Connecting to what I wrote about the other day, about lab work being about facts, numbers, analyzing, and not so much about the greater context, implications, ethics, and so on — I’ve also realized that despite it in many ways being impersonal, the things that are going on in the lab are (of course) very much real, and it’s important to not lose touch with that.
The tests that are run here – and they often concern really serious conditions and pathologies, sometimes about children, sometimes they’re studies; either way, the blood/synovial fluid/pulmonary fluid/serum/pericardial fluid/whatever — all the samples that are used are newly drawn from human beings who are waiting to hear back about their condition. Are they allergic to x? Are they at terrible risk of getting a heart attack? Do they have HIV? A bacterial infection? Do they have cancer? Do they have celiac disease? Are they anemic?
We were running some tests yesterday, that had they come out positive, immediate action would have to be initiated. The results took a little while to report, and I was rather nervous while waiting. Then the machine spit out some paper, and everything was fine. I was so relieved! It’s not too difficult to imagine that one would be excited to see some abnormal results showing, just for the kicks, but the knowledge of that it is all real outweighs the excitement of getting to call the MD — it’s totally inferior to finding out that the patient will get a comforting report back.
To always keep in mind that the work done truly isn’t impersonal is also important since it sometimes can get repetitive, contains so many details, so many small items and samples, and so many steps and procedures that if one wasn’t motivated by the fact that messing up could have horrible consequences, it would not take much to put a drop of the wrong thing in the right vial, or simply forgetting to change the pipette tip between the vials of different patients. Cross contamination!
Needless (although we certainly are not needle-less in here) to say, my hypochondria has gone so crazy that I can’t really perceive it anymore. It’s like if you push your car over the limit and the cylinders and pumps get over heated and melt and fuse; that’s what being in the biohazard environment has done to me (but I do wash my hands excessively..after wearing gloves). I’m more freaked out by the knowledge that at any moment, the time will arrive when I’ll have a blood draw done, and have my own blood checked for allergies, infections, cancer, nutritional deficiencies — all the shit I’m scared of on a daily basis. Fortunately, they too fall into the shadows somewhat when around you there are blood bags coming in empty and going out full, for transfusion, and random lab technicians taking their coats off, extending their arm, and gets their blood drawn like it’s no big deal.
Because it isn’t. They do it all the time, to have some normal controls if they’ve run out of the pre-ordered ones, for studies, for fun — fears are fed by darkness, by the unknown. By having my blood drawn voluntarily without no real cause I’m going to kick that needle phobia in the butt.
Face your fears. Let the light in!
I went to face another fear this weekend, although it wasn’t really a fear; more of a thrill that I couldn’t wait to experience. We headed up to Vedauwoo in Wyoming to go crack climbing. I love the mountains to death, but I must say there was quite some relief involved with not having my outdoor climbing debut be on the face of some gnarly Colorado fourteener.
It will happen though, in time. Maybe this coming weekend, lest we return to Vedauwoo.