Wednesday, February 14, 2018

IVF Abroad - our fertility experience in Prague

IVF journey in Europe from darlene dame on Vimeo.

Q - First, why Prague and why abroad?
A- IVF abroad didn't cross our minds until a friend recommended it. We were quoted $14k for an IVF cycle (after 3 consecutive failed IUI's) here in Boise and a friend told us it could be much cheaper out of the US. I was on google late one night searching for well known places abroad and Prague and Barbados were the two that caught my attention.  We did a backpacking trip around Europe a few years ago and had a 24 hour layover in Prague. In that short time, I fell in love with the city and always wanted to go back. Then the thought of being there around the holidays and the Christmas markets.. I would get teary eyed just thinking about it. After crossing Barbados off our list (cost was closer to $8k) and reaching out to several clinics in Prague, I narrowed in on Europe  IVF International solely due to costs. I prayed about it, it felt right, so I started making plans. 

Q - What was the cost of IVF?
A - In total we paid $4,375 - here's a rough breakdown
      IVF - $2000 (own egg retrieval and transfer)
      Meds - $1000
      Ultrasound, checkups - $875
      Extra - $500. We paid to have assisted hatching and embryo glue. 

If you have questions for your own personal situation, please email the clinic as I do not have that info. It all varies from case to case. 

Q - What was the total cost of being there?
A - I don't have a very accurate answer. Some of our flights were bought through miles and we traveled to a lot of different cities during our down time.  I can give an estimate though, based out of the US.. Depending on where you're flying from and what time of year, you can fly roundtrip for as low as $400. High end $1000+. I saw many apartments on Airbnb for $30 a night but we chose to stay close to the clinic and have some space since we had our daughter with us. Ours came out to $51 a night and the total for us for 2 weeks was $850. Food prices were reasonable and we went grocery shopping a few times. I would say Prague was a little cheaper than other Western European countries like Austria and especially Switzerland. Again, all of this varies on your personal situation. 

Q - Did you feel comfortable? What is the facility like?
A - I did. The clinic is bare.. but clean. It was professional and I felt comfortable during my vaginal ultrasounds. The only thing that surprised me was when I went in for my egg retrieval. I was asked to change into my hospital gown and then go into the next room to rest until my procedure. I walked into the next room and there were two other women laying on their beds with a few other empty beds around them. I guess I expected it to be a private room and not shared with others. There was a curtain that they put a male (the husband of one of the women having her egg retrieval) behind after he had a procedure done.. felt a little strange but I was fine with it. I was the last to go in for my procedure so it was kind of funny to be talking with these women, wish them luck for their procedure, then 15 minutes later have them wheeled back in completely sedated. One of the girls popped up from being knocked out and told me to that McDonalds french fries sounded so good, then she went back to sleep. 

This was the same situation with the transfer. We weren't put out that time but it was the same room to rest in.  

Q - Were the procedures painful?
A - You don't feel a thing during the egg retrieval because you are under anesthesia. I was crampy and super gassy the rest of the day. I was expecting more pain but I was just a little sore in my lower ab area. I was very bloated and stayed bloated for a 2 months after. I truly looked at least 4 months pregnant. The transfer was pain free as well. A little twinge of pain for a second but I was completely fine after. I have had 4 IUI's done and each one left me in extreme pain a few hours later. I was able to travel home the same day as my transfer. (Although it is encouraged and I would highly recommend resting for a day)

Q - How was communication?
A - My coordinator (Vanja) was awesome. Her English was excellent and she would always answer my emails as quick as she could. But, because of the time difference, that usually meant I emailed one day, got a reply the next day.. so the process was a little slow. They do not reply to emails over the weekend.. normally that would be fine but I was leaving the country 4 weeks later so I was in a time crunch to lock everything down.  My first email to the clinic was October 14th and I left November 11th. It worked with our schedule and my cycle for it to be that way. 
      I saw Dr. Lucie Svabikova. She also spoke excellent English and I liked having a women doctor. I don't know if you can choose who your doctor is but I was just assigned with her. They are a busy clinic so I was always in and out. I liked that. There wasn't a lot of flowery talk and she would just get to the point. She was polite though and very friendly. I would highly recommend her. 
      With English being the International language and Prague being a high tourist destination, there was never a language barrier for me, even when I was out and about. 

Q - How long were you there for?
A - I was there for 15 days. The egg retrieval can take place on day 9-15 of your cycle and mine was on day 15. Then there is a 2-5 day waiting period for the transfer and mine was on the 5th day. So I was there the longest possible time. I arrived two days before my first ultrasound to get settled. My first ultrasound was day 7 of my cycle then I had one every other day until my follicles were ready. I had 4 ultrasounds before my egg retrieval. 

Q - How did you get meds? Did you take them the same time everyday?
A - This was the only frustrating thing of my whole experience. I sent the wire transfer to the clinic so they could send the meds to me in the US. I wasn't going to be in Prague until day 5 of my cycle and I was starting the meds on day 2. Anyway, after sending the money, I was told a new law was in place and they were not allowed to send medications to the US. I already had my flight booked and was leaving in a couple days so I needed to somehow get the meds asap. I eventually had the Prague clinic send me a prescription and found a pharmacy in Canada ( to fulfill it and overnight ship them to me. Pharmacies in the US wouldn't take a prescription from out of the country. The clinic used the money I sent through wire transfer towards everything else but were willing to refund if I needed the to. 
      I was going to be on 2 time changes while doing the injections so I would just do them every 24 hours. I wouldn't go off of doing them at 2 in the afternoon everyday because it would have messed up when I flew to a different time zone. 

