So, we’re finally getting the heck out of Dodge (make that Delhi). We’ve taken a side trip to Agra (home of the Taj Mahal), but we are now seeing a new part of the country – Southern India. We are going to Kochi. Kochi is a vibrant city on the southwest coast of the Indian Peninsula in the prosperous state of Kerula – and is often called ‘God’s Own Country’. It is a popular vacation spot for wealthy Indians and others who live abroad, and even the airport is hospitable with a vacation feel to it.
The driver from Bourn Hall Clinic picks us up. The first thing we notice – outside of the warmer temperature is the noise – a much lower decibel. Not the constant honking of horns. You don’t even realize how omni-present it is until it goes away! Here too, the traffic is so much more manageable. People even stay in their own lanes (virtually anathema of in Delhi and Agra).
The drive is longer than I expected. Although I’m not sure why I had any expectations at all. It reminds me a bit of the Caribbean. Tropical palm trees, wealth and poverty abutting each other. We ride through a few congested areas (I assume they are separate towns – but the driver’s English is minimal so I just have to do my own assuming) and pull up to Bourn Hall. Like it’s Delhi counterpart it is new and stylish. The kind of place you would want to go to no matter what country you are in. The interior too was modern and clean, with comfortable chairs to wait in Brent Lawrence, who we met in Delhi just a few days earlier, gives us a big welcome hug. Did we mention that the Indians we met are not big on physical displays of affection? It could be to us, but even as they ride on their motorcycles, the rider doesn’t even grab the waist of the driver to hold on.) But Brent is originally from S. Africa and has a no-hold barred attitude about giving a warm hug.
Not unlike their clinic in Delhi, this place it gorgeous and state-of-the art. It may be a bit of a trip (although there are many international flights that go straight into Kochi), but my gut feeling is it is worth it. We get the VIP tour of the whole building – the clean air lab, the transfer room, and post transfer rooms . Honestly, if you said, “this is Australia, or Canada, the US, England, Spain” you name it, I would believe it. This is a clinic that states their motto is: Adaptability, Commitment, Passion and Team Work – but I think it’s “Nothing but the best for our patients.” Honestly, this is one very impressive operation.
Bourn Hall Clinic is not only known for its transparency but for its ethical practices. They use the standards of the original Bourn Hall in England – home to the first UK surrogate. They heavily screen their GS (of course everyone we met with does that), and counsel both the GSs and IPs. Their goal is to have 8 embryos to work with after fertilization, and their guidelines are to transfer two embryos maximum. That is hard and fast. But that said, their ongoing statistics are a 60% success rate and rising. Costs are approximately $33000 US (plus travel) for a surrogate and Indian egg donor – a few thousand more for ($4k – $6K for an educated donor). $30,000 without an egg donor. They figure it is $45,000 with a Caucasian donor – but that depends upon which agency you are using. They will give a GS 3 tries within and then switch to a new one. FETs are $1000. IF there are twins there is an additional $3K required. You pay the clinic for everything and they disperse funds to the agency for housing, surrogate payment, etc.
We were also treated to meeting the team of people who service the international clients. When you call in, these are the people skilled at helping you navigate the ins and outs of cross-border IVF/Egg Donation/Surrogacy treatments. You could feel their desire to help in the short meeting.
Next off to take a look at their Surrogate housing. Pooja, the surrogate coordinator came along for the tour.
Bourn Hall Clinic claims to have the only surrogate housing certified by the Homeland Board. Currently they have 12 pregnant surrogates. The home was in an upscale area close to the clinic. The women are monitored daily and have an on staff nurse and cook to help make sure they eat nutritiously. The house, like some of the others, was quite lovely. It had cool marble floors – which I’m guessing in the hot summer months is a blessing, and each bedroom sleeps up to three. The women congregated in the living room and seemed happy to be talking and spending time together. They looked healthy and happy. The clinic offers courses while pregnant so they can learn marketable skills for when they are no longer living in the surrogate housing. Like all of the clinics they are allowed to bring small children with them.
The hospital, we were told was about a half hour away, but we didn’t get a chance to see that. Also, if the IPs want the GS to give birth in Mumbai they can arrange that. Right now the plus of that is that you can do all of your post birth paperwork in Mumbai. But Bourn Hall is working to arrange that IPs can stay in Kochi and have everything taken care of and you can go home from there. In general, it takes about 3 weeks for most clients to complete the paperwork and return to their home country (although we have heard that for the UK it is more like 6 weeks.) If the baby does end up in the NICU, while it isn’t free it would be about $200/day per baby. A considerable difference from what you’d find in the US. Embryos and sperm can be shipped to them. Payments are approximately $12000US to start (with an Indian egg donor – more if you use a Caucasian one), $8000US at heartbeat, $5000US at the end of the first trimester and $5000US at 32 weeks.
On the way back Pooja got a great phone call –the blood-work came back and they just found out another GS was pregnant. It was a very exciting moment for all of us . We were told, that this gave them an 80% success rate. Of course it’s a small pool of people so far, but those are pretty great numbers anywhere in the world!
So, what can we say – does it show? We thought Bourn Hall was terrific!
Next, to the hotel and a welcome day off!