When Lindsay Andrews was told she and her husband had only a five per cent chance of conceiving a child, she was devastated.
“It’s what I’ve wanted since I was five years old,” she said, her voice thick with emotion.
“I can’t imagine life without children.”
She began hormone treatments six months ago in preparation to soon begin fertility treatment.
She is now ready for the next step in trying to conceive a child, but now faces a new obstacle.
The province’s only fertility specialist is closing her practice next month, leaving P.E.I. women who cannot conceive naturally without any local options for fertility services.
Dr. Beverly Brodie is an obstetrician/gynecologist who has been helping Island women with fertility treatments for a number of years in P.E.I.
She informed her patients recently she would be closing her practice on July 15.
When that happens, women in Prince Edward Island will have to travel off-Island for all fertility treatment services.
Currently, in vitro fertilization (IVF) is not offered in P.E.I., but women who want this service can get preliminary tests and preparatory hormone and fertility treatments as well as post-IVF procedures performed on the Island through Brodie’s office.
TC Media was not able to reach Brodie directly, but Dr. Nadeem Dada, director of medical affairs for Health P.E.I., confirmed Tuesday Brodie is closing her doors in July for personal reasons not related to her practice.
Dada says the news was a surprise to Health P.E.I., calling the situation ‘unfortunate.’
“She was the only physician doing that type of work, fertility work, on Prince Edward Island, so until other arrangements are made or other options become available here on the Island, women will have to get those services elsewhere in the Maritimes.”
That’s what has Andrews and hundreds of other Island women concerned.
The services Brodie provided require almost daily follow up. Andrews says many women will now have to spend a month or longer in another province to get the same treatments.
“It’s going to come to having to take a leave of absence from work just to have this procedure done so that we can have a fair chance at having a family,” Andrews said.
That’s why she has started an online petition calling on the provincial government to immediately hire a replacement fertility specialist.
It attracted over 1,100 signatures of support in just 24 hours.
“I want them to acknowledge us,” Andrews said.
“I want them to acknowledge that there is a need for her services to continue and I don’t want it to be another issue that they just put under the rug because they don’t have the money.”
Dozens of women and men are posting messages to the petition, attributing the successful births of their children to receiving services from Brodie in P.E.I.
“We could not afford to travel to Halifax and miss work for each and every IVF test. Her work as a satellite doctor on P.E.I. is invaluable,” said one message from Janet Needham Payne, echoing many similar messages.
Andrews says she has been overwhelmed by the response.
“Having support makes it that much easier to cope,” she said.
“You can talk to people about being infertile, but people that are not infertile do not understand. They don’t understand the pain, they don’t understand the emotional trauma… It plays on my self-esteem, it plays on my self-worth, it plays on my relationship with my husband, on my relationship with friends and family – it affects every aspect of life and I don’t think people really get that.”
Health P.E.I. says finding a replacement is a priority, but may prove difficult.
Fertility specialists are in high demand, Dada said.
“We will be looking at our options and we will be looking to see if there is an opportunity to replace her with someone who would be doing something similar,” he said.
“However, that is going to be quite a challenge, given that it is a specific area and it’s hard to attract people to do that kind of work here.”
He added Health P.E.I. will be looking at all options, including trying to offer some testing and post-IVF services through existing physician offices in P.E.I.