I took an international trip with my frozen eggs to learn about the fertility industry

Depending on what’s being transported and how much they can pay, the patient or patients involved will choose either a handheld service, a commercial carrier like DHL or FedEx, or something in between, such as combining commercial flights and the local carriers Loewen has relied on during the pandemic. The cost of transporting my eggs with FlyVet Europa was €1,300, or about $1,400 at the time. This includes the price of two round-trip tickets for Paolo and the egg bag, and some incidental expenses. (When I told Monaco how many whites are traveling, he said sarcastically: “Uno squadro di calcio!” – a football team.)

CryoStork, the division of Cryoport dedicated to the fertility sector, offers all three levels of service – commercial carriers for something easily replaceable (sperm, in other words), mid-level service using local carriers and air freight, and door-to-door service – at rates Ranging from a few hundred dollars to as much as $7,000 or $8,000 for an international hand-held flight.

In the end, the pandemic boosted Loewen’s business. Today, he and a team of eight, half-employee-and-a-half co-workers on a per-shipment basis handle about 30 to 40 IVF-related shipments each month. Likewise, when the war began in Ukraine, Loewen and other colleagues received frantic requests from desperate clients to move their vitals outside the capital, Kyiv, where most of the country’s IVF clinics and surrogacy agencies are located, and shifted business to neighboring Georgia. But by September, Loewen was planning to deliver vital materials to Ukraine again. “People want to have kids — whether it’s a struggle or not,” he says.

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What does it take to be a tissue holder, and how does one enter the field? Everyone I spoke to said that in order to succeed, you must love to travel, have a calm personality (in case, as with Loewen, you’re surrounded by a knot of armed Belarusian soldiers at the airport and accused of organ trafficking), and be skilled at problem-solving.

Loewen is looking for people with experience in the travel sector, who can navigate new cities and won’t be bothered by a flight cancellation or an angry customs official. Mark Sawicki of Cryoport has several former pilots now working as co-pilots. Their security clearances enable them to move through airports more easily than civilians.

Nicole Dorman, 43, has always loved children. She jokes that her current job as a courier is “babysitting”. She has three children, ages 14 and 22, and was a teacher assistant and school crossing guard, after four years in the US Army. When she’s home for a week or two at a time with her kids between gigs, she also delivers orders to DoorDash in Clarksville, Tennessee.

Courier on a bicycle shaped like sperm accelerating on the road
Nordisk Cryobank created the “Sperm Bullitt” to transport samples to fertility clinics. The bike is fitted with a giant sperm cell that has a cooler compartment so metal packets containing donated sperm can be kept cool.

WENN RIGHTS LTD / ALAMY STOCK PHOTO

Dormann began transferring stem cells to a courier service in Frankfurt. When she was looking for work in November of 2020, she emailed half a dozen IVF carriers and heard a response from Loewen within 15 minutes. She has been with him ever since, and also does US shipments for the Ukrainian company ARK Cryo, as well as EmbryoPort, a UK-based company.

Dorman is on the road approximately 70% of each month; When we spoke in mid-May, she was preparing for a week-long trip starting with a pickup truck in Indianapolis, dropping off in Bratislava, a train ride from there to Prague for another freight, and then a trip to Greece. Like all postmen who have been working for any length of time, she has a frequent travel case. In the 18 months since it started, it has moved more than 90 shipments. “I can now do that a lot in my sleep,” she says.

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