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October 31, 2017

Donating an egg is a gift of life, one that is life-changing not only for the couple involved, but for the donor. We speak to Jo Rule, an extraordinary woman who is donating her eggs for the second time and ask what life is like as a donor

What made you decide to become an egg donor?

We had several friends spend a lot of time and money trying to have kids. They were investing emotionally and physically, it’s tough to watch and not be able to help. I started to feel guilty; my inclination to have children passed a few years ago, and I felt like I was wasting what these friends longed for. I thought this is a good way for me to help others with something I do not use rather than just wasting them.

Although there are compelling stories online of people looking for help, I thought, how could I possibly choose when they all sounded so deserving? So I contacted Fertility Plus. 

How did you find out that there was a need for egg donors?

Our friends shared their stories with us and without talking about it, I was somewhat oblivious to how big the need was. I watched the show 'Inconceivable’s' and Fertility Plus provided a lot of information and support. 

How did you know that you were emotionally/physically ready to donate? How did the process work?

Physically, I felt fit and healthy, my BMI was within range and I had stopped smoking about 4 years back. Emotionally I knew the end goal was to help others. I felt no ties to my eggs other than DNA and although where you come from is intriguing, families can be made up of anyone, not just blood. I was so nervous that my eggs would be no good.

The process from start to finish was about seven months; seven months of discussions, bloods, forms, a donor profile and donation preferences. I also had counselling, I asked questions, had a stand-down period, more bloods and bloods for Shorty (HIV, Hep C) and consent forms. I started the pill, stopped the pill, started injections, had scans and bloods, a second injection, a trigger injection (11pm ouch), collection, recovery day after and that is the donor job done. The process from my side felt complete once we knew how many embryos had been created. The amount of embryos created meant the amount of chances the recipients had. 

How did you find the process of donating an egg, i.e., the screening process, hormone injections, blood tests?

My partner Shorty has been incredible through the whole journey and has been onboard from the start. The most challenging part was getting her to come in for the initial joint counselling session, just because it was counselling. But in the end there was nothing to worry about. It was not awkward, we chatted with Fiona and walked away with answers to our questions.

The screening process was straightforward. I had routine bloods, a HIV test, counselling and a baseline scan. Testing for cystic fibrosis carrier was introduced during my first donation also.

The first day I took the pill I was taught how to inject. I freaked out at the needle the first time; I can watch blood being taken all day, but there was no amount of mind over matter when it came to stomach injections. Thankfully, Shorty came to the rescue and she helped me with the injetions from that moment on. I also had two lots of scans and more blood tests, nothing too dramatic. I found it fascinating to see the follicle growth in the scans. 

Collection day. The nurses were lovely and the drugs, good; it's uncomfortable but manageable. Shorty got to see the eggs being collected in the incubator, it was fascinatng. We managed to get 12 eggs for the first family and 14 for the second. That's a lot of chances. 

Were there any side effects to your treatment?

My first donation I gained 4kg afterwards and it took a little longer to lose. The drugs also made me think that everything was really lovely.

How does your body recover post donation? Is there anything you can do?

Rest. Listen to your body. Painkillers before the collection day anaesthetic wears off. Eat what you feel like, and chocolate works wonders.

What made you decide to donate twice? 

In NZ you can help up to 4-5 families, as long as you are under the age of 37. We had time, I was still young enough, I have fantastic employers who are flexible with me popping out for a start of the morning blood test, or working from home day post egg collection.

When we heard that our first couple have a daughter, we had peace of mind that they all work. So why not. My short term inconvenience may stop a life time of longing, or at least let them know that they tried everything they could.

Were the any changes the second time round? This can be in terms of the donation process and/or physical or psychological changes.

The second time round we met our recipients, where as we did not met the first family. It was a bit like an awkward first date, but Fiona at Fertility Plus was wonderful and counselled us through the meeting. It put faces to what we were doing, it made it very real. They were so lovely. My heart went out to them and I was glad we could help.

I also had peace of mind that my eggs work, that didn't stop the nerves, but reduced them slightly.

Slightly higher dosages to account for being a year older. Faster cycle as good response. No weight gain and bloating went faster, yay.

I broke my leg slipping on mud half way through the cycle so I had an extra day of rest and had to add blood thinners. It made the tummy bruises more prominent, but in light of the situation my friends took the liberty to add a note to my cast. After collection, Shorty added another. 

What is the best thing about being an egg donor?

The pride you feel in knowing you are helping someone and that it costs you nothing but time to do.

What advice would you give to people who want to donate their eggs?

Get in touch, ask the questions, do the tests. It is not as hard as you think and it is so rewarding. You have a say in who gets your eggs. You can meet, it’s not all anonymous like I have found people perceive. If being a parent is so amazing, shouldn’t everyone get the chance to try to have a family? How amazing would you feel to know you helped.

If you think you might be able to help someone fulfil their dream of having a child, please contact Amy at Fertility Plus for a confidential discussion.  Tel: (09) 6309810 ext.3 or email: amydyer@adhb.govt.nz 

Thank you.


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