We are just laid back in our hotel room looking at all the stuff my wife has bought shopping that I have to carry back with me because she can’t lift anything and as much of a pain in the arse as it’s going to be I think I’ll be able to live with it and wouldn’t have it any other way!!
Not just during an overseas treatment process but throughout any stage in prolonged fertility issues, nobody can prepare you for the journeys that are ahead when you embark on the process of assisted fertility. There are so many options with each option having divided opinions. There are papers for and against certain areas. The so called experts have their valid points as do the so called cynics and non-believers. The old sayings “Just relax and it’ll happen” and “You just need to go away for a holiday” all become louder in your head and add to the confusions and frustrations that inevitably lay ahead during the most stressful and emotional process in your life.
We started our overseas fertility journey quite some time ago and had it planned in our heads how we envisaged it would go and the effort which we will be required to put in to enable this stage in our process to become a successful pregnancy test, twelve week scan and right through to the birth. It is extremely difficult on many levels going through the process of fertility treatment even in your own country and in the surroundings of your own comfortable home where there is an abundance of family and friends, support structures and so on, so to embark on an assisted fertility process in another country 10,000 miles away from home seems like madness!!
We listened to advice regarding which is the best clinic and “what is the best country to have such an invasive procedure” in and, probably stupidly, listened to Google a lot in the process for guidance on the clinics and countries to choose. Google is after all “the all and powerful machine”! It has almost all the answers to almost all your questions every day. It is with this reasoning why most people will take note of googled sites and advice but when you sit back and analyse the responses you are receiving how many really apply to you and how many are you inadvertently, and all be it unintentionally, moulding to your desires and symptoms? Before long the voodoo witch doctor that cures elephants is your only solution and he lives 3/4 up the Himalayan mountains and there are no available sherpers to guide you there until mid-August! Sadly Google has not got the best answers to the most delicate and precious question, “Why can’t I fall pregnant?” and so trying to source that perfect solution, perfect clinic and perfect process is best sourced by the same means the ancient Greeks, Egyptians and Romans used to become individually the most successful empires of their historical generations.
Society has the best ideas. Forums with real people and real problems are where we can find the answers to the questions and enable dreams to become reality. Forums have been utilised for trade since 4000BC and have continued to this day in the same format just slightly more digitalised as they once did. Where we once had taverns for literature we now have a website forum, where we wanted to discuss English literature there would be a table in that tavern where the aristocratic and most often eccentric individuals would ponder, disagree and revel in the delight of their dreams. We too have these places right at the end of our finger tips. Yes, they maybe in the world of cyber clouds and not in a drunken 18th century tavern but evolution has taught us that in the right minds we can do anything together no matter what the time or the place may be.
When we communicate and share is when we become great together. From the wheel to the pyramids, the age of the steam industry to today and the apple world we all live in, all the great things are achieved by great people coming together and sharing their ideas, experiences and heartaches at times. It was this realisation that came to us one evening and it was this thought process that led us to Google fertility threads instead of fertility problems. Yes, you will see that there are so many to choose from but surprisingly enough they all do cross paths soon as you may find out.
Our method was simple. My wife searched in silence and so did I. We noted good pages, comments and bookmarked areas we wanted to come back too. This was done whilst sat next to each other; we would cheat and look at each other’s pages just like you would on a test you were struggling on in high school! We would laugh and almost cry at comments and plights of people. Most importantly though we both came to the realisation that as a society we are not so different no matter where we are. There were Greek patients online, African, British, Australian, French, German and many more all asking questions and all offering solutions and support. All these individuals were anonymous to us and all in the same horrid situation as us but all were wanting to help true honest strangers or to gain answers from true honest strangers.
During one of our thread browsing sessions my wife came across what we initially described as a facilitator. She was being recommended as a long time registered fertility nurse who can make it happen. My wife noted her name and she carried on not really thinking too much of it. I, not so far behind and on a different forum found a name of a facilitator and she came with glowing reviews. I too noted it down and carried on. The more time we spent trolling through sites the more this same name kept coming up and it was during one of those quick cheating looks at each other’s screens we noticed a photo on a thread and realised we had both jumped onto the same site and were following the same bread crumbs! Ruth Pellow just kept jumping onto our screens!
