How was your experience with Jessica Spencer at Emory University Reproductive Center?
There are so many positives about Dr. Spencer -- let me list them:
-She is up to date on the latest research - explaining every study and how much stock I should take in it given the population in the study, the size of the study, etc.
-I NEVER felt rushed. I had multiple 2.5 hour meetings with her and not once did she say, "I need to get to another patient."
-She would explain all the options - and they were often complicated with many unknowns given the research is so inconclusive. If I really couldn't decide what to do, she'd say "if you were my sister, I'd say x." She was taking into account the medical, financial and emotional aspects of my decision.
-If I wanted to talk with her, the nurses/staff would get the message to her and she'd call me. She was always available when I needed her.
-She is "real." She didn't take on a medical/defensive persona. When things didn't work out she would say she was sorry and hug me and we'd walk through the protocol and what she might have done differently and could do differently if I wanted to try again. She is crazy empathetic. I have no idea how she is so empathetic given all the patients and how often the news is negative -- she is a very strong person!
-The only negative and it's not even a negative, is that she couldn't do all my procedures. But over 5 years and more than 20 procedures that cannot be timed to a certain day, there's no way a doctor could do that.
What's one piece of advice would you give a prospective patient of Jessica Spencer at Emory University Reproductive Center?
If you've had an experience at another clinic, share that. And explain all your concerns, hopes and fears. She's really good at addressing all of that and isn't afraid to go into the details on anything.
During treatment, were you treated like a number or a human with Jessica Spencer at Emory University Reproductive Center?
I can't say enough good things about Dr. Spencer. She always knew my complete medical history -- even from before I came to Emory. She was willing to have long conversations (1-2 hours!) to help me figure out what my next steps should be during cycles as well as after failed cycles. She seemed to truly understand the stress involved in IVF and would help me weigh emotional, practical and financial factors in making decisions. Whenever I had a failed cycle she would call and tell me how sorry she was -- and she seemed to be almost as upset as I was, which made me feel like she really cared. I also appreciated that she was constantly bringing in new research that might impact my particular situation. Not once did I feel like I was "a number" or that I was just being given generic advice/protocols.
Describe the protocols Jessica Spencer used in your cycles at Emory University Reproductive Center and their degree of success.
For all of my cycles with Dr. Spencer I used an antagonist protocol. With a prior clinic they had me on a micro-dose flare that was timed with birth control. Dr. Spencer was worried the birth control was making it to hard for my ovaries to recover from the suppression of birth control and so we used natural timing for every retrieval. I also used Ganarelix before the my cycle started to help prevent a leading follicle. I was on the highest dose of Bravelle (later Gonl-F) and Menopur for all retrievals. A few times we added in human growth hormone but on the last (and successful) cycle we dropped it b/c we didn't think it was doing enough to outweigh the high costs. I was also taking DHEA and CoQ10 for my last 4 cycles. (Dr. Spencer shared that there is no evidence that CoQ10 has a positive impact on human eggs but that it wouldn't hurt anything so if I wanted to take it I should go ahead).
On many cycles we weighed the pros and cons of PGD. We did it for 2 cycles mainly as a way to reduce the chances of miscarriage given I had had many. The last, successful cycle we decided to change up everything - still an antagonist protocol, but we didn't do PGD (we started getting concerns that the biopsy, freeze and thaw could do damage to the embryo and so agreed to risk the miscarriage), and we did a clomid-antagonist cycle. So I did clomid for the first 7 (?) days of the cycle and then started with the injections. We did a Day 3 transfer (I had a couple of experiences where embryos did not survive until Day 5). On this last one the embryologist came out to see us right after the retrieval and asked to NOT do ICSI as we had done 7 times before. I had some eggs not quite mature and she wanted to give them the extra 24 hours to mature by just letting the sperm find the eggs in the petri dish, rather than do ICSI and "arrest" development and potentially lost an egg because it wasn't mature.
Describe your experience with your nurse at Emory University Reproductive Center. (Assigned nurse: Michelle)
The nurses at Emory are amazing! They are crazy knowledgeable about every protocol and drug and why the doctors are doing what they're doing. At a prior clinic every time I had a question about a drug or the protocol the nurse would have to go ask the doctor and then just repeat what the doctor said without really explaining. At Emory you are assigned a primary nurse but given the need for care and support to be available 365 days, you're bound to talk with multiple nurses if you do more than 1 cycle. While I had a primary nurse, all the nurses were familiar with my specific protocol and me personally (they knew I was emotional and anxious to do everything perfectly). I should've been an expert on this given I was at it for so long, but still called them constantly with questions and concerns. The nurses always happily walked me through things and reassured me if I was nervous about being off on timing of a shot. Michelle, in particular, is incredible. She works way longer than she is supposed to because she wants to make sure every question gets answered and you feel secure -- so phone calls with her can be long! It just makes you feel all the more like a unique human rather than just #10 on her list of calls. On my last positive pregnancy test a bunch of the nurses and staff gathered in the room to all call me and tell me the news. I couldn't stop crying. They really make you feel cared for.
Describe your experience with Emory University Reproductive Center.
The only true weakness I can think of is financial/billing. I did not feel like the people who handle the financial end of things were equipped to explain my bills to me or deal with insurance issues. Luckily Emory Hospital's billing department handles all of it in the end, but I wish the Clinic itself had a stronger financial team. On top of that, it's not a lavish place! It's a teaching hospital and so it's bare bones (none of the spa like atmosphere at the private clinics) -- but I'll take that with high quality services over all the bells and whistles of a so-so clinic.
Describe the costs associated with your care under Jessica Spencer at Emory University Reproductive Center.
I had great insurance that covered almost all of my meds and 80% of procedures once I met deductible. I probably spent around $2k per cycle when you average everything out.
Describe Jessica Spencer's approach to eSET (elective single embryo transfer) vs. multiple embryo transfer at Emory University Reproductive Center.
Given my low ovarian reserve and age (I was getting 4-6 eggs...and we presumed most were abnormal), I was thankful that Dr. Spencer was willing to transfer multiple embryos. Usually I transferred 2-3 embryos b/c that was all that I had but the last two times I transferred 4. She would walk through the risks with me and it was my decision in the end.