Friday, February 11, 2011

My TESA Procedure

TESA, testicular sperm aspiration, is a non-surgical procedure performed in an attempt to recover testicular sperm from a male with Cystic Fibrosis. 95% of CF men are unable to conceive in the "natural way" and this is largely due to a congenital absence of the vas deferens (the tube that brings out the sperm to meet with the semen). I recently had my own TESA procedure and wanted to bring you guys inside the room. Don't worry though, I've edited out any shots of my boys. For more information on the TESA procedure, I encourage you to Google in or find some additional videos on YouTube.

By the way, they found sperm!!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Thankful Thursday - IVF Galore

We can't stress enough how important it is in our own lives to slow down when things seem to be getting "fast" and just think about the little things that we're thankful for. It will just be me posting today as I'm forcing my wife to rest as she recovers from laying all of her eggs. The little "Linky Tools" thingy that's usually at the end of these posts will not be there today as apparently it's a subscription service and I don't think it's worth paying for. I'll figure out an alternative for the future. Feel free to leave a link to your thankful blog in the comments section.

Ronnie's & Mandi's List:

We're so very thankful for a smooth IVF process thus far. We realize that this is far from over, but so far, we feel very fortunate to have had a good experience. Sure, we've had some physical pain here and some emotional stress there, but looking at the big picture, it's been a smooth ride. We're both very aware of the fact that whatever we go through in this entire process is well worth it if it means having the family we dream of.

I'm thankful that I have motile and "good looking" sperm. As most of you know, 95% of CF men have what some refer to as a "natural vasectomy". Now, this doesn't mean that we don't have sperm, it just means that it doesn't meet up with the semen as it should because of an absence of the vas deferens. With this "natural vasectomy" there comes a risk of having no sperm, lazy sperm or "weird" sperm. We got the call two days ago that they found plenty of sperm in my biopsy and that it was motile (good swimmers) and it's morphology checked out (normal structure). We had been praying for these results and feel so blessed that we're able to have our own children.

We're thankful that Mandi is one fertile myrtle. If you haven't heard the news, Mandi produced 42 eggs of which 18 were mature. They fertilized all 18 eggs and ended up with 15 embryos. We now wait to see how many of those embryos continue to grow over the next few days. The embryos that grow until day 5 will either be implanted or frozen for future use. We're praying that God provides the exact number of embryos that he would like for our family.

We're thankful for all of the kind words and support given to us through this process. You guys have been extremely encouraging and we'll never be able to express in words how much that means to us. We've had countless emails, phone calls, messages and comments that continue to put a smile on our face. It's amazing how loved you can feel by people you have never and probably will never meet in person. We just hope that our love for you shows as greatly as your love for us.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Egg Retrieval, Passing Out, and 5-month Pregnant Belly

I wanted to update you regarding the latest and greatest in IVF news. My egg retrieval was this morning, and it went very well. While we were there we found out that Ronnie's contribution had a ton of good swimmers, so they will definitely be able to fertilize all my eggs - which brings me to my next update. The egg retrieval resulted in 42 EGGS! Crazy, huh? Before you become too impressed, I should tell you that only 22 were mature! The video below is me, shortly after the procedure...still feeling pretty good.

Unfortunately, that didn't last all too long. After hitting the Gatorade hard, I had to go potty. The short trip to the bathroom resulted in my passing out, Ronnie getting to me before I was all the way out, and lightly getting me to the ground. After a solid 30 minutes on the bathroom floor, I was back up to snuff and ready to just go lay down in bed. I attempted to go potty again, made it this time, but again, the fainting drama ensued. This time, I didn't pass out, just got the chills, clammy and dizzy. Ever since those two episodes, I've been sitting in bed. The passing out has stopped, but the tightness/bloating in my stomach and chest hasn't subsided yet. We're talking BLOATED. I look about 3-5 months pregnant right now! I've pounded Gatorade like it's my job, and luckily peeing a ton (not peeing would mean we needed to let someone at our clinic know).

I am feeling much better this evening. Poor Ronnie has had to wait on me all day, while trying to ignore his throbbing souther-region! We Will keep you posted. Check out the video below to see me at my merriest! We have additional videos from today that we'll post another day :)

Keep us in your prayers. We so appreciate your support!