My wife quickly turned away and laughed whilst telling me to stop cheating but after swapping our info this quickly turned to us using one screen to see what all the hype was about!
The site quickly explains that the Ruth Pellow who we are both trolling here is an English fertility nurse with over 20 years’ experience. She’s based in Greece with personal working experience in Spain, Greece and the UK. She has a brief description of her role and has some informative advice on the regulations and changes to fertility and the requirements and legislation’s which interested us very much so.
We hit the contact button and sent an email request asking for information stating our situation and if she is in a position to offer advice and guidance. She responded with an option to have a Skype chat and discuss her role but to most importantly see a real person and be more of a formal but relaxing chat. During this chat we remained wary of the process, the thought of dealing with an unknown source 10,000 miles away and the whole privacy of our information and medical details which was forefront in our mind. With these doubts in our head we put together detailed criteria, a list of demands if you like. This list was not unachievable but simply things that we wanted and had maybe not been afforded in our past treatments whether that be because of our lack of knowledge or the doctor talking around in their special kind of way! Things like the eggs to be taken to blastocyst, the use of medications to be detailed and transparent as to their side effects etc. Ruth said that the list was a great idea but it all depended on the situation and results of certain tests we required. She did immediately stipulate that the information given is confidential and that throughout the entire process she is only paid by the clinics and that money ever crosses hands for any treatment throughout the entire process except the payment to the clinic. These Skype sessions carried on once a week for a few weeks and were used to gather more information and complete requested tests that were required to be carried out as well as continuing emails. Still, no monies had crossed hands between Ruth, us and the clinic.
Once we had the results from the relevant tests we then went through our list of demands. We envisaged that Ruth would take notes and then discuss with us options and come back to us with clinics, medications and more information. We could not be more wrong. Whilst on the Skype session she would review all of our results and she quickly established we are Human, Male and Female and are not completely desolate. From here she instantly sent through three PDF attachments for clinics that met our criteria. These were in Spain and Greece. Now to receive three clinics in the whole world may seem very small but she informed us that these clinics tick ALL of our criteria and there are others out there that are good too but that do not meet all of our wishes.
The clinics we were advised to look through were Iakentro Athens, Iakentro Thessaloniki and ProcreaTec in Spain.
Ruth again advised that her fee is no different between any of the clinics and the things we must choose is things such as comfort in the location, eating requirements, weather requirements and tourism requirements. She assured us that the fertility requirements would be taken care of and that she would deal with that 100% with no difference in care and support from any of the three centres so book as if it was a holiday that she will kindly request small amounts of time from us for trips to a clinic!
After careful considerations we choose Iakentro Athens. We choose this simply for the country Greece, their location to Athens and weather in February / March. We informed Ruth and she began the process with the clinic. Still no monies had been transferred at this point.
I booked the flights from Australia right through to Athens and all the accommodation. I then asked Ruth what else I needed to organise and she said nothing! Maybe only a few day trips whilst you’re here!! Finally we had to outlay some money!
As the time came closer and closer my wife was requested to take certain drugs including Zoledex, a cancer treating drug. This came out of left field and was something we had long discussions about. After consultation with our doctor in Australia he was extremely surprised but did agree that there are case studies supporting the use of this medication and that he is a user of this with his patients. We decided to start taking the Zoladex and Ruth issued us an in-depth treatment plan for the process and months ahead. This was administered by our local fertility doctor who was in full support of our plight in the strive for a family. We had to purchase the Zoladex from the chemist and he would inject this as part of a nominal consult fee. We should note that Zoladex is usually used for no more than one month to treat Endromentriosis but in my wife’s case was to treat Andenomyosis to aid with lining quality.
Suddenly it was a month away from the trip and as promised Ruth shot over an email for the money transfer to the clinic. I have Internet banking and can transfer internationally so the funds to the clinic were sent off within 5 minutes of receiving the email.
The amount of work we felt Ruth put into getting us to this stage staggered us as and all her services were being carried out with the trust and compassion that so many other specialists have failed to offer in the past.
