Surrogacy in India: A Little Internet Shopping
By: Kerrie Olejarz
Once we had decided that I would do a fresh retrieval in India, I had to figure out how to get the Gonal-F stimulation meds. The budget was very tight and to get all this medication from the doctors or pharmacists would be in the area of four to five thousand dollars. I took a leap of faith and hit up Craigslist. There they were: 5 pre-filled Gonal-F pens, 300iu for $900 –a real steal. I contacted the seller. My biggest concerns were the expiration date and how they had been handled and stored. The seller guaranteed me she had taken very good care of them, keeping them refrigerated as per the manufacturer’s guidelines. She was moving from Toronto to Ottawa and did not want to cart the drugs around with her. I decided to pick these up and since it was a bit of a drive for me I offered up $800. She agreed.
Two days later we drove the 45-minute highway route to pick up the drugs. Her house was in a state of chaos with boxes everywhere. She was a lovely girl who was just not ready to try IVF after buying the medication; she was scared of the process. Meeting her put our minds at ease that she had indeed taken really good care of the meds. She gathered them from the refrigerator and had an ice pack ready for us as well. We all knew how important this transaction was and nobody wanted to screw it up. We had a cooler in the car and, after packing them safely, we headed home. Never in my life would I have thought I would procure medication off the internet, but here I was. I recounted this on our blog, posting a picture of our cheap and cheerful Gonal-F. To my surprise I received an email from Amanda in New York offering up additional Gonal-F. I have known her for two years –she was the other member of the class of 2008 Indian Surrogacy wannabe’s who was still not pregnant. We quite often would commiserate through email and blog comments. Amanda had just completed an IVF cycle at home and offered me five more Gonal-F pens…for free! We were overwhelmed at her generosity. She had also been gifted meds and was paying it forward. We made arrangements for shipping and all felt right in our universe.
A few days later a customs representative from my work called me to arrange import fees repayment because the company had cleared my package with Canada Customs. I just about died! I had asked Mandy to send the meds to my work, the company name was flagged at customs, and our broker was contacted for clearance. Mandy had claimed the contents were vitamins (smart girl) and our customs broker was so curious about why I was buying vitamins in the US…don’t we have vitamins here? I laughed him off, made arrangements for payment, and continued to track the package online. Two days later my package arrived. Mandy had done a great job packing them with ice packs in a small cooler bag. They were still cool on arrival and I was able to take them home and add them to my collection in the refrigerator. All that was left to do was pack, have my scans and blood work done, get a note from the doctor to certify my need to travel with medications and needles, not panic, and not panic. The days were moving by quickly.
Near the end of November we were given a few surrogate profiles from which to choose. Over all our confidence was high and we were excited to finally get this going. But I was stressed about going through security alone with the medications. Many had done it in the past with no issues, so it should not really be a problem. On November 27th I headed to TCART for my baseline bloods and ultrasound. I was mildly anxious, hoping and praying for no cysts. Fortunately all was good and TCART promised to fax me a cycle planning update to share with Dr Shivani later that day when the blood results were complete. The staff at TCART was excited for us and gave me many well wishes before I left. The fax came through and it was official; I could start my stimulation the very next day. I decided to take my shots at 8am my time so that when I got to India the time change would mean 6:30pm injections. The criticality of timing is stressed by the doctors and the medication inserts, and there was no way I was taking this lightly.
At this point I was getting nervous about being in India by myself. I made it clear to the case manager for SCI that it was important I have a safe and reliable airport pick up. Really my only fear was getting from the airport to my accommodations in the middle of the night. I was assured that this was all taken care of and to not spend any more time worrying about it…