4. The Fertility Treatment

Ok, quick recap in case you’ve skipped any of my posts so far. I’m a man in my mid 30s with a condition that has caused me to have a sperm count of a big fat zero. Which is kind of putting a crimp on our plans to have a family. But there is a vague glimmer of hope in the shape of small, shiny, pointy, very sharp needles. Lots and lots of needles.


I had always wondered and doubted whether or not I could cope with being diabetic and I was about to find out. Essentially I was to stop the daily testosterone supplement I was on and inject myself with the hormones FSH and LH that my pituitary gland should naturally be secreting into my body. The aim was that by injecting these hormones into my body, it would naturally give my reproductive system a jump start, force it into life and maybe, just maybe start creating those all-important Olympic champion swimmers.


The consultant had prescribed me a 3-month course of these injections that I would self-administer 5 times a week. That was the average time apparently in which most guys started to respond to the treatment. Ok, that’s not so bad I thought. I can cope with that. Hahaha, boy was I naive….


My first injections were to be done at the hospital so that I could be trained how to correctly prepare the syringes and safely administer the injections. I will never forget the nurse that helped me due to her kindness and more importantly her patience as she guided me through my first of many injections. She went first, showed me how to prepare the solution and then I winced as she jabbed me in the abdomen. Ok, 1 down only another 3 months of this to go… Then it was my turn; “Relax” she said, “I’ve taught plenty of ladies to do this for their IVF. You’ll be a pro by the end of it” Preparing the solution was a simple enough process of sucking up “water” from one vial into a syringe, mixing it with the powdered hormone in a second vial, change the needle and hey-presto you’re ready to stab yourself in the stomach. All in all I was ready within a minute. The build up to my first self-stabbing took what felt like an eternity. The look of pity on the poor nurse’s face as each time I would bring the needle within a hairs breadth of my skin, take a deep breath and back out at the last second took in the region of half an hour to 45 minutes. Thankfully I was the last appointment of the day so I wasn’t delaying anyone except myself and the poor unsuspecting nurse that had been allocated to do my info session who by this time was desperately wondering whether she was ever going to see the outside world again. Towards the end she offered to do it for me and then make arrangements for me to come in the next day with my wife to teach her to do it in case I couldn’t. No. That won’t do. I need to do this myself in case I was ever away on business. I finally faced my fear head on and jabbed the needle and pushed down on the plunger, injecting the hormone into me. The nurse was relieved, but somewhat dubious that I would be able to go through with the treatment.


I somehow got through the early days. I won’t lie, it wasn’t easy and as you can guess, each injection took me rather a long time. Sometimes I would hit a blood vessel and get a dark bruise, other times I would hit a nerve/pressure point and nearly bang my head on the ceiling as I jumped out my skin. But I did it, I administered all the injections myself.


3 months later and following another trip to the male specimen room, I sat in front of the consultant being told my latest result was still a big fat zero. Ok, so another 3 months of injections. I’ve coped so far, I can do that.


This same pattern repeated after 6, then 9 months. During an appointment with the consultant I was informed that they would be stopping the treatment after 12 months as most people had responded by then or not at all. A small number had responded after 12 months, but not enough for the nhs funding to be continued indefinitely.


There was some talk of a surgical procedure to remove my testicles, take biopsies and return them to their more natural position between my legs. The idea being that perhaps the sperm were there, but either just couldn’t get out or weren’t enough to detect in the lab tests.


So a year after I had started injecting myself, I once again found myself entering the male specimen room at the hospital. I left with a great feeling of trepidation. A few weeks passed until I could get my results. I called the fertility clinic who passed me to andrology who sent me to my GP. My GP sent me back to the fertility clinic. The fertility clinic wanted me to start the seemingly never-ending cycle again until I explained what had happened. The kind receptionist managed to find me an appointment with the consultant within a couple of weeks probably much to the growing impatience of the nhs funding director.


Finally I was told that my body had responded to the hormones and had started producing those all-important sperm. I welled up with tears in my eyes. I thought back to those early days of injecting myself and to the nurse whom I had nearly indirectly killed at my info session as she lost the will to live.


So it hadn’t been for nothing. The faint glimmer of hope had turned into a chance. The consultant would continue my hormone treatment and refer us for a cycle of IVF/ICSI.


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