Finally after many months of planning we arrived in Greece. We hit our hotel room to try and get some sleep as we had our first scan the day after arriving. Our hotel was Divani Acropolis in the old part of Athens at the base of the Acropolis. We choose this place for the location and based on the reviews. The hotel was good, the rooms were good and the facilities were good too. It is not to the 5 start standard Australian hotels are but after seeing some of the other hotels in the area it is one of the better ones on the list.
Our first meeting was a scan to see if my wife’s lining was sufficient and to meet the nurses and doctor in charge of the clinic. This was a daunting experience for us especially in a foreign country where language barriers can be hard to overcome. We got into a taxi and the driver asked us where we wanted to go. We gave him the address and he set off driving. Whilst driving us along the route he proceeded to talk us through the sights of Athens, “the Olympic stadium” he said, “where the first Olympics were held in 1896”, “Built of pure marble and only one of its kind”. We smiled and listened as we got driven and he explained more of the historical sites until we arrived at the clinic. We paid and he offered to pick us up when we had finished which we agreed upon. This happened in almost every taxi we got into. They were so proud of their city and wanted to show off their pride to us in a genuine and excited manner that the rides to the clinic flew by. Their enthusiasm was so empowering to us that we wandered round places that we would most likely have not even know of from the info we read or the tours we looked up.
In the clinic we met Kosta the doctor and his assistant Marina. Ruth was busy in a transfer so she was not able to come and see us there at that point but contacted us when we arrived back at our hotel to check in. We had the first scan which was done by Kosta and the results were out of this world. The Zoladex (cancer treatment advised to take 3 months earlier) had worked its magic and we had never had a result as good as that in the previous seven years prior to this treatment.
After we finished the first scan we were given an updated treatment plan including medication requirements and we were given dates of egg transfer and told we would be kept up to date with all events along the way. This was done impeccably by Ruth and the clinic.
Ruth and us finally met a few days later and got the chance to sit down face to face and discuss the process and our experiences in general. It was then that we realised that the stranger on the other side of the world we choose to manage this journey was the most perfect fit for us and we sat wondering not only whilst she was there but whilst on our way home how we came into contact with her and how lucky we were to have done so.
As told by the clinic our embryo transfer date came and the results we obtained from the Iakentro clinic outmatched any we had ever received in Australia. It was all almost the day we’ve been waiting for and those stressful nights with little sleep crept in as they normally do along with the apprehensions and doubts. Sleep is normally a rarity the closer the egg transfer gets for us and I’m sure a lot of others!
Finally embryo transfer day and we arrived at the clinic as instructed to be greeted at the door by Marina who was excited to see us and made us feel very welcome and relaxed us somewhat considering we were about to embark on something so stressful! We did not feel like the number which we have so often felt going through the process in Australia which we felt was not only refreshing but a divining factor in why we have felt so comfortable with the decisions we’ve made to go with Ruth and Iakentro.
We met with Mairi who was the Embryologist looking after our growing embryos. Mairi explained how well our embryos went, what grade and even presented photos of our 2 high quality blastocyst embryos, one of which was already hatching!! She was lovely, warm person who was very excited about the 2 embryos that were to be transferred shortly.
We were very lucky to have Professor Prapas perform the transfer but he is not always available and can be in various clinics on any given day.
The process of transferring the embryos was exceptional with us receiving photos and printouts of the embryos prior to transfer and ultrasound photos of the embryos placement and hopeful nestling spot for the next 9 months!
And that was it, all over! The process complete and our trip to Greece almost over. This was for us but not Ruth and the clinic. They continued to stay in contact with us over the next few days to ensure we were ok and that everything had gone ok for us and we were feeling good.
If we had to go through this again we would not even give it another thought. Ruth is now not just a contact she is truly a person who will remain in our lives forever and will have not just a legacy with us and our children but with hundreds and hundreds of families worldwide we are sure. The entire process we felt was unimaginably easy to go through and this was vastly due to Ruth’s’ doing as she took all the questions and came back with instant answers (when time zone permitted, she does sleep sometimes!!). We owe Ruth so much for this process and it was an absolute pleasure to have her with us on this journey and urge anyone who has any doubts or reservations to simply make contact and have a chat, she will be worth every second of your time.
K & T from Australia