PS - Below is a video of our doctor performing an egg retrieval. This isn't of my actual procedure, as he didn't want Ronnie in there filming (it's a tiny room), but told us where we could find this video of a previous procedure he had shot himself.

**Warning - this isn't bloody or grotesque, but if words like vagina make you queazy, you may want to sit this one out! Hope you didn't just eat :)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

I Got Kicked by a Horse!

Monday, February 7, 2011

IVF Crunch Time!!

How about those Packers, huh? It was a good game, and I was able to at least sit and pretend to watch most of it! Although our recording cut off, so we didn't see the last few minutes...LAME-O!! I absolutely LOVE the Super Bowl....commercials. I was relatively impressed by the commercials this year. There were a few really great ones. The halftime show was underwhelming. I actually like the Black Eyed Peas, but man oh man, they are terrible live and the sound guy made their mics way too loud for the quality of their voices. They're the kind of group that does a whole lot better when the background music drowns them out a bit (or A LOT). I did like Usher though. That man can dance.

We took a brief intermission from the game to give me my HCG trigger shot precisely at 7:30 PM. "Why are you telling us this?" you ask. Because it's the actual point of my blog, and I tried to ease into it by starting with some current events (how did I do?). The HCG trigger shot, to me, signifies the transition between all the boring, early IVF stuff, and the exciting, ball-moving-forward, IVF stuff. I've been doing HMG stimulant drugs since last Sunday. Thursday we had a really good ultrasound, which showed a lot of eggs growing. They wanted us to go back Friday afternoon, to see how I was doing again, since I wouldn't see them all weekend. Friday my eggs had grown more and they decided that I would be ready for my egg retrieval at 7:30 AM on Tuesday. That's right, TUESDAY! WOOT WOOT! In order to be ready for a Tuesday egg retrieval, they had me take my last HMG shot on Saturday morning with my Lupron. Then Sunday I did my Lupron in the AM, and Lupron and Trigger shot at 7:30pm. Why do I keep saying 7:30pm? Because the time on this one really matters. Exactly 38 hours after the shot is given, your eggs will naturally release. Therefore, they have you give it to yourself exactly 36 hours prior to your retrieval, so that your eggs will finish the maturation process, but before they can release, they snatch them from me. Today I take Medrol in the morning and Zithromax at night. Then I can't eat from midnight until after the procedure. This afternoon is Ronnie's big performance, his TESA, in which they'll go in and remove "cores" (OUCH) of tissue from the testicles, from which they will get sperm. I'll let him fill you in on this tomorrow more after he's actually had the procedure done...that is if his brain can function through the pain (kidding...I'm sure he'll be fine, he's a big, tough man!) Tuesday is my egg retrieval, and I'll continue on the Medrol and Zithromax the day of and day after the egg retrieval. Additionally, the day after the egg retrieval (Wednesday) I'll start Progestrone injections, and continue with those until they tell me to stop (sometime after the pregnancy test...on Feb 22). Sunday, February 13, will be the big day. The day they transfer 1 or 2 (we haven't quite decided yet, but I think 2) embryos back into my uterus. The day we've been working for. I am so excited I can barely contain myself!! We then have to wait 9 (LONG) days until the pregnancy test on February 22.

I am just excited to have dates. For a planner and someone that loves to know what is happening when, dates and a timeline are crucial. All that said, there's still a lot of uncertainty. You never know how your body is going to do, and there is a small chance that I might be faced with something called OHSS - where your ovaries are over-stimulated, and you have to give your body time between the retrieval and the transfer, so we'd have to wait a month. I'm hopeful we don't have to worry about this, but you never know (especially with as many follicles as I have going, 25++). We will know tomorrow after a blood test (testing my Estrogen levels) whether or not we'll be able to transfer the embryos on Sunday for sure or not.

For a big stress ball like me, weeks like this week are exciting, but also nerve-wracking. I have found a TON of comfort in the song Our God by Chris Tomlin. I have found a lot of peace in these lyrics: "Our God is greater, our God is stronger, God you are higher than any other.
Our God is Healer, Awesome in Power, Our God! Our God! And if our God is for us, then who could ever stop us. And if our God is with us, then what could stand against." (You can check out the song below).

