Apparently my Crohn’s took a turn for the worse this year without my knowing it. When I went for my annual colonoscopy in June, my intestines had narrowed significantly, indicating either some crazy amount of ongoing inflammation or the creation of scar tissue. Since I don’t experience symptoms on a daily basis, I was inclined to ignore it and carry on – but after the three doctors told me that doing so would likely result in my intestines rupturing and necessitating emergency surgery, I decided to listen.
As a result, they’ve started me on a combo of steroids and an immunosuppresant (6MP, used primarily as chemo for people with leukemia). Because of this, I need to have blood drawn weekly to check my white blood cells and make sure my liver isn’t short circuiting from the influx of chemicals it’s being asked to process.
I share this by way of explaining how it was that I found myself seated in the lab at GW Hospital, waiting for a large man who didn’t possess an “inside voice” to draw my blood Monday morning before work. The way the blood-drawing stations were positioned, I was in the awkward seat that faced out into the waiting area, so I had a bit of an audience.
I normally wouldn’t have a problem with that since I’m fine with needles, but it’s something of a game-changer when you’re facing an audience and the phlebotomist booms, “DID YOU BRING US A STOOL SAMPLE TODAY?”
“Um, no?” I tried to use a librarian’s voice to provide an example for him.
It didn’t work. After drawing my blood, he brought back four containers, a plastic bag and a sheet of instructions. Instead of discreetly handing them to me, however, he decided to give me a very loud lesson on what needed to happen.
I chose to bask in the awkwardness, so as he started yelling (“THE LID HAS A SCOOP FOR YOU!”), I glanced around the waiting room to see if any of the other patients found this as amusing as I did. The same strangers’ eyes that had been keen to watch my blood get taken were all suddenly boring holes in the floor. No one would meet my gaze – it felt as if I were wearing the human-equivalent of a dog’s cone of shame.
I’d half tuned him out in my assessment of my audience, but my head whipped in his direction to the tune of a mental record-scratch when I heard him say, “SO YOU STRETCH PLASTIC OVER YOUR TOILET BOWL…”
Excuse me? Are you reading a passage from “Pranksters 101?” I’d missed what he had said before that, but I couldn’t think of a single reason that it would be EVER a good idea to stretch plastic over one’s toilet bowl. Later that night, when I related this to my sister, she eloquently bottom-lined it: “Wait. So he wants you to shit on Saranwrap?”
Before I could even suggest that she’d missed her calling as nurse, she followed up, “Why is a phlebotomist giving you instructions for a stool sample anyway?”
“I got the sense that he was providing the instructions theoretically but had no first-hand experience with the collection process himself,” I told her.
“Right,” she responded. “He probably just makes things up just to see what he can convince someone to do. Did he wrap up by asking you to report back on how it goes?”
I could hear her wheels turning as she warmed up to the idea of a phlebotomist prankster giving ridiculous instructions. “If I were him, I’d tell people, ‘Listen, you’re going to shit on Saranwrap, so try to have a little fun with it. Roll out your yoga mat, grab the handle of your oven door…'”
Headshake. And this is why we’re glad my sister is not a doctor. Or a nurse. Or a phlebotomist.
Next week when I go in for my blood work, I’ll be prepared. When he asks how it went, I’ll say, “The trickiest part was getting the water out of the bowl before I lined it with plastic…”
Two can play at this game. Bring it.