Embryologists care about more than just the science

Genea Senior Embryologist Daniel Morgan recounts a patient story that highlights just how invested our IVF scientists are in the journeys of their patients.

I clearly remember the Saturday morning when I found out that the son of one of my patients had passed away at birth. I knew it had been more than nine months since I had been the Embryologist at her embryo transfer from which she had fallen pregnant, so I looked up her result in the rare moments of quiet I had while my own kids were off at swimming lessons. I thought it would take me five minutes to find out that she’d had a healthy baby, its gender, and its name. Instead, I spent the next half an hour reading her story, doing my best to hold back tears, but not always succeeding.
In short, this patient was unaware that she carried a rare genetic mutation, affecting 50 per cent of male offspring from carrier mothers, which unfortunately had been passed on to her son. My heart sank further when I discovered that, less than two weeks later, this patient’s sister also gave birth to a boy who, afflicted by the same genetic condition, sadly passed away just days after birth.
So why am I telling this story and why have I referred to her as “my” patient?
Firstly, I should introduce myself - my name’s Dan, and I’m a Senior Embryologist at Genea. As an Embryologist (aka, IVF scientist) my primary role is to be part of the team that delivers Genea’s world leading science to our patients. The opportunity to work in such a world class laboratory every day, assisting the clinicians with egg collections and embryo transfers, performing ICSI, and taking general care of all our patients’ embryos, is such an amazing privilege. But that’s not what drew me out of academic research and into IVF; rather, it was the people.
Unquestionably, the best part about our job as Embryologists is the interactions that we have with our patients every day. The Embryologists will always have a chat with the patient prior to, and after, their egg collection, on Day 3 of embryo development when we call with an update, prior to embryo transfer, and again on Day 6 with a final embryo development update. I know that my colleagues agree with me when I say that the most enjoyable aspect of our job, while we love the science as well, is being able to walk alongside our patients on their fertility journey, even if ever so briefly.
It’s something that I believe Genea does so well with its commitment to continuity of patient care and which is a key differentiator from other clinics. It’s this continuity of care that goes a long way to making our patients feel like a person, rather than a number in a system. To this end, as much as is possible we always try to have the same Embryologist make each of these points of contact with the patient during their cycle. The patients really appreciate seeing the same face and hearing the same voice during what is often an incredibly emotional part of their fertility journey. And while the patients are always our primary motivator, we Embryologists love this continuity as well. It’s fantastic getting to know our patients, even to the point of sometimes affectionately referring to them as “my patient” or “your patient”. Walking alongside the patients while we’ve been looking after their embryos in the lab, we build a connection and rapport with them and are genuinely interested in following up the outcomes of their cycles, just as I did on that Saturday morning.
For me personally this regular contact with patients is the most attractive and enjoyable aspect of working as an Embryologist. As I often say to patients when they ask, “You must love your job?”, it’s nice to be able to say yes, I love my job and to genuinely mean it.
So if you ever need to come to Genea for treatment, when you meet your Embryologist for the first time, take comfort from the knowledge that the person standing in front of you is more than just a scientist – they are genuinely interested in you as a person and they are looking forward to walking with you during the next week of your fertility journey, and beyond.
And as heartbreaking as the story I told earlier is, it will warm your heart to know that each of the sisters, through Genea’s GeneSure PGD program, have since given birth to healthy baby boys. Their story, along with countless others with whom I have come into contact, convinces me that as Embryologists, after parents, we have the best job in the world!
Posted: 14/03/2016 10:03:29 AM by Elizabeth Gosch | with 3 comments
Filed under: Embryo, embryologist, embryos, Emotions, Genea, GeneSure, Genetics, healthy, ICSI, lab, PGD, scientists
Genea Team
Hi Joshua,

Sorry it has taken us so long to get back to you. Genea doesn’t recommend that every patient has Pre-implantation Genetic Diagnosis and every patient’s situation is different. Any decisions around treatment are discussed with the treating doctor. If you have any further questions we are more than happy to answer them. You can give us a call on 1300 510 032.

Kind regards,
Genea Team
14/08/2017 10:06:07 PM

Joshua Carroll
If this story is true, heartbreaking for the mother. A slightly more cynical view, the obvious promotion of the PGD which has some controversial and ethical issues surrounding it. Why is Genea recommending this when there are no identified reasons for a concern. No gene mutation, no chromosome translocation, no history of recurrent or any miscarriage, no issue with failed IVF, younger couples (under 33yrs) etc. It is being "suggested" almost as an insurance for a better outcome. The cost of this for many couples can be exhaustive, particularly when the freezing of extra embryos is also offered and so the costs keep rising. Doctors are well aware that clients are driven by emotion, something which can have many couples thinking they should accept all suggestions of these "bolt on" extras that may not be required. Please advise if this is the case and why does Genea believe all couples including those without any issues should have this testing, knowing there is no rebate, even from a full private cover.
22/06/2017 3:29:02 PM

Paola Branas-Born
Great story from a different perspective, I always took away more information when I consulted the embryologists about our 'issues'. I always felt I was in great hands. Your dedication shows and we are so ever grateful for your attention to detail and talking about the science. Many thanks and may you continue the great work at Genea.
14/03/2016 5:03:53 PM

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