander around a bit. Go back again and make another deposit.” I must've been looking at him like he was crazy because he tries to explain this by saying, “Just remember your college days, ok?”

Now, I'm not sure what he's heard about my college days, but it seems my reputation is highly exaggerated. I mean I know I look like a stud, but really?

Here's the second major difference between our two doctors. Dr. McScreamy's office makes Dr. K's look like a set from the Flintstones. Now Dr. K had all the equipment he needed. His labs and office were great, fully equipped, and there was nothing wrong with them. They fit his personality. Quaint and comfortable. Older decor, older tools, tried and true and good as new.

McScreamy, however, has essentially tricked out his office. The waiting area is that fancy model home decor, there are widescreen HD monitors in the exam rooms, and music piped in everywhere. This is a technological fertility Narnia.

By the time it's all over, and believe me, we couldn't wait, we leave heavier than when we came in. We thought the appointment was going to be a conversation, a glance over the medical information, and then an in-depth discussion of getting this IVF party started. Dr. K was already at that point and ready to go pending 15 grand. Dr. McScreamy wants more tests and samples and data. Which I'm sure is a good thing, just not what we wanted to hear.

So we get the ball rolling again.

And there's a definite bright side if you ask me: at least I didn't get sodomized again.

 

Can You Kickstart A Baby?

We met with Dr. K to insure we understood the results in his last letter, as well as to discuss possible future options for us. In vitro fertilization is his best recommendation for our situation. He feels very strongly that the outcome would be positive. But that’s when the other shoe drops…

In vitro comes out to one chance per $15,000. Now, I don’t know about your personal financial situation, but unfortunately I don’t have 15 grand just sitting around. Short of Oprah busting into Dr. K’s office at that EXACT moment, pointing at us and shouting “YOU GET IN VITRO! YOU GET IN VITRO!” it’s unlikely that we can move on this idea quickly. Dr. K told us that, although he doesn’t condone going into debt, some patients take out a loan to cover these costs. Setting aside the debt issue, we’re just not certain that borrowing at least $15,000 on what would essentially be a chance is the best of ideas.

Around this same time, we find out about a fertility doctor that is actually covered by our insurance. I dug a little deeper and discover that there are some physicians that are “in network” and would provide a bit of financial relief going forward. There is even partial coverage for in vitro as well. But this would mean bidding farewell to Dr. K and taking this adventure to another unknown. Just keep swimming…

While we ponder these new developments, I start hearing lot about a website called Kickstarter. Kickstarter allows individuals with an idea/project to crowdsource its funding and to offer various premiums to anyone who chips in money towards the funding goal. The premiums typically vary depending on the amount you choose to contribute. If the goal is reached, the money is collected and the project is a go! Recently, there was an extremely successful Kickstarter that made well over a million dollars!

So this got me thinking…can you Kickstart a baby?

I won’t pretend to have read the terms of service for Kickstarter nor will I pretend I'm serious here, but just for fun, let’s step into a world of pure imagination like Willy Wonka would want us to do. Can you Kickstarter a baby?

How much would you need to raise? Obviously, only collecting the $15,000 would be foolish because there’s no guarantee. Double it? Triple it? If my math skills are as fine tuned as I like to believe, that's like $45,000! Not a shabby chunk of crowd sourced change! How would you sell the concept? Go with a heartstring tugging sob story or tickle the funny bone connected to the purse strings?
What kinds of premiums could you offer? For a buck, you'd get our thanks and the sense of goodwill for helping out your fellow humans. Maybe $5 or $10 could be a shout out on this major blog we got right here. And for the higher end supporters, $5,000 will let you put a name on the short list for the hypothetical child.
This is the new digital future and anything is possible! And, although I would not actually try this, I am curious…

What other ways could you Kickstarter a baby?

 

Sperm Week 2012

Is that too crass?

It seemed funny at the time, but after typing it, I almost want to delete it. However, laziness trumps intent every time! And besides, sharks get a whole week and they EAT people, for crying out load!

In celebrating the sharing of my clinic visit, I've also found loads (no pun intended) of interesting articles to share this week. It feels like a weeklong celebration is in order. Besides, it's an incentive for me to make more time for this, which was my intention all along…I hate that I've gone weekly in my posts! I also hate that I'm writing about how much I dislike not having written more! Has it truly come to this?!?

If you can forgive me this lazy and slightly vulgar post, I promise to come hard…um, that this week will be worth it! (Apologies again, but I'm sleepy and couldn't resist!)

Let Sperm Week 2012 commence!!

It’s Not Me, It’s You

Letter #2 finally arrives and we’re absolutely certain that this time there will be answers! This extensive, painful, and pricy test had to be the one that illuminated our issues and puts us on the road to septuplets!

Not so much.

Everything is normal. Nothing more to see here. Move along.

At the end of his letter, Dr. K asks to see my wife on the tenth day of her cycle to perform a regular ultrasound and see how things are developing. Turns out that would be the very next day, which is a Saturday. We figure there’s no way he’ll want to do this on a weekend. We resign ourselves to ride out this cycle and pick up the following month, but we call the doctor anyway, letting him know that Saturday would be the day he was asking to see us.

Instead, he surprises us with these instructions: “Why don’t you two have intercourse at 9 and then come into my office around 11? That way I can also take a look at the sperm quality.”

Have I mentioned that I like this doctor?

“He probably meant 9pm and am, right, honey?” I mean, how many guys can say, “C’mon, baby, doctor’s orders!”

With all the uncertainty, all the ups and downs, all the oddness, we have to laugh at the thought of being instructed to be initmate.

At 11 the next morning and we walk into his office. Dr. K is finishing up at a conference. That means snooping, giggling, and Angry Birds while we wait.

I will be the champion of Angry Birds.

