As storms lashed South Australia, a doctor babysat embryos all night to keep them safe.

As wild storms threw the entire state into darkness on Wednesday night, the last thing most South Australians would have wanted to do was jump into their cars and drive to work.

But that’s exactly what embryologist Dr Michael Barry did.

The Scientific Director of Fertility South Australia spent the night at St Andrews hospital babysitting his patients’ embryos to make sure they survived the night of blackouts and extreme weather.

“I just drove into the lab and just sat there and made sure the incubators were working, everything was safe and waited until the power was back on and went home,” he told Mamamia.

The hospital has three backup generators, but if one of those had failed embryos, such as those being prepared for transfer, may have been lost, with devastating effects for patients.

“It’s a little bit like a loss of the child,” the IVF specialist with two children of his own explained.

“Our patients see those embryos as their future children.”

"Our patients see those embryos as their future children." Source: Fertility SA

To make doubly sure the embryos were safe, he brought along a battery operated incubator, which could be powered via the cigarette lighter in his car.

"I’ve been doing this for 26 years and it’s for that reason. You’re helping people with something that’s really important. I’ve got children of my own and I know how important they are to me and to my family, that’s the sort of mindset you come to this job."

Many of the patients were reassured when Fertility South Australia posted about Dr Barry's efforts on their Facebook page.

"When we had the blackout, it wasn’t my first thought," admits new mother Nikki Hammond, who has two embryos currently stored there.


The 32-year-old underwent IVF with the clinic and in January gave birth to her first daughter Matilda.

She, like many others, was relieved to hear they were safe, especially after hearing the sad news that number of embryos had been destroyed because of the storm at another fertility centre.

"I’m sure they’re feeling gutted," she told Mamamia.

"It’s not easy going to through the process and to know you’ve lost them and have to do it all again would be pretty disheartening. I just feel really sad and sorry for them."

Nikki with her daughter Matilda. Source: Supplied

While the embryo retrieval process is usually the length of a normal menstrual cycle, it can be extremely taxing, Nikki said.

"It’s a big deal on your body. It's not a lot of fun injecting yourself multiple times a day every day," she said.

"Going into it not knowing how it’s all going to pan out can be quite daunting - and you’re grieving the fact that you can’t have a child the way you thought you would.

"When you do get an embryo it’s very exciting, so to have lost one or however many you have stored would be pretty awful."

Her gratitude has been echoed by other patients from the clinic, many of whom called to check on their embryos, according to Dr Barry.

Others simply left comments on the Fertility SA Facebook post.

"Must admit the thought had not crossed my mind, but now you say I think 'of course'," one woman wrote.

"Thanks for looking after everyone's precious miracles."

Feature image: Fertility SA/Facebook