Updated: Dec 23, 2020
Wednesday 5th August 2020 - 3 am
The alarm sounds, its 3 am, and Tor is having none of it! I think he had been a bit confused as to why we had been on such a long walk the evening before and unceremoniously crated at 7 pm. Surprise! Following our morning ablutions, we take another long walk around the neighbourhood. As Tor sniffed his way around the streets in the full-moon light, I contemplate the day ahead. It’s been a long time since I last travelled to the 'big smoke', but this time was under very different circumstances. To start with, this will be the first time I would need to use public transport since the world was turned upside-down. I’m not sure which I was more nervous about, the unknown while travelling or the testing process at CRGH. On return from our walk, I packed a backpack with multiple face masks, hand sanitiser, a change of clothes (just in case!) and plenty of snacks to keep me going.
I arrived at the train station for 5 am and made my way to platform 2. The station was empty and sitting was strictly forbidden! I was pleased to see that the train was on time as trains are unreliable at the best of times. The train was made up of 9 carriages and relatively empty. Three other passengers inhabited my chosen carriage and all were adhering to the rules and wearing face-covering to keep others safe. All good so far. I chose a table and settled in to a window seat. Four stops to London!
The train arrived at 7 am and I alighted at Paddington station. The station was pleasantly quiet for this time of the day. A sign of the times. The clinic was a 5-minute tube ride or a 30-minute walk. I opted for the walk as I felt the need to stretch my legs. My appointment wasn’t until 10:30 am so I had plenty of time to kill. I stopped for a mocha at St Marylebone Parish church and whilst I was with my thoughts, I watched the world go by. “I wonder how long I would need to wait to be seen?”. Will they struggle to find a vein? “Will I need to provide a urine sample?” "Wish I hadn’t thought about the urine sample, because now I’m desperate for a pee!"
After finishing my drink, I resumed my stroll to the Clinic in Fitzrovia. I arrived at 9 am with plenty of time to spare. I took the opportunity to stroll around the area and headed toward Regents park, passing the BT Tower on the way. I sat in the park and watched the joggers go by - one, two three. The squirrels scurry from tree to tree - four, five, six. The business folk, on autopilot with heads down and phones in hand - seven, eight, nine. Before I knew it, 10 am was approaching. I gathered my nerves and headed to CRGH, today was the first day of my embryo adventure.
I arrived at CRGH by 10 am, but would they let me in early? I pressed the bell and I was buzzed in. I presented myself at the reception desk and was asked to confirm my identity. All was well and I was asked to take a seat in the bijou waiting area. Before I could park myself on the seat I was whisked off upstairs by a beckoning nurse. Talk about efficiency! I was shown to another small waiting area where I sat, physically distanced from the other patients. Before I knew it, I heard “Stephen?”. I rose to my feet and walked down the small corridor where a nurse was waiting, directing me into one of the consultation rooms. I didn’t catch the name of the nurse (on account of the face masks). Fortunately, she asked me If I wanted to do the urine sample before or after the blood collection. “Now please” I exclaimed, by this point, I was busting. She handed me a small sample pot and I retreated to the toilet.
A few minutes later I returned to the consultation room and was shown “the seat”. For anyone who’s never given blood before, these are usually highly padded and reclined for comfort. The nurse was extremely patient and could see that, after having 9 tiny vials of blood taken (which felt like a gallon!), I was a little uncomfortable and a little woozy. The last time I had to give this much blood was after getting the call from Anthony Nolan in 2017 (turns out people with my tissue type are much more likely to be a match and go on to help save someone's life). The nurse continued to chat to me about her daughter who had recently graduated as a teacher - took my mind right off the fact that I thought I was going to pass out! However, I was a little disappointed that I didn’t get tea and biscuits, nor a glass of water (bloody COVID!). I will remember to bring my own in future!
After the blood was taken, (and I felt able to walk without making a tit of myself) I returned downstairs to complete a few more forms for the lovely reception staff. Before I knew it, I was once again whisked off to the basement! - I’m guessing this is where all the “naughty stuff” happens. A bald male nurse introduced himself – once again I didn’t catch his name due to face masks, but he did have lovely eyes! He also introduced his trainee – Laura (I was listening super carefully by now, what if he wanted to give me his number!).
They showed me into a very small room. A leather corner “sofa”, plasma TV on the wall and a draw labelled “magazines”. They were very friendly and explained the requirements clearly.
1. Lock the door!
2. Fill in the form; name, patient number, number of days abstinence etc.
3. Complete a label with my name and patient number (for the pot)
4. Open up the (world’s largest) sample pot
5. Do “the business” and then seal the lid
6. Sticker on the pot
7. Place completed form (including the time sample was collected) into the wall hatch
8. Press the bell on the wall – the button will flash
9. Don’t leave until the bell and light stops
10. Take yourself back upstairs
Steps 1-6 were fairly easy to follow up until the point I had “done the business”, at which point I had forgotten the fact that I was supposed to have put the form in the hatch with the sample pot and then press the button. As the bell sounded and the light flashed, I quickly fumbled to unlock the hatch and place the form in with the sample before anyone could notice. Phew! As I returned upstairs, I passed a few nurses and couldn’t help but wonder what they were thinking. Probably something along the lines on “we know what you have been doing in there!”
I presented myself at the reception desk one last time and questioned whether I was all done. After a few keyboard types and mouse clicks I was told that was it, I was ready to go. I had been in the clinic less than 45 minutes and the whole experience was over with what felt like a huge anti-climax. However, all-in-all a fairly smooth and pleasurable experience (no pun intended!). I gathered my belonging and headed out the door. The first page on this new adventure was written. Now to explore London Town!
Until next time, keep the Dad dream alive!
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