Sitting on the counter I spy an old, worn medical bag. Something you’d expect to see a pioneer doctor on some frontier TV show sporting lugging along on house calls to different cabins in the ol’ West, curing cholera and the Plague. It’s got all the “tools of the trade” and it’s embossed with Dr. K’s name. It’s so simple and dedicated to the craft. Purposeful and worn. This man has a love of practicing medicine.

Many exploded pigs later, Dr. K arrives. It’s a bit awkward being in a room with someone who not only knows what we did a few hours ago, but who asked you to do it.

As he begins, Dr. K goes into doctor small talk. He tells us more about growing up in Oak Cliff, playing ball and fishing out where we live. He tells us about a farmer that would let the young Dr. K and friends fish on his property, give them water, and let them use the bathroom. One day the man sold the farm and moved East. Dr. K said the farmer had turned to drinking because he wasn’t farming anymore. Dr. K is a sweet man. I glance at the medical bag again. We all have our talents, skills, and purposes. We cannot let them go to waste.

Dr. K tells these stories while performing the ultrasound. Every so often he measures a black shape, pointing out follicles and tubes, but to me it looks like the cable went out. I’m just glad all is looking normal.

He also takes a fluid sample so he can take a look at my sperm quality. He spreads it onto a glass slide for a microscope.

I get nervous. C’mon boys, make me proud.

He literally runs out of the room, slide in hand and makes a passing reference about the appointment being finished. We look at each other, not sure if we can leave or not. My wife gets dressed and we peek out into the hallway, toward his office.

“A picure’s worth a thousand words,” he says to us, coming out of his office. “Want to take a look?”

He has to ask? I know I’m going to see fleets of sperm, verile and swimming, covering the slide and charting a new level of masculinity unknown to modern science. Dr. K and I become medical marvels, making the talk show circuits.

But once again, not so much.

My wife looks first and as I soak up his cluttered office and wall covered in various baseball memorabilia, I hear phrases like: misshapen, not moving, fewer than I’d like.

I try not to let my shoulders sag too much when it’s my turn to take a look. Surely it’s not that bad, right?

My wife rubs the back of my arm as he points out one that has a weird bump on it, another that has a flat head, and so on.

“Here’s one that’s moving,” he says. I try not to knock over anything while he moves the scope to a fast moving sperm. Sure enough, there’s one swimming up a storm.

In a perfect circle.

Chasing its tail.

I have since named him Steve.

And, as if I couldn’t tell, he tells me Steve’s circling.

“There are some normal ones here,” he adds quickly. “I’ll show you what they look like.” He proceeds to switch magnification back and forth and move the slide around, scanning for one. It feels like one of those movie montages where the hours pass by, but nothing really changes. I honestly can’t remember if he found one or not.

He schedules me for an appointment to check out my sperm quality and sets up another ultrasound for my wife to ensure that the follicle released. He walks us out of his office, high-fiving us, while we try not to feel too deflated.

Have you ever encountered the frustrating issue of something just not functioning like it’s supposed to?  What do you do?

L is for “Letter”

Before leaving Dr. k's office, he informs us that he will send off the blood work and when e results are in, he will send us a letter. I smile despite the violations that occurred in the last fifteen minutes. He seems exactly like the type to send a letter instead of having his office call. I can picture these words scrawled on some fancy pants stationary: Aha! Here is exactly what is wrong! All you have to do is change this simple thing and it will be baby-palooza at your place! Good luck, sex fiends! Love, Dr. K. And it'll be a nice thing keepsake for a memory book or something girls like that.

True to his word about a week later, we receive a personally written letter from the doctor. However, the doctor didn't get my memo. All the blood work came back normal. It's simultaneously reassuring and worrisome. Instead of a glaring, obvious thing that the doctor can quick fix, there's going to be a bit more of a process.

Oh well.

Forward we go. Dr. K wants to perform tests as my wife's cycle progresses, watching how her body specifically works. This translates to more blood work first, and secondly, something he called an “Ultra Ultrasound,” which sounded kinda cool.

Turns out not so much on the cool.

It turns out that in this “Ultra Ultrasound,” they inject dye into the fallopian tubes to discover any blockages that could be preventing normal egg traveling.

Oh! And it hurts.

I left work early to go with her on test day. While we waited, I glanced around the waiting room. A television with poor reception delivers a Cosby show episode from 1,000 years ago. A man in a wheelchair, whose legs are nearly twice as small as the rest of his body, plays with his daughter while his wife remarks that this is their first in a series of stops in various departments that day. An elderly couple snacking on popcorn. The husband is wearing a wristband labeled NUCLEAR. A mother wheels with her child's head strapped into some type of brace. People come and go.

All these different lives intersecting at this one place, all for their various medical reasons. What are they here to uncover? What are they hoping for? How is God working in their lives?

I'm overwhelmed by my wife's bravery. I would be a complete wreck. She would deny it, but it's true. I know she's nervous, yet here we are. She has her wristband: DIAGNOSTIC. It's not as cool as NUCLEAR, but what are you gonna do?

We wait for her name to be called.

“Jennifer?”

It's time. Back we go, past people laying in hospital beds, to a new waiting area. I have to stay here while she goes in alone to an unknown. See what I mean? Brave.

She changes into a hospital gown and heads off with a nurse. I say a little prayer and disappear into Angry Birds again. Take out nervous aggression on digital pigs. I swear I'm not insensitive, but I have to burn off this nervous energy.

Maybe twenty minutes passes and she returns. After she changes, she falls into my arms. Without too many specifics, it was not a good experience. Bad bedside manners and insensitivity from the technicians. But it's over now. She did it and she's safe.

We have to collect a copy of the results and run them up to Dr. K's office.

And then it's time to wait for another letter.