Donor Story: Riley
Riley is a student, studying to get her engineering degree. She has donated twice, the most recent time with our partner company, AsiaWest. Riley discusses her experience with OHSS her first time donating, and how her second donation differed. Riley talks about her reasons for donating, and why it's important to go in it for the right reasons.
Could you start by telling me a bit about yourself, your background, where you’re calling from right now? I'm from LA, California. I'm a student - I just started school fall semester. The people working on my cycle were really helpful because I didn't want the egg retrieval to be during the school year because that would require a week off. So I'm really appreciative of how flexible they were. I was able to get it all done and heal right before the school year started so that was nice.
Oh good! What are you studying? Right now I'm taking pre-req for an engineering major. I plan to transfer to a four year - right now taking classes at a local community college.
Nice! So can you tell me a little bit about how and why you became an egg donor? Where did you hear about it and what prompted you to go through with it? Yeah, I donated my eggs for the first time last year with a different organization. I'm in my early twenties, right now I'm 25, I'm healthy and I've donated blood before and the idea of donating eggs - talking to friends and stuff - it's always in the back of every woman's mind. Like "Oh I can always donate my eggs!" But the timing just seemed right. It was during the pandemic and I had a lot of free time and I was just at home a lot, so I had a lot of time going online and researching and I met all the requirements. After the appointments, it turns out I'm very fertile as well, so it was a mutually beneficial kind of agreement.
And then, I don't know if you know, my last cycle was with a different organization, I had pretty extreme OHSS symptoms - I was hospitalized. So this time around I told my case manager, the people working with my cycle, about my concerns, and you know I had zero OHSS symptoms this time around so that's good.
I found out about AsiaWest I think on an online ad - probably Facebook or something - and I clicked on it and I thought it was interesting to see specifically an Asian egg donor agency. It makes sense because I think mothers want the egg donor to be the same race as them. So I thought that was interesting.
Going into the donation process, was it something you talked to your family or friends about it? If so, what was their reaction? Yeah, I talked to both family and friends. My family at first were concerned, especially since the last time it didn't go so well. Family was more concerned than friends. Friends were supportive, and they kind of were curious as to donating themselves. But yeah, both seemed supportive and they're glad that I was healthy and didn't get OHSS this time around.
Were there any specific worries or concerns that you had, either before the first time you donated or before the second? Just like the pain and the healing process. I didn't know what the healing process entailed or what my pain level would be. That was my main concern. And also future fertility. But I don't see that being a problem.
Could you talk to me a bit about what the donation process was like this time around? What was the clinic like that you worked with? The clinic was really great. I'm glad that all my travel expenses were paid for - that was really nice. People were very nice. It was different this time because they didn't do a daily monitoring, they did it like every other day or whenever they needed. They adjusted the medication accordingly. The doctors were nice. They prescribed me painkillers after the procedure which was really nice, just in case I needed it. I ended up not needing any of it, but it was nice to have that option because the last time I had zero painkillers.
Oh no! Yeah, it would've been nice the other way around, like I didn't need painkillers this time. But yeah everything was nice. I had a really positive experience this time.
Good! So did you go right back to your regular activities this time? I waited until I got my period again - that's what they recommended. I was pretty bloated and I couldn't really do any intense workouts or anything like that. But when the bloating subsided and I started my period again, I asked them and they said everything was fine and I started everything like exercising. That was the main thing - exercising. But yeah, everything is back to normal now.
Do you typically work out pretty regularly? Yeah, yeah. Obviously when I was taking meds or I was super bloated I couldn't really lift weights or do anything super heavy - no like heavy core workout. So now I can.
Amazing! So for your donation what kind of donation was it? Anonymous? Semi-anonymous? Open? I think for the donor parents it is anonymous. But I have the option to either have it be anonymous or open when the child is older and is curious about where they came from. I chose the open route, consented to having my contact information shared. But I don't think the couple I donated my eggs to know my name. I think that part they keep it anonymous.
Is an open donation something you would be open to in the future or not so much? Yeah I don't mind either way!
Are you thinking of donating again? Yeah sure in the future! Not in the immediate future, but yeah I would be open to another cycle.
I'm curious what sort of expectations did you have going into egg donation and was the experience as expected or were there things that surprised you? What did I expect? I expected there to be a lot of injections and a lot of appointments and a lot of day to day care. What did I not expect? For the first time I did not expect the amount of pain. And the healing process was pretty quick this time around, and there was no pain this time around which was a pleasant surprise. I mean, I didn't have much expectation; I just knew that I was going to have one day of the procedure and heal eventually, so I didn't have any strong expectations.
For you, what was the best thing about being an egg donor? I just like the idea that I was helpful to somebody. You know I donated my blood because I'm O+ and that's the most common or most helpful type of blood because it works for everyone. And I feel the same way about donating my eggs in that I was really helpful to somebody. Like I'm not in a place where I want to be a parent myself - I'm so young! - so just sharing that access to fertility was really nice. It makes me happy to know that it went to somebody and somebody is utilizing my fertility. It makes me feel good to be helpful and useful in some way.
Yeah totally. And how has the compensation changed your life in any way? Have you put it towards something specific? I currently haven't made too many changes. I paid off some debts - I paid off all my debts actually - and I'm thinking of putting some into a Roth IRA and maxing it out. And just saving it. You know, as a student it has helped me tremendously. But yeah, nothing too crazy. Just saving towards retirement and paying off debt.
Very smart - very financially smart! I mean it is nice! Responsibility is key, but yeah financial stability is always a good thing to have.
Would you say that for you was money was a big component or was that never really part of it? To be honest the compensation is somewhat important. I didn't go for it for the money, but you know when you are injecting yourself every day for a couple weeks; it is an objectively invasive procedure because you're injecting yourself. The procedure itself, the egg retrieval process, it is somewhat painful and they are taking something out of you, so I'm glad I was compensated somewhat for all of that. I just had a lot of time on my hands; it just seemed like a good opportunity. I met all the requirements, I was healthy enough, I was at a good age. Everything just worked out that way. But I didn't go for it for the money itself. I'm mostly glad that it helped somebody else. That was my main reason for becoming a donor.
That definitely makes sense. Lastly, what advice do you have for someone who's interested in becoming an egg donor? I think just being honest about everything. Be honest about all your medical history and family history. And thinking of it in terms of helping somebody else, giving other people the access to fertility and becoming parents vs. the money, because I feel like if you are doing it solely for the money, I don't think that can ever be fully satisfying. Some people might think it's not enough considering all the procedures. So do it with the parents in mind, not the money in mind.
Note: This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity