Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Egg Donation: 'People Think You Just Go In and Grab Some'

A day in the life of an egg donor:
"Somehow overcoming her fear of needles, (Julia) Thurman reported for a checkup midway through her regimen of ovary-stimulating shots. She felt fine, but her arms were tender from repeated blood draws -- four that week alone.

"A circle of red dots ringed her bellybutton, a calendar of shots past. Just below her bikini line was a greenish bruise.

"Four days later, the hormone surge was impossible to ignore. Thurman shuffled into the clinic, pale and slumping.

"'I don't feel very good today. My stomach hurts.' Her voice was flat. On the ride over, she thought she might throw up.

"'Is it your ovaries?' asked the doctor, Stephen Boyers, head of the division of reproductive endocrinology at UC Davis Medical Center.

"'It's my stomach.' She patted the spot.

"'That's your ovaries,'" Boyers replied.

"Thurman lay back for an ultrasound exam. Follicles showed on the computer screen as dark blobs like plums. 'These are ready,' the doctor pronounced."
That's an excerpt from an exceptional story by reporter Edie Lau of The Sacramento Bee on the experiences of one egg donor at the University of California at Davis. She followed a woman through the process, laying out the details in a vivid but restrained account. The name of the woman was changed in the article for privacy reasons.

Another excerpt:

"Thurman herself knew nothing at first of the arduous process called superovulation that drives the ovaries to produce up to dozens of eggs at one time. She did not know about the daily hormone shots in the stomach, how ovaries swell from the size of walnuts to the size of oranges or grapefruits, or of the 12-inch needle used to extract the eggs.

"Nor did she know about the hundreds of personal questions she'd have to answer during the screening, or the dozens of clinic visits required for invasive and uncomfortable tests and probes.

"More important, she did not know about the risks involved. Data about complications are scattered, inconsistent and incomplete, leaving even scientists without a full understanding of potential dangers.

"The lack of reliable information has spurred the state stem cell agency, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, to sponsor the first workshop on the subject. The meeting takes place Thursday in San Francisco."
The article was the result of cooperation between UC Davis and the woman involved. Lau wrote:
"Revealing a world usually hidden by medical confidentiality policies, the UC Davis Medical Center fertility clinic allowed The Bee to follow a donor through the process if she were not identified.

"Thurman agreed to share her experience so others could glimpse the complex procedure required to donate eggs. 'I think people think you just go in and grab some,' she said."
UC Davis and Thurman are to be commended for allowing Lau to pursue her story. Lau's perceptive reporting and restrained writing have added significantly to the discussion of women, eggs and stem cells.

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