Monday, August 10, 2009
The summer of my medical tourism
Can a communist and his wife go overseas as medical tourists? Part 1.
I didn't actually feel that I was a medical tourist until the day after my procedure. After a week in Cyprus, H and I returned to Istanbul, with me carrying 5 creatures inside me.
H: "They're not really creatures, are they?"
me: "Okay. They're developing organisms."
Our dear Turkish friend Y met us at the airport to ferry us back to her apt where we would spend another two weeks before my return to my teaching semester in the U.S.
Y: "All my friends are calling me about the procedure, it will be illegal in Cyprus now, tomorrow, any day now, I was worried you didn't get it. They say it must be controlled, it's not right to have it different in Turkey and Cyprus."
Egg and sperm donation are illegal in Turkey like other predominantly Moslem countries. But it is illegal because the egg and sperm are not married to each other. In vitro fertilization with one's own eggs and one's husband's sperm is legal.
But I'd gotten it -- or *them*. My team in the operating room had been ebullient during the 10 minute transfer, no hint of any dawning regulation dimming their light bulbs. The energy was crackling in that room of vaguely glimpsed hospital equipment, an incubator pushed to the side, green walls. The young doctors and nurses under the guidance of their sage, Dr. S., were on a medical high. In these 10 minutes with my legs spread and all eyes on the ultrasound image, they were reaping the rewards of their years of studying, the privations of their family to send them to school, the hard work to build this clinic and make Cyprus and egg donation a top Google hit -- it was all coming to fruition as they reveled in the chance to create life.
Dr. S. normally speaks through a translator, but because of the importance of the moment he gave me some of his English. Full-five fingered palm spread, his eyes were black with glee: "Five embryos!" He exclaimed. And then he was down to business with the goop on my belly and wand (or whatever?) inside me, checking out the blastocyst landing zone: "çuk guzell!"
That's what he'd said 4 days before when before when the 4 estrogen patches on my ass had pumped my endometrial lining up to a young woman's 10 mm (from my old lady's starting place of less than 4).
çuk guzelle, what you say when the food is delicious. Güzelleme is a beauty parlor.
My mind was still reeling. Nurse A. has asked how many embryos we wanted transferred -- 3 or 4? Some couples only want 2, some only 1. If more than 2 embryos develop, embryo reduction is medically advised. Singleton births are the safest.
"I trust the doctor to decide," I'd said. Like the other egg donor recipients, I didn't want twins, but I didn't want another childless year. And whoa, he decided.
But even now I don't know for sure: Did he *transfer* 5 embryos, or had the petri dish *revealed 5 good embryos*? H would be happy, his sperm mixed well with the ova of the Cypriot beauty (as we called her).
A young doctor of the team appeared on my left to explain with his good medical school English, "It is very important for us now that you are relaxed." I relaxed as best as I could with the fullest bladder of my life (per Nurse A's instructions).
The team exhorted and exclaimed in Turkish the whole time and sooner even than I had imagined, those sweet words came from the buxom nurse who comforted/steadied me on my right side, "All finished now."
Climax over. The team was climbing down departing amidst their goodby's of "good luck" and "bon chance."
They got me onto the moving bed. Dr. S. himself joined the others to help roll me out of the operating room. His black eyes above his surgical mask bored deeply into mine for the 5 seconds before I was safely in the hallway. His final phrase: "12 days, blood test, every day same medication!" He may even have mimed 10 + 2 fingers for me, I can't remember, I just remember those black eyes, staring through the rims of my glasses, gleeful and triumphant, communicating something powerful and wordless to me or to something in me; high on life.