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Friday, 14 March
The Goo Is In The Mail

One of the projects I've been working on at the ol' clinical trials statistical lab is a little thing called "Specimen Tracking."

No, I am not stalking piss-bearing nurses around making sure that they're delivering the little warm bottles to the right places, though that sounds fun. For many of our cancer research trials, we require certain specimens (blood, bone marrow, eyeballs) to be sent from the patient's hospital to various labs, where they will do mysterious things, like pathological verification of the disease, or some genetic assay mumbo-jumbo, or whatever. For all I know, they play hacky-sack with the fucking things and then make up outrageous lies. "I need the path review results for patient number 1150062!" "Uh . . . right, I'll look that up. Here it is. Yeah, this patient was confirmed with scalar cell fuctating baloonganoma.(Sounds of muffled laughter, bong hit.)"

Anyway, the specimen tracking project is a web-based system of logging where all the little damn hunks of people are going and when; sort of like the USPS tracking system, only hopefully better, as recently the USPS tracking system informed me that a package of mine from Amazon had "left Fernley NV" and had "entered US." What a relief. I hope there's a commenting system for humorous outlet. Like the time a nurse shipped me several glass slides by slipping them into a normal business envelope and then tossing it into the mailbox. It would be helpful to note little gaffes like that: "Specimen inadequate due to vast, jaw-dropping institutional incompetence. Recommend napalm strike."

Institutions are required to send lots of stuff various places, so it's actually understandable that occasionally there's a mixup. Not that the mixups aren't frequently horrible and scarring. For a long time, I was in charge of receiving RT materials: that is, x-ray and CT scan films, which were actually pretty interesting. Cross-sections of the human body can look awfully cool, provided they aren't, you know, yours. What wasn't cool the day an institution sent along a bunch of films and also enclosed the poloroids that they often take of the patients to show where the fields of radiation therapy are on the body. This was a rectal cancer study. I held in my hands many photos of afflicted, radiation-treated, angry asses, and I thought, "If this is all a part of someone's grand universal plan, I'd like to have a word with them."


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Comments

Induced sputum samples are the worst: they make the patient breathe in a fine mist of water so that he/she coughs up from the very bottom of their lungs, then send the resulting gristly lumps of lung-flecked phlegm to the lab. Well, those and vomit; warm vials of someone else's sick are pretty gross, too. And don't get me started on testing for strongyloidiasis, which is where you set up moist cultures of human faeces and let 'em brew for a couple of weeks. Even if you open 'em in a fume hood, the stench is devastating.

Comment number: 002623   Posted by: senn on March 15, 2003 11:24 PM from IP: 12.224.111.37

I think it's my duty to point out to my other fifteen readers that Senn is, unfortunately, a chef.

Comment number: 002624   Posted by: Skot on March 16, 2003 10:27 PM from IP: 63.187.241.206

At dinner with a friend this weekend, you came up:

Friend: I read this hilarious website that had a link to you on it.
Me: Oh, yeah?
Friend: I can't remember the name of it, though.
Me: Izzle Pfaff?
Friend: Yeah, that was it. What was the name again?
Me: Izzle Pfaff.

You made me say "Izzle Pfaff" out loud twice, Skot. You owe me big.

Comment number: 002625   Posted by: mark on March 17, 2003 08:41 AM from IP: 66.47.18.130

You fool! You're supposed to say it three times! It's like saying "Candyman," only instead of being gruesomely murdered, you get laid. Please pay attention.

Comment number: 002626   Posted by: Skot on March 17, 2003 08:57 AM from IP: 140.107.120.123

More laughter. The client thinks I'm laughing at his jokes, because he's sitting directly across from me. I just cast my eyes downward a bit to look at the laptop screen between us as he's talking. I read the screen, nodding in absent confirmation to his mumbling and then laugh at Skot's jokes when I should be laughing at the client's. The timing is tricky.

Anyway, James Herriot covered lab mix-ups in his heartwarming series of books about beeing a kindly country vet. One guy rubbed a shit sample on a cow's back or something.

Comment number: 002627   Posted by: Grant Barrett on March 19, 2003 09:59 AM from IP: 66.47.30.156

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