When we hear the word database, we think of a deep depository of data. I picture one of those old-fashioned, dark wood, immense libraries with ladders on rollers to reach the books that soar several stories high. This library contains hundreds and hundreds of entries and correlated information that can searched and divided and categorized and mined for revelations.
While our donor database can certainly be searched and divided and categorized and mined for revelations, it’s not ripe with hundreds and hundreds of entries. Finding an egg donor isn’t simply a matter of spending the time to do the research.
Over the last seven weeks, we’ve had between zero and four new donors any given week. The total number of donors available at update has ranged from two to seven, far from the hundreds of entries we think of when we hear “database.” However, what our database lacks in breadth, it makes up for in depth. The quantity of information provided about each donor is frankly overwhelming.
Database Front Page
The donor search begins on the database front page which contains an overview of the available donors:
ID#: four digit identification number assigned to the donor by the clinic
Status: available or reserved
Egg Type: fresh or egg vit
Height: donor’s height
Weight: donor’s weight
Eyes: donor’s eye color
Hair: donor’s hair color
Race: donor’s race
Ethnicity: donor’s ethnicity
Age: donor’s age
Most of these categories are pretty self-explanatory. However, status nearly always says available because once a donor is reserved she vanishes from the database within minutes.
The egg type refers to the cycle for which the donor is available. A fresh donor is available to coordinate her reproductive cycle with that of the female recipient. This will allow the donor eggs to be fertilized and a number of the resulting embryos to be transferred to the recipient mother without freezing (a fresh transfer). Any remaining embryos are frozen for future use.
The other option is an egg vit donor who has vitrified eggs. These donors are unable to commit to coordinating their cycles with recipient’s. Instead, after stimulation and retrieval, their eggs are frozen (vitrified), and their profiles are placed in the database. Included in these donors’ profiles is the number of eggs available.
Donor’s Front Page
After skimming the database front page, I select a donor to learn more about. By clicking on the donor ID, I am taken the donor’s front page. At the top is the all-important Reserve button. The page also features two pictures of the donor as a child.
This page also contains information from the GeneVu Carrier Screening which tests for common genetic disorders. Any positive tests are noted as well as the worldwide statistics for the disorder or disease (written as 1:256 for example) and the statistical likelihood of a child being affected if conceived with a partner who tested negative (also written as a number like 1:7500). For example, if my husband were to donate, this page would include the information that he is a positive carrier of mucolipidosis and the statistics for that disease.
From here, I can access the donor bio, a massive pdf detailing the donor’s medical history, social traits, and personality.
Page 1: Physical Characteristics
This page asks donors to identify their age; year of birth; state of birth; height; weight; family’s ethnic background (Caucasian, Hispanic, etc.); religion born into; adoption status; the ancestry of mother, father, maternal and paternal grandmother and grandfather (German, Irish, etc.); and blood type.
The page continues with donors checking boxes for each of the following:
Body Type/Bone Structure: small, medium, large
Hands: right, left, ambidextrous
Color: brown, hazel, green, blue
Set: narrow, average, wide
Size: small, average, large
Shape: round, oval, almond
Shade: light, medium, dark
Natural color: blonde, brown, black, red, other
Color as young child: blonde, brown, black, red, other
Shade: light, medium, dark
Fullness: thin, medium, thick
Texture: fine, medium, coarse
Size: small, medium, large
Width: narrow, average, wide
Length: short, average, long
Nostril Flare: small, average, wide
Set: low, average, high
Prominence: slight, medium, strong
Page 2: Physical Characteristics Continued
Size: small, average, large
Lips: thin, average, full
Shape: square, oval, round
Prominence: slight, average, strong
Cleft: none, slight, medium, strong
Tone: light, med-light, medium, med-dark, dark
Tan Ability: none, slight, medium, easy
Condition: oily, medium, dry, combination
Acne: none, slight, medium, severe At age: _____
Other Facial Features
Moles: none, one, several, numerous
Freckles: none, several, moderate, numerous
Dimples: none, slight, medium, deep
Vision: normal, far-sighted, near-sighted
Glasses: none, single, bifocal, trifocal
Astigmatism: yes, no Age Diagnosed: _____
Device: none, braces, retainer, other
Reason: cosmetic, accident, disease, other
Age during use: _____ to _____ years of age
Other: list _________________ Reason/Cause _______________
The next section (still page 2) asks for the following descriptions for the donor’s mother, father, brothers, and sisters: eye color, hair color, complexion, height, body type/weight.
