My Fertility Clinic Horror Story


horror in a fertility clinic

Courtesy / Design Leah Romero

Laura Czar’s boyfriend was driving her to an IVF appointment, when she saw a news article on her phone describing, in intimate detail, the excruciating pain several women suffered after a nurse stole fentanyl and swapped it with saline at a fertility clinic from June to October in 2020. Czar audibly gasped. At the same clinic in early 2020, she had also experienced “gut-wrenching pain” while undergoing an egg retrieval procedure. After second-guessing her own trauma for so long, Czar says she suddenly felt “an overwhelming sense of validation.”

The fertility nurse has since surrendered her nursing license, and pleaded guilty to stealing the fentanyl for personal use. Czar is now one of nearly 60 plaintiffs represented by Koskoff Koskoff & Bieder challenging Yale University in a multi-count lawsuit about its Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility Clinic (REI). The complaint, obtained by ELLE, alleges that the Yale REI nurse substituted fentanyl with saline “over at least a five-month period in 2020, and prior thereto.” It also alleges that Yale REI repeatedly ignored complaints of pain from patients that were not alleviated by additional doses of medication, and “prioritized profits over patient safety” by failing to implement adequate protective measures.

So far, there has not been any ruling in Czar’s case and Yale has not yet filed a response to the complaint. However, in a separate lawsuit against Yale REI with similar allegations to those Czar makes, Yale REI did file a motion to strike several counts, because “they fail to state claims upon which relief can be granted” and are duplicative of the medical negligence claims. A Yale spokeswoman did not return Elle’s request for comment.

Below, Czar tells her story (summarizing allegations against Yale REI also found in the complaint) in her own words.


My lifelong dream is to be a mother. When I played house as a kid, I was always the mom. If a grown-up asked, “What do you want to be when you get older?” My friends would say a teacher or a doctor. My response was: “Mommy.” It’s the hardest job on the planet, but it’s what I want more than anything.

I was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 40. I found out during my first mammogram, which happened to be on Halloween. With no history of breast cancer in my family, I felt so confident going into that appointment. I even joked with nurses about getting my “boo-bies” checked. But the doctors knew right away. I had invasive lobular carcinoma. Luckily, the cancer was only in the left breast. But because I had cysts in both, a double mastectomy was recommended. My plastic surgeon and breast surgeon were such a great team, and I had so much faith in what they told me about reconstruction. I wasn’t scared, I just wanted to move forward with my life. I still had so many things to do. So many dreams to live out. The biggest of which was to be a mother.

horror in a fertility clinic

Laura at her egg retrieval appointment.

Courtesy

At the time, I was in a long-term relationship. When we talked to my doctor about egg freezing, I looked over and he had this look of fear on his face. When he asked for more time to think it through, I told him, “If you have to think about having children with me after seven years, you’re not the person for me.”

I was referred to the Yale REI or “reproductive, endocrinology and infertility” clinic. My first appointment was scheduled for after my double mastectomy surgery, but a string of problems delayed everything. On the way to my family’s house on Christmas Eve, I felt a weird warmth in one of my breasts and noticed it was super red. When I sent my plastic surgeon photos, he called right away and said, “You need to go to the ER.” I spent Christmas in the hospital, and when my breast didn’t get any better, I was rushed into surgery. My implant had become infected and needed to be replaced. A blood vessel had also broken, so I was bleeding internally and my breast had swelled to twice its size. I ended up needing four additional reconstructive surgeries, because more issues kept arising with my implants. Every three months I underwent another surgery.

“I can feel everything you’re doing,” I said. “I need more medicine.”

After the hospitalizations, I began to feel really afraid. I had trouble trusting people, and thought I was being followed. If someone bumped into me on the street, I got suspicious. I ended up seeing a psychiatrist, who explained that, “When your spouse cheats on you, you have the option to leave them. When your body betrays you like it did, you can’t leave. You’re stuck with it.” I felt so trapped. I was diagnosed with PTSD, which is not uncommon for cancer survivors.

horror in a fertility clinic

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Once I was back on my feet, I immediately scheduled an appointment at Yale REI to move forward with the egg retrieval. I needed to get that done before I could start cancer treatment. My sister-in-law has been going through IVF for years, so I knew what to expect. She told me it was quick and easy, and that I wouldn’t feel a thing. The staff at Yale REI said the same thing. I would receive an IV “cocktail” of meds to put me in a “twilight state,” which is supposed to make you feel relaxed—practically on the verge of sleeping. Only, I was very much awake. “I can feel everything you’re doing,” I said.

The pain—a horrible, gut-wrenching pain—was so intense. Picture a large needle being inserted into your vagina through your vaginal wall and into the ovaries. That’s done to pull out every egg. If you’ve got multiple, that goes in multiple times. Not to mention that you are surrounded by people with your legs wide open. You are at your most vulnerable. After the procedure was over, I thought to myself: Well, I guess that’s just the way it is?


When I talked to my doctor a few days later, he supported me going in for a second egg retrieval. Again, I felt everything. You’re usually supposed to have a friend or partner there to drive you home, but I was like, “Guys, I am so awake that I can drive myself home right now.” I felt crazy. It was an awful experience, but I really want to be a mom, so I figured this is just what you had to do. I wrote it off as a necessary evil on my journey to motherhood, and just went about my life. I started cancer treatments one month later.

horror in a fertility clinic

Laura and her boyfriend Cesar.

Courtesy

I didn’t really have a plan for using my eggs until I met Cesar. He was a new employee at the company I work for, and from the first moment we started talking I knew: We would have children together one day. Cesar is the love of my life, my missing puzzle piece. I always thought I would get married first, then have kids. But two months into our relationship, we scheduled an IVF appointment. On the drive there, I came across an article online about a nurse stealing fentanyl at Yale REI. Everything made sense now. I felt an overwhelming sense of validation.

I wrote it off as a necessary evil on my journey to motherhood.

Miraculously, I got pregnant. I was over the moon. Never in my life have I been happier. Finally—finally—my dream was coming true. I got morning sickness starting at five weeks, which was horrible, but such a blessing. At seven weeks, we saw a heartbeat. It was at eight weeks and six days that the heartbeat stopped. After all this, I was having a miscarriage.

The hardest part about losing the pregnancy is that I can’t make sense of what happened. If I had just gotten a healthy baby out of this, I could have been like, “Well, all that pain and suffering was what you had to go through to have a child.” Now it feels like it was all for nothing.

It’s been 10 weeks since the loss. I don’t have any more eggs left, so I will have to go through this process all over again. I know medication is more secure this time around, but it’s still terrifying since I was awake the last two times. But I’m not giving up—not on my dream to become a mother.

This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.



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