It was the first Tuesday in November, 2004. In the preceeding few days I had been discharged from hospital following a failed IVF cycle and a vicious battle with Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS). It almost killed me twice that I know of,… once when I nearly drowned on the fluid building in my lungs and had to wave my arms furiously at the doctors to help me because I couldn’t speak. Again, when I teetered on the edge of a cardiac arrest and my sister, a nurse, quietly disappeared to summon a team of nurses to ‘check my obs’. Three or four of them descended upon me, checking all manner of vital signs before rearranging me, fluffing my pillows and inserting oxygen tubes in my nose. I had no idea then that I was scaring the hell out of my sister, but years later she told me what had happened.
Needless to say, I left that hospital duly traumatised. I could not cope with any form of bad news. Watching TV was just too difficult to bear. I found myself needing to be wrapped in an emotional cocoon. There was this sense that I was too close to harm. There is this mental coping mechanism that we all use, whether consciously or not. It’s the cliche thought that ‘it won’t happen to me’. If we didn’t believe that idea, we would have trouble leaving our house on a daily basis. We would have trouble crossing the street. There is a point in everyday life where we hear a statistic and we can distance ourself from it. For me, when I first began IVF, the chances of me having OHSS were one in twelve. As we moved through the treatment cycle, my Ob/Gyn changed those stats from one in twelve to one in eight. By the final ultrasound a couple of days before egg collection, not only were my odds a lot shorter, he was warning me that I already had OHSS and may need to abandon my treatment cycle at the point of egg collection. Suddenly, a far away statistic I could almost kind of cope with was very close to me. In fact, I was it. The feeling reminded me of when I was chosen to be a juror from a pool of 200 people. I just went ‘Oh, it’s me.”
For a long time after leaving hospital I had that very same “Oh, it’s me” feeling. Every bad thing on the news felt far too real, far too traumatic, far too close to me. I couldn’t, chose not to, watch the news. I had no idea, on the first Tuesday in November in 2004 that it was Melbourne Cup Day. I walked into the office of my IVF Clinic to return all the IVF needles and medications I had. “I am never EVER doing that again,” I told the nurse who came to see me. I dumped all the drugs onto the counter in front of her. The fact that she was dressed up like Anne of Green Gables had no impact on me. I was obvlivious to the race on the big screen at the end of the room. The people milling around nibbling barbeque shapes and dip had not yet registered in my brain. Anne of Green Gables did not want to accept all of my needles and medications because I might decide to do IVF again and I would have to buy all of these things again. She didn’t quite understand how serious I was.
“I don’t think you understand. I am never EVER going through that again. I nearly died last week. My IVF Specialist didn’t take close enough care of me during my IVF cycle. He nearly killed me. I am not letting that man lay another finger on me. Don’t you get it? I am NOT doing that ever again. So you can keep your needles and your syringes and all your follicle stimulating hormones and your lucrin. You can keep it.”
I’m quite animated by now. Perhaps a little bit loud,… but just becoming aware of what I have interrupted. The race that stops the nation. The Melbourne Cup is on, playing via a projector on the wall nearby. I have gatecrashed the IVF clinic’s staff party to rant loudly at a nurse dressed like Anne of Green Gables while she smiles sweetly at me and tries to talk me into keeping this bag full of medicines that nearly killed me only a week before. Out of the corner of my eye, I notice my IVF Specialist’s secretary slinking from the room and avoiding eye contact with me. She has heard me yelling about how her boss failed me, nearly killed me. I bet she doesn’t want to be on the receiving end of this spray.
I storm out to the lift well, seething. That was the Melbourne Cup, I think to myself. I just interrupted their Melbourne Cup party.
The race that stops the nation.