Q - What is living and transportation like in Prague?
A - Easy. I was alone with my daughter for a few days before my husband arrived and we took the tram everywhere. The city is easy to get around, mostly walkable, and just so beautiful. My Airbnb host was amazing and picked me up from the airport. The tram was a few minute walk from our flat. I was staying 15 minutes outside the old square and found it easy to get around. I was only a couple minute walk to the IVF clinic. You can find places to rent for $30+ a night. We stayed here:

Q - Overall, how was your experience? 
A - Wonderful! After close monitoring, I had 20 follicles, 15 eggs, 14 fertilize, and 8 were excellent quality. We transferred 1 and it took so we are now expecting a baby in August! We froze all 7 embryos, not knowing how many times we would need to try. I don't plan on having 7 more children but will figure out what to do later down the road. This was a great situation for us as my husband was already traveling for work and I'm a stay at home mom (work as a videographer) and it just worked out that we could spend that much time there.

I know it's not for everybody to do something like this and there is a lot of planning involved. Traveling in itself can be tiring and stressful and that's the last thing you want while going through this experience. I loved our journey and had the best time. For me, it eased the stress of IVF and let me enjoy the journey. 


Monday, March 27, 2017

CUBA // dame family trip 2017

CUBA // Dame Family Trip - 2017 from darlene dame on Vimeo.

We had the best time seeing a small part of Cuba. We hope to go back to see a lot more of this wonderful country! This was our first time using a Super8 camera and I have never been so excited to watch film. I love how it turned out and it made us feel like we were in a different era. 

havana, cuba - day 1 // dame family trip 2017

When we landed in Havana, Cuba, we were waiting for our bags (over an hour, no joke) and got talking with other Americans. One gentleman told us that this was his 3rd time in Cuba and was asking about our itinerary. We told him we were staying in Havana for two nights and he said that was too long and that there wasn't much to see. He recommended leaving Havana earlier if we could. Not exactly what we were hoping for but after spending time there, we loved it and would go back in a heartbeat.  Havana had so much color and culture and life to it. Classic cars roamed the streets and although it was run down, it was very clean. The locals treated us kindly and were excited to see Americans. We spent our first day in the rain walking around the city. We got to know the area pretty well and there was a kind of romanticism to it. We took it slow and easy. Found a delicious bakery that we took one too many trips to throughout our time there. It was a Sunday and unexpectedly quiet and a lot of places were closed. 

We stayed right in the heart of Havana on Obisbo street in the cutest airbnb. The location was wonderful... sleeping was not. We have never been ones to stay out late so we turned in around 8. The issue was, the noise in the streets and bars didn't stop until after midnight. It was LOUD. Then we were woken up around 3 in the morning to screaming and yelling.. I'm pretty sure a fight broke out.. and then shortly after we were woken up again to dogs barking. The beds were not the most comfortable but the apartment was cozy and clean. One thing to note about Cuba is that water and produce is a little hard to come by. When you find it, stock up! 

havana, cuba - day 2 // dame family trip 2017

So, we liked Havana in the rain, but Havana in the sun is a total game changer! The feeling was night and day and so much more lively! Everything looked brighter and everyone seemed happier, including ourselves. We grabbed breakfast with the locals then walked around the city until we booked an hour taxi to show us other parts of the city. We went to the Christ of Havana followed by the Morro Castle. Just being in the convertible taxi in the nice weather was fun enough and watching Florence LOVE not being in her carseat was the cutest. We were planning on going to the revolution museum but Flo was needing a nap so we went to lunch while she napped in her stroller. After lunch, we took another taxi to the Plaza de la Revolution and ended the day at a famous hotel that overlooked the ocean. (I'm really bad at remembering names) We covered a lot of ground this day but enjoyed every minute of it. 

Common questions we've been asked about our travels to Cuba:

Q. What airlines did you take? 
A. We flew from Orland to Havana on JetBlue. Round trip tickets for the two of us (plus a baby) was around $150. 

Q. How did you get your visa?
A. We bought our visa in the airport when we checked into our flight. Visa was $50 each. Travel insurance was included in the ticket and is required for Cuba. 

Q. Since Americans aren't allowed to visit for "tourism," what category did you go for?
A. There are 12 categories and you need to "qualify" for at least one in order to visit. They are extremely vague and no one, not a soul, followed up and asked any questions. We filled out an affidavit that was attached to our flight confirmation email and that was the only time we were required to fill anything out. We went under the category of journalism. We figured since we filmed and took photos (and now blogged) we should be fine. 

Q. Was it hard to get through customs?
A. No. It was just like going to and from any other country. Like I mentioned, not one question was asked and our passports were stamped without any problems. 

Q. How did you budget for the week?
A. The ATM's don't take US debit cards so you need to bring cash. We budgeted around $100 a day for the two of us. (We already paid for our accomadations online) Cuba was actually more expensive than we anticipated. Some of our meals seemed cheap but travel and accommodation was close to US prices. We took out EURO's in the US bank and converted it into CUC's in Cuba. DO NOT covert to PESOS! PESO's are worth a lot less than CUC's. If you convert with US dollars, there is an extra fee and that's why we brought EURO's. 

Q. Was it safe?
A. Absolutely. There was never a moment where I felt uneasy, even after dark. We think it's due to it being a communist country and they dwell on tourism for income. They are held to rules and laws and I'm sure the consequences are bad if they don't abide by them. Or at least that's why we assumed it felt so safe.

Q. Where did you stay?
A. We booked our apartments through airbnb. There were many nice hotels but a little out of our budget. The communication was great and the only issue we ran into was our safe not opening in one of our apartments. We had all of our money and passports in it but thankfully, after a few hours of trying, it opened up and we were able to get our items out. It wouldn't open again after that. 
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