Last night I was supposed to take my first injection for this cycle. M has assisted with my injections in prior cycles, and they’ve been fine, but this one was different because it required mixing the medication. And unloading, then re-filling the syringe. And changing needles. I’m sure many of you are quite experienced with the drug of which I speak: the infamous Gonal-F, as in, please try not to Gonal-F this up while you are reading tiny print instructions, watching an instructional video on Youtube and simultaneously trying to operate the syringe and needles. M and I were perhaps a bit too confident in our injection preparing and administering abilities, as we planned to do the injection around 5:30 and then head out to dinner at 6:00. 6:00 also happened to be the time that a few strangers would be arriving to take a tour of our house (side story, not relevant except as it relates to my current stress level: the house we’re renting is on the market so we’re dealing with lots of realtors and prospective buyers popping by at various hours of the day). Anyway, I thought our schedule seemed reasonable. Surely we wouldn’t need more than thirty minutes to get this done. The videos make it look so easy. (insert sympathetic chuckles from you seasoned Gonal-F users here)
We both washed our hands. I set out all of our supplies on the table. I pulled up the instructional video (that we had both already watched once) on the laptop. We watched one step in the video, paused it, and then would attempt to follow the instructions, usually re-watching the step on screen while we worked. It was truly a team effort: I played, paused, and rewound the video. M took the cap off of the medicine vial. I wiped the top of the vial with alcohol. M carefully took off the cap of the pre-filled sterile water syringe, moving slowly to make sure no water spilled out. M then attempted to attach the big pink needle to the syringe. It wouldn’t stay put. We again watched the perfect pair of hands in the video quickly and easily attach the needle to her syringe. M tried again, twisted it several times, until it finally seemed to be secure. Our nervousness was partly because both of us are fairly uncomfortable around needles, and partly because the injection is not covered by our insurance and had cost us $150. With all of the steps required to prepare it, it seemed like there were so many ways that it could go wrong, though I really wasn’t thinking that it would.
M carefully stuck the needle into the medicine vial and slowly filled up the vial, mixing the water with the medicine. At this point I felt the need to say “remember, this injection cost $150, so we need to be really careful.” How helpful that must have been. Then, following the instructions from the video, and moving quite slowly and deliberately, he turned the vial upside down and began pulling back the plunger to draw the medicine back into the syringe. I was pausing the video when I heard him gasp, and I looked up just in time to see the entire contents of the syringe spilling out all over our table. Gone. In trying to make sure that he captured all of the medicine from the vial, M had accidentally pulled the plunger too far back, and it had detached from the rest of the syringe.
I wish I could say that at this point, I told M not to worry about it, calmly cleaned up the mess and then calmly called the pharmacy. Surely, that’s what I should have done, right? But all I could think about was how we couldn’t afford to throw away $150, and how unfair and awful this whole experience is, all of it. I wept. I whimpered. And then I wept and whimpered more over the next hour as I proceeded to call over twenty pharmacies, none of which had any Gonal-F in stock. “G as in George, O, N as in Nancy, A, L as in Larry, hyphen, F as in Frank. No? Thank you for checking.” While I cried and called, M paced. He couldn’t make eye contact with me. I know he felt terrible. After a while he started making calls on his phone too, as we went down the list of 24-hour pharmacies within an hour’s drive that would be open after 6:00 on a Saturday night. After the twentieth pharmacy said no, I called my RE’s office and left a message for the on-call nurse to advise me regarding the appropriate course of action to take after one has just spilled $150 worth of medicine that she was supposed to take tonight, with no way of getting any more until Monday.
And bless this nurse. When she called back, I could barely get the words out to explain to her what had happened, and she told me to come to the office the next morning, that the on-site pharmacy would be open, and that I could pick up another injection to take that day. And that this was not going to ruin my cycle, that it would be fine, that really, this was not something to get worked up about. I thanked her profusely, then hung up and cried some more for good measure.
At this point it was 7:30. Two hours since we had washed our hands and set out the supplies. Thankfully, whomever had wanted to tour the house had decided not to come, possibly because it had started snowing. That would have been an interesting scene: “oh yes, please feel free to show yourself around. Don’t mind the gasping woman in the kitchen surrounded by alcohol swabs and a syringe box who is frantically making calls to every pharmacy in a 60-mile radius.”
I apologized to M for getting angry at him. I felt terrible for being mad at him, though in hindsight, I actually think it was better that he was the one to spill the medicine instead of me. For some reason, it’s easier for me to say “that was an accident, and it could have happened to anyone” when someone else is the one who messed up. If it had been me to spill the medicine, I would have had a lot of trouble forgiving myself. And I couldn’t help but think, “if this is how I respond when medicine spills, what makes me think I’m going to be a good parent? This is nothing compared to the types of accidents you deal with when you have children.” And of course that just made me feel worse. I know it’s not entirely fair to make that comparison (after all, I am experiencing the roller coaster emotions from the other fertility drug I’m taking, making everything seem worse in the moment), but I do think that there’s some merit to it. I don’t want to be someone who cries like the world is ending when someone spills something, whether it’s milk or $150 worth of medicine. Life is too short for that.
After the call from the nurse, I took deep breaths and calmed down. We went to dinner, and actually had a great time. This morning, I drove myself to the clinic, picked up my new prescription for Gonal-F, and this time managed to get most of it where it needed to go. All is not lost. And, hopefully, next time something like this happens — because it will — I’ll be able to keep some perspective, and calmly carry on.
*an alternative title for this post, suggested by M: “Gonal-F. F, it’s all gone.” Today, thankfully, we’re laughing about this.