Describe your experience with Hershey Medical Center (Penn State).
Strengths: It is a small enough practice that you are treated like an individual but you still feel that they are experienced and knowledgeable enough that you are getting top quality care. There are only three doctors in the practice, all three were wonderful, but my primary doctor was Dr. Estes and she was my favorite. I definitely felt confident that all three were taking good care of me during all of my treatments. They are open 365 days a year and rotate the schedule so you will see any one of the three of them on any given day. The doctors do all of the ultrasounds and procedures, and you either get called by a nurse or directly by the doctor with your treatment changes later in the day during monitoring. The whole team meets every Friday to discuss all the cases going into the weekend, so the weekend team is always up to date on your current status. Their success rates are higher than a lot of the bigger clinics in my area, yet they were the most convenient (a lot of other clinics are not open on weekends, so you would have to travel to another location for monitoring, and also for procedures like egg retrievals and transfers). They are an academic institution so you don't feel like they are forcing you into certain treatments for the money, you feel like they are truly trying to do whatever it takes to find success. Also because I am an HMC employee, I paid a very small amount for all my treatments (including laparoscopic surgery for endometriosis, 3 IUIs, 2 IVFs), because our doctors advocated and were able to give their employees infertility insurance coverage.
Cons: They do not have PGS testing. This did not end up affecting our treatment because we wouldn't have done it even if it were available. However, if we did need it we would have had to change clinics. We were almost in this situation when I tested positive as a cystic fibrosis carrier - my husband tested negative, but if he had been positive too we likely would have left our clinic to get PGS testing somewhere else. Luckily this didn't end up affecting us but may affect other couples depending on their situations.
During treatment, did you feel like you were treated like a number or a human?
The clinic is relatively small, so I felt like the doctor and nurses knew me and my specific diagnosis and history very well. I was not treated like a number. It was relatively easy and convenient to get appointments, the monitoring clinic is open every morning 365 days a year and the nurses always returned my phone calls that day or the next if it was after hours. Often the doctors themselves would be the ones to call with the treatment plan, to answer questions/return phone calls or to discuss results.
Describe your experience with your nurse.
Joni, Jamie, and Michelle were all excellent, they got to know my husband and I and our specific case very well and they were so compassionate. They were genuinely rooting for us the whole way. During both of my egg retrievals and at all the monitoring appointments they put me at ease. They always called back in a timely manner and were very clear when giving directions. They went above and beyond to try to find the cheapest medications possible, they even looked at multiple specialty pharmacies to find the best price for me when my fertility med coverage ran out.
How was your experience with Stephanie Estes?
Dr. Estes is very straightforward and gives you the facts, but also delivers with compassion. She is really intelligent and I felt confident that she knew what she was doing throughout all of my treatment. At first she did come across as less emotional at times, however as I got to know her better and she got more involved I felt she was definitely emotionally invested in our case. I felt more and more confident with her as time went on and especially after my failed IVF cycle, because she was very honest and did not sugarcoat anything. She came up with a new treatment plan and was confident that we would eventually find success, and she was right.
What one piece of advice would you give a prospective patient of Stephanie Estes?
Don't be offset if she initially comes across as less "warm", once you get to know her you will see that she truly cares about your success and will do everything in her power to achieve it, and she is definitely good at what she does!
Describe the protocols Stephanie Estes used in your cycles and their degree of success.
For my first IVF cycle we did the long lupron protocol, however I got overstimulated and ended up with mild OHSS (which was somewhat unexpected given my endometriosis). We froze everything and later did a frozen transfer once I was recovered. This was unsuccessful. For my second IVF cycle, she came up with a new plan to keep me from getting overstimulated but still obtaining as many eggs as possible safely. We used the antagonist protocol and I was very closely monitored so that she and the other two doctors in the practice made sure I did not get overstimulated and had better quality results. At the three day mark after retrieval, we only had 2 viable embryos so she changed the plan to do a day 3 fresh transfer (instead of day 5), and this was successful (I am now 14 weeks pregnant).
Describe the costs associated with your care under Stephanie Estes.
The costs were minimal because through my employee insurance I had $10,000 lifetime prescription coverage and $15,000 lifetime procedure/test/lab draw etc. coverage. One thing I would have liked to know prior, however, was how quickly my prescription coverage would run out (for example, gonal-F alone during my first cycle cost over $5000 which was over half my lifetime coverage). However, it was a huge blessing to have the coverage that we had.