Page 3: Personal Characteristics
Level of education _____________________
Completed grade school yes no
Completed high school yes no GPA _____if no, GED yes no
Completed Technical/Vocational/Certificate in _______________
Completed some college in _______________ Years completed _____
Currently in college, pursuing a degree in _______________
Completed college, degree in _______________
Currently pursuing an advanced degree in _______________
Completed an advanced degree in _______________
SAT score ________ ACT score ________
Current Job Title _______________
Languages: Speak _______________ Read _______________ Write _______________
Athletic Activity: athletic, active, average, inactive
What physical activities do you engage in?
Page 4: Personal Characteristics Continued
Have you excelled in any physical activities?
Manual Dexterity: dexterous, average, clumsy
What manual skills do you have (e.g. typing, sewing)?
What have been your achievements as an adult?
What other skills or talents do you have (e.g. painting, writing, reading, ability to do games, crossword puzzles, handcrafts, etc.)? Please describe.
Musical Ability: musical, average, tone deaf
Voice: soprano, alto, tenor, baritone, bass
Instrument: ________________ years of experience _____
Other: _______________ years of experience _____
Page 5: Reproductive History
What is your sexual orientation?
Age at first period _____ Are your cycles regular? yes no
Interval between periods _____ days
Pregnancy History: Year _____ Outcome _____ Any Complications _______________
Did your mother take DES while she was pregnant with you? yes no
Have you ever been diagnosed with infertility? yes no If yes, explain.
Page 6: Medical History
Allergies (food, pollen, bee stings, medications, etc.):
Describe childhood allergies you have outgrown:
Do you have any medical illnesses (asthma, diabetes, seizure disorders, etc.):
What are you bleeding tendencies: do you have frequent nose bleeds, bleeding gums when you brush your teeth, and/or menstrual periods with blood clots?
Type of birth control used:
List the drugs, prescription and non-prescription, that you take regularly:
Any other medicines taken in the last 5 years:
Do you smoke cigarettes? yes no How much?
Do you consume alcoholic beverages? yes no
If yes, how many drinks (beer, wine, alcohol) do you consumer per: Day _____ Week _____ Month _____
Have you ever used any kind of mind-altering drugs such as marijuana, LSD, heroin, or cocaine? If yes, please give details and state last date used.
Page 7: Medical History Continued
Have you been sexually active during the past 6 months? yes no
Are you currently sexually active? yes no
Are you in a monogamous relationship? yes no
If no, then the number of partners you have been sexually active with over the past 6 months:
Have you or a partner of yours ever had a sexually transmitted disease (gonorrhea, syphilis, chlamydia, herpes, condyloma, or trichomoniasis)? yes no
If yes, describe your diagnosis, year and treatment:
Have you received a blood transfusion within the last 12 months? yes no
Have you been exposed to radiation or toxic chemicals in your work or personal life? yes no
Have you receive a bite from an animal suspect for rabies within the last 6 months? yes no
Have you ever had eye surgery? yes no If yes, describe.
Have you been told of any gynecological problems (endometriosis, fibroids, ovarian cyst, abnormal Pap smears, etc.)? yes no If yes, describe.
Have you ever received treatment by pituitary-derived human growth hormone? yes no If yes, describe.
Page 8: Family Health History
The donor must address each of the family members (mother, father, brother(s), sister(s), maternal grandfather, maternal grandmother, paternal grandfather, paternal grandmother, and children) in each of the following categories: age (if living), age at death, medical problems, or cause of death.
Page 9: Family Health History
This page contains a series of charts identifying medical conditions and asking the donor to check any family member (self, mother, father, sibling, maternal grandmother, maternal grandfather, paternal grandmother, paternal grandfather, child) who have the condition. For any checked condition, the donor is asked to elaborate (i.e. age of onset and treatment).