Keep us in your thoughts and prayers! We'll keep you posted all week with the latest happenings!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

"Knock My Socks Off"

by Mike Burke

I wanted to thank Ronnie for providing the CF community with this forum. Additional thanks for asking me to contribute. My name is Mike Burke. I’m from St. Louis, Missouri and I’m 41 years old. I have run 9 full marathons and somewhere around 15 half marathons. I have finished those races in the top 30-40% of the field.

Upon deciding Cystic Fibrosis would no longer dictate my decision making, mood and general outlook on life, I wanted to do something that would “Knock My Socks Off”. I wondered what I could do that would be something normal, that everyone else can do and at the same time I wanted to do something few people could do.

Growing up my parents were told by the doctors to “Keep him active”. So I played soccer, baseball and every kind of sport. I was an average athlete and as an adult I discovered I was not tall, fast, muscular or coordinated enough to play these sports very well. I was however short, skinny overly stubborn and motivated by something beyond normal people (Cystic Fibrosis), which is great raw material for distance runners. So right away I knew that my accomplishment would involve running. Running can be boring though, so I needed to make it fun and challenging. So how was I going to do that?

Run a marathon! Everyone can run a little. Not everyone can run 26.2 miles without stopping. Only 1% of our population has finished a marathon. I wonder what percent of that 1% can’t breathe well, can’t digest food well and has to manage diabetes? Not many I’d guess. So although I’m not particularly fast, I am in elite company.

Sometimes I feel like a coughing and barfing machine. Many times I will get coughing so hard the gag reflex in my body would take over and I'd let it rip. Throwing up on my shoes is a perfect excuse to buy new running shoes but it is frustrating. I know however that the coughing is clearing my lungs of that nasty stuff. You know the stuff you cough up, that when looking at it, would make mere humans without CF want to barf themselves.

So I could feel the therapeutic value in my lungs in just a short time of running. With this in mind I was not going to quit. Soon, I was able to run long distances without stopping. 13 miles. 15 miles. 18 miles. 21 miles. I was amazed at what my body could do. I was dumbfounded how I could gain 10 pounds while running 40-50 miles a week. Sure I got a little muscular in the legs, but 10 pounds!?!? I had not been able to gain weight since high school and at 30 I was putting on the LBs.

I wanted to run well every-day. That meant eating well and taking my pills every single time a piece of food went in my mouth. All the things I hated doing as a kid and young adult I was embracing. Taking 8,000 pills a year wasn’t a burden. Sitting in the vest was still a pain but it helped me achieve a goal. Going to the clinic was not fun but I wanted to know how I could live better to run better.

I was seeing the physical benefits of keeping to the medicine and treatments. Better yet I was feeling the mental benefits. The discipline, dedication and sacrifice it takes to run was building confidence. I was growing in confidence and I was bringing this discipline into my life in a fun way. I had overcome my fears of living with Cystic Fibrosis by dedicating myself to running. Each day I was proving I could do something normal. Something I saw people doing every day. My lungs were clearer. I was coughing less. I had gained weight.

The mental benefits were not just for me. The best influence for me was watching my wife and family. They were seeing a new life in me. I was being an example to them of how life should be lived when facing a tough challenge. They were worrying less seeing me try so hard.

So running started as a required therapy. So what! Everyone is told by the doctor to eat right and exercise. That isn’t anything different than anyone else has to do. We just have to do a little more of it. I found a way to make therapy fun and eventually it became a passion.

I love to run!

Not everyone is up for a marathon and not everyone will run to stay healthy. There are tons of activities that you can do to clear your lungs and have fun. Find yours.

You just may find peace, confidence, strength and health.


Note from Ronnie: Thank you SO MUCH Mike for taking the time to write this inspiring guest blog. You're not only an great role model for the CF community, but an inspiration for me personally. I look at guys like you and think "If he can do it, than surely can I!". I look forward to seeing which mountain you climb next and will be cheering you on every step, or stride, of the way!