Donor of life
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Some time in the next few months, constable Lisa Ross will undergo a difficult procedure to try to help another family experience the joy of having a child.
It will be the third and last time that Lisa has eggs extracted from her body to be donated to a couple who are struggling with infertility. Her age is the issue. Lisa is now 37, and although that may seem young, in fertility terms it is the time when the viability of a woman's eggs may start to decline.
Lisa is keen to encourage other women in police to consider becoming egg donors. There is a shortage and she knows first hand how much happiness it can bring.
The first time she donated eggs, it was unsuccessful, but the second time, it resulted in Auckland detective Brigid O’Keefe and her husband Dave having a daughter, Remi.
Remi is now aged 2½ and Brigid describes her birth as “one of the happiest days of our lives”.
“We couldn’t imagine life without her. She is so full of energy and just the funniest little girl to be around. She has not only brought joy to our lives but to both of our families as well, particularly the grandparents. She is so loved by all of us and none of this would have been possible if it weren’t for Lisa.”
Brigid and Dave had originally written an anonymous letter, published in Police News in 2016, seeking an egg donor from the Police family. They had married later in life, and Brigid’s two pregnancies had both ended in miscarriage.
Lisa responded to their appeal and was chosen by them as their donor. After Remi was born, Police News interviewed both Lisa and Brigid about the happy event and the complicated process that led to it.
Lisa says she had very positive feedback from that first article from both men and women at work, including older couples who wished it had been an option for them when they were younger.
She became a donor because she likes to help. “I have always liked to help, which is probably why I became a police officer.” Her day job is as a serious crash investigator in Papakura, and she’s also secretary of the Police Association’s Counties Manukau committee.
Her own daughter, Charlotte, is almost six and now at school. “She knows that Mummy has given away some of her eggs so that someone else could have a baby.”
Lisa and her husband, Simon Tate, themselves initially had problems conceiving. So she has real empathy for those in search of a donor.
Donors get paid, but the $1400 fee is designed to compensate just for time and travel. Ideally, candidates to be donors have finished having their own family, although this is not always necessary.
The donor and couple are paired up based on their profiles. Both parties receive counselling before the process begins.
The donor undergoes a round of injections to stimulate egg production. Eggs are then removed under anaesthetic and fertilised in the lab by the prospective father’s sperm. “Then it’s wait-and-see to find out if the embryos implanted in the mother-to-be are successful. Everyone is crossing their fingers that it works.”
Sometimes it doesn’t work – this happened the first time Lisa donated eggs. She says it’s sad for everyone concerned.
Lisa reports feeling bloated and uncomfortable in the early stages of the process – similar to pregnancy symptoms. Then she feels blue for a couple of days after the eggs are removed.
Asked if she feels like the child that came from her egg is in any way her child, she says no. “I’m not having the baby. My job is over.”
It can be tough on the couple hoping to find a donor. “For them, it’s a bit like a job interview, hoping we will pick them. Once you agree, you can feel their sense of relief.”
Some couples might never be picked. “That’s why we need more egg donors,” Lisa says. – Kathy Stodart
Fertility help from Police Health Plan
The emotional stress of not being able to have a baby can be devastating, even in the most loving and affectionate relationship.
The Police Health Plan is the only health insurance provider in New Zealand that assists its members with infertility.
Comprehensive PHP members have access to a one-off lifetime benefit of $10,000 towards the treatment.
However, strict terms and conditions apply. PHP supervisor Jaisica Chovhan says the payment does not apply to third-party surrogacy, or to tests, consultations, prescriptions, or freezing of sperm or eggs.