A new stage play a ‘Child of Science’ tells the story of the secret heroines of IVF

‘Do this for us Grace, do it for the girls’, a generation of women desperate for a baby were given hope by a research project led by the pioneers of IVF Professor Robert Edwards, Mr Patrick Steptoe, and Jean Purdy. Now the story of the 200 women who participated, including Grace Macdonald and Lesley Brown, is being told through the eyes of ‘patient 28’ in a new stage play ‘Child of Science’ opening at the Bristol Old Vic.

Grace and Lesley Brown were the only ones that were ultimately successful. It was after Grace produced a second healthy IVF baby – proof that the science could be replicated – that the trio was able to establish the world’s first IVF clinic Bourn Hall. It  was there that science was translated into a robust treatment.

Grace, mother of the first IVF baby boy, remembers: “I had been told that I could never conceive a baby because my fallopian tubes were blocked and there was no way of repairing them. The damage, I was told, was final.

“I could not accept the diagnosis and by sheer luck I read an article in a medical magazine about the pioneering research programme being carried out by Edwards, Steptoe and Purdy in Oldham, Lancashire.

“I wrote a letter to Mr Steptoe asking if I could be included in the trials they were carrying out. You can imagine the delight and excitement I felt when he replied and invited me to come for preliminary tests.

“I made some wonderful friends. We called ourselves the ‘ovum club’. We knew we were involved in something very special, and that taking part was about more than just us. The other women were very generous with their feelings. I remember one of the other patients saying to me ‘if it doesn’t work for us Grace, it will work for someone else.’

“I became close with the woman in the bed next to me. I was really touched by her last words to me as she left hospital, which were ‘do this for us Grace, do it for the girls.’”

It was at Bourn Hall that the techniques and medication for IVF treatment were developed and the first generation of consultants and embryologists were trained.

Dr Thanos Papathanasiou, CEO and Medical Director of Bourn Hall Clinic, says: “The passion that drove Bourn Hall’s founders Steptoe, Edwards and Purdy was a desire to enable a couple to have their own child. This is the same passion we have today. It is an honour to continue their work, always striving to improve outcomes for our patients.”

Read more about Grace’s story on our blog.

Child of Science is running at Bristol Old Vic from June 5 to July 6. Find out more and book tickets at bristololdvic.org.uk/whats-on/a-child-of-science

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