Heart: stroke, heart attack, heart disease, hardening of the arteries, high blood pressure, heart condition from birth
Blood: anemia, sickle-cell anemia, hemophilia or other bleeding problem, leukemia, immune deficiency, other blood disorder
Respiratory (Lungs): asthma, emphysema, tuberculosis, lung cancer
Page 10: Family Health History Continued
Gastrointestinal: ulcer of stomach or duodenum, gallstones, Hepatitis A (infectious), Hepatitis B (serum), cirrhosis, colon cancer, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, cystic fibrosis, intestinal cancer, any other cancer/problem of digestive system
Metabolic/Endocrine: diabetes mellitus, hypoglycemia, thyroid cancer, thyroid disease, goiter, adrenal dysfunction or disorder
Page 11: Family History Continued
Urinary: kidney disease, other disease of urinary tract (urethra, bladder, ureter)
Genital/Reproductive: undescended testicle, hypospadias, prostate cancer, uterine fibroids, ovarian cysts, cancer of cervix, ovaries or uterus
Neurological: migraines (severe enough to seek treatment), mental retardation, dementia before age 50, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, hydrocephalus, disorder of the spinal cord, Huntington’s chorea
Page 12: Family History Continued
Neurological Continued: Gaucher’s disease, Wilson’s disease, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, Alzheimer’s disease, other diseases of the nervous system, Parkinson’s disease, hyperactivity, autism or related autistic spectrum disorder
Mental Health: schizophrenia, bipolar or manic depressive, depression, anxiety
Page 13: Family Health History Continued
Muscle/Bone/Joints: muscular dystrophy, other chronic muscular disorder, lupus, deformity of the spine, osteoporosis, dwarfism, hereditary low back disease, arthritis, gout
Sight/Sound/Smell: deafness before age 60, deformity of the ear, cataracts before age 50, blindness, color blindness, glaucoma, deviated septum, other sight/sound/smell disorder
Page 14: Family Health History Continued
Skin: acne, eczema, skin cancer, pigmentation disorders, other disorders of the skin
Other: alcoholism, drug abuse, misuse or addiction, breast cancer, any other cancer not mentioned above, any other condition not mentioned above, unexplained fevers within the last 3 months
Page 15: Family Health History Continued
Here the check chart is replaced with a chart to complete. This chart asks the donor to identify any birth defects (to bones, muscles, joints, limbs, gastrointestinal system, nervous system, brain, spinal cord, blood circulation, respiratory system, organ (heart, lung, kidney, etc.), genitourinary, metabolic hormones, enzymes, etc.) of any family members. If any birth defect exists, the donor must elaborate on the defect, who it happened to, when it happened and relevant circumstances.
Do you have any brothers or sisters who died in infancy or childhood? yes no
If yes, what was the cause?
Are there any known genetic diseases or conditions that run in your family? yes no
Has anyone in your family, including yourself, experienced recurring and/or chronic physical symptoms that have not been evaluated by a physician? (please include those symptoms you may not consider serious) yes no If yes, please explain.
Page 16: Your Childhood
Describe yourself as a child (e.g., personality, health, happiness, etc.)?
What was it like growing up in your family?
What religion did you belong to as a child?
What is your earliest memory as a child?
What problems did you have as a child (e.g., health, allergies, learning, social, etc.)?
Page 17: Your Childhood
When I was a child…..
My favorite thing to do was
At home I was expected to
My parents were strict about
My parents taught me to value
What I loved most about my father was
What I loved most about my mother was
My favorite relative(s) were
I loved to visit
In comparison to others, I was
Your Teenage Years…….
Describe yourself as a teenager.
Describe your achievements.
Did you do poorly at anything?
Did you have any problems as a teenager (e.g., health, acne, social, educational, etc.)?
Page 18: Your Childhood Continued
What do you hope to achieve by volunteering in the egg donor program (e.g., emotionally, financially)?
What message would you like passed on to the recipient of your eggs/their offspring?
What helped you decide to become an egg donor?
How would you describe yourself? Please include a description of your personality and temperament.
Describe your philosophy of life.
Who do you aspire to be or are most influenced by (e.g., historical figures, family members, etc.)?
Who is your favorite music group or singer?
Page 19: Your Childhood Continued
What is your favorite book and/or movie?
What are some of your favorite things you might collect? (e.g., favorite flower, music, animals)
What do you see yourself doing in the next 5-10 years?
What would you like your recipient couple to know about you that has not already been asked?
Page 20: Genetic Counseling Notes
This page discusses any medical conditions or diseases identified by the donor that may be hereditary. A genetic counselor employed by the clinic provides information about the condition or disease, defining it, giving statistical prevalence (if relevant), and explaining treatment (if possible). It also includes a thorough discussion any diseases of which the donor is a carrier. It explains what the disease is, how it effects an affected person, links to ethnicity, statistical risk of having an affected child, and treatment.
Overwhelmed? Now imagine trying to absorb all this information in less than five minutes. Every Thursday I’m competing against a clock that I can’t see. With every second that ticks by, someone else may click reserve, and the donor I’m reading about could be gone. The first time it happened I was shocked to see the top of the page turn pink and a “Reserved” banner appear.
So, I skim. I check the front page for a physical match and then look at the bios of those women (if there are any). I skip straight to the educational background section, only very, very briefly skimming the health sections. After all, everyone’s family has health issues: it’s nearly impossible to find someone without a family history of high blood pressure, heart disease, or even cancer. Plus, the major illnesses are explained in further detail on the last page within the genetic counselor’s notes, which I also skim.