How was your experience with Brian Kaplan at Fertility Centers of Illinois?
Dr. Kaplan is direct and clearly communicates his opinion. I appreciate that he does not sugar-coat the situation since fertility treatment is too expensive and time consuming to operate under false pretense. He is, however, quite busy. After my failed or canceled cycles, it was difficult to schedule a consultation appointment that wasn’t a few weeks out (by then I would have missed the opportunity to start a cycle the month immediately following the cancellation/failed cycle). In each case, he was able to do a brief phone consult with me the week after, in between procedures (i.e., no specific time scheduled), so I did not need to wait weeks to speak with him. In interacting with Dr. Kaplan it is best to have done your research and prepared all of your questions in advance. The conversation goes very quickly so know what you want to say and what questions you want answered. Dr. Kaplan does not provide an email address which would be helpful but I understand that this would be impractical given the number if patients he sees. Dr. Kaplan likes to do his own procedures and, therefore, bases your protocol around his set procedure dates each month. I appreciate that he likes to do the procedures himself but at the same time it is frustrating having to wait to start a cycle based on his dates. Dr. Kaplan does his retrievals at the Highland Park location since his embryologists are onsite there. Transfers are done either at Highland Park or at his office on Michigan Avenue, which is beautiful. During my initial consult, Dr. Kaplan informed us that he prefers to do frozen embryo transfers to give the body a bit of time to recover from the retrieval. This is an important consideration for those who want to do fresh transfers.
What's one piece of advice would you give a prospective patient of Brian Kaplan at Fertility Centers of Illinois?
He is recognized as one of the best. As such, he is in high demand and, therefore, may not get to spend very much time with you. Therefore, you will need to interact more frequently with his nurses. If you want an RE that can spend more time with you, perhaps Dr. Kaplan is not the right doctor for you.
During treatment, were you treated like a number or a human with Brian Kaplan at Fertility Centers of Illinois?
When interacting with Dr. Kaplan, I felt like a human, however, those interactions were limited. My primary interaction was with his nursing team who usually interacted with me via email on the FCI portal. When I did speak with some nurses, half of the time the experience felt cold, i.e., they were short in answering my questions or seemed put off when I had several questions to ask or did not answer my questions completely. The other half of the time, the nurses were patient and empathetic, e.g., . After my third cycle when all of my embryos arrested, a nurse called me promptly to address my questions and talk through next steps. Each nurse has a different “bedside” manner.
Describe the protocols Brian Kaplan used in your cycles at Fertility Centers of Illinois and their degree of success.
Due to my age, diminished ovarian reserve and low AMH (0.6), we went straight to IVF. My first cycle was a standard antagonistic(?) protocol with Follistim (300 IU to start), Menopur (150 IU), Doxycycline, and Ganirelex (250). I was also taking a prenatal vitamin from my local pharmacy, and had started acupuncture and yoga at Pulling Down the Moon since I could no longer run as a form of exercise. We considered ourselves very lucky with the first cycle as after 4 embryos retrieved, we were able to transfer 1 PGS-tested 5-day embryo via FET. Unfortunately, that did not result in a pregnancy. For my second cycle, I was put on the Lupron microdose protocol since that is typically used with “poor responders.” This included 40mcg of Lupron BID, 450 Gonal, 75 IU Menopur. However, that cycle was canceled as my body did not respond to it. During this cycle, I also started taking the PDTM Prenatal multi-vitamin with supplements and added supplements Kaplan recommended (CoQ10, pycnogenol, L-Arginine). My third cycle was similar to my first but with a different dose of Menopur - 300. I also took 300 Gonal and 250 Ganirelex. All of my 5 embryos arrested before making it to Day 5. For my fourth cycle, I was on 100 mg Clomiphene, 300 Gonal, 150 Menopur then 250 Ganirelex. I had 5 eggs retrieved, 3 fertilized, 2 made it to Day 5. One came back PGS normal and the other designated as “special considerations.” One of my issues in preparing for FET is my lining not getting thick enough. I’ve had three canceled FETs due to this. One FET cycle I was on Estrace (initially 2 pills am/pm) and baby aspirin then doxycycline, Medrol, and PIO. Another FET cycle I was on delestrogen (0.3ml every 3rd day), baby aspirin, and 5 units of Lupron then Doxycycline, Medrol, PIO. The next cycle was a stimulated FET with 150 Gonal but I ovulated before the FET. I’m currently on another stimulated FET protocol - 5 units Lupron and 150 Gonal.
Describe your experience with your nurse at Fertility Centers of Illinois. (Assigned nurse: Initially Ilynne McGovern then Donna Gerbhart )
Ilynne is very knowledgeable and kind. Donna is getting better. I was upset after my initial interactions with Donna since they felt rushed and as if she was irritated by my questions. She has gotten better and seems to have more patience. She now spends more time explaining things and does a better job with answering my questions. In general, I do not understand the various nursing teams Dr. Kaplan has and what the responsibilities for each are. He has his Highland Park nurses which I understand are the IVF nurses and the River North nurses (unsure what they do compared to HP). I was annoyed that their process is not seamless. On one occasion, I was told by one of the River North nurses that I needed to contact Highland Park to receive my protocol. I already feel that I have to be my own advocate, ask questions about the protocol/why certain meds are used because they do not consistently explain this, and to have to sort out logistics because communication is poor on their end shouldn’t have to be my responsibility. It’s also challenging if you have a demanding job to be available for their phone calls since they typically do not have a set time that they call. So if you are in a meeting and miss their call but have questions, you often have to email the portal since they have left for the day and need to wait for a response. I do appreciate that the nurses will let Dr. Kaplan know that I want to speak with him after a canceled/failed cycle. Typically, you are asked to leave a message with his admin, Carmen, who never seems to answer her phone or be prompt with her return call. On one occasion, I had already spoken with Dr. Kaplan (nurses had asked him to call me) the week after a failed cycle before Carmen even returned my call!
Describe your experience with Fertility Centers of Illinois.
It is challenging to work full time and manage monitoring appointments especially since you may only be given a 1-2 days’ notice that you need to come in. It is frustrating that the nurses call you in the evening to advise on next steps but likely by the time they call, the scheduling team is gone for the day. Because of the short notice, they often cannot accommodate me at my desired time, 6:30a. I work in the far north suburbs (~1 hour drive in average). I have had to cancel important meetings, work from home, take calls from the car. My work schedule is challenging because of my level and the fact I am in meetings most of the day. This adds a layer of stress with going to appointments and not having my work suffer as a result.
Describe the costs associated with your care under Brian Kaplan at Fertility Centers of Illinois.
My BCBS IL PPO insurance provided by my employer has different coverage for procedures vs. medications. My lifetime medication max was $15000 which was usurped with my first round of stim medications and didn’t cover the full expense. I have been out of pocket for meds ever since then. For 4 stim rounds and 5 FET preps, I’d estimate I’ve spend $20-25K in medication alone. Most of my procedures are still covered under my insurance so I’ve only had to pay deductible/co-insurance though do not know the amount. I’ve elected for PGS testing for the cycles where it was possible so for 2 rounds that was about $10K including biopsy, testing, and storage.