Tag Archives: doctor

Punk’d by a Phlebotomist?

26 Sep

Funny Stool Sample

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.

 

 

What Katie Couric DIDN’T show us…

9 Jun

Time for Ye Annual Colonoscopy. Which always gives me flashbacks to Katie Couric being heralded for being so brave and broadcasting hers. She makes it look simple – which the actual procedure is. What she didn’t spend much time on (and why the procedure has a bad rap) is the prep.

The face of excitement.

The face of excitement.

Since I’ve ranted about the entire experience before, I won’t bore you with a redundant entry. Instead, I’ll just share a few quick updates and observations from this year’s scope. Note: this post may be a bit too much information for you if colons (and their functions) make you squeamish, so you may want to skip it. I consider it a Public Service Announcement for people who must also undergo this procedure.

First – surely they can do better than the 3 Liter jug of GoLytely they prescribe as part of the prep. In fact, I happen to KNOW they can, because about 10 minutes after I started drinking it on Monday night, I had multiple people ask why my doctor hadn’t prescribed the new 1 Liter option that apparently everyone but me is using. My short answer: because he is a sadist. My more considered answer: I probably earned it because I ate an entire bag of popcorn before my last colonoscopy.

Second – I finally figured out a method that makes the prep a wee bit less traumatic. I took the entire jug, a tumbler of ice and a lemon lime Vitamin Water to the loo with me. I normally would NEVER advocate eating/drinking in a bathroom (unless you are in the bathtub with a book), but this method both reduced the amount of wiping needed and the constant “I’m about to shit my pants” feeling that are hallmarks of the prep.

Ready for it? The trick is to sit ON the toilet while pounding the GoLytely so it can just shoot through you. Break it up with a few sips of Vitamin Water so you don’t throw up from the horrible taste, and VOILA – you will be done with the GoLytely in one hour and out of the bathroom in 90 minutes. Using this method, I was actually able to crawl into bed and get six hours of sleep before the second round of GoLytely hit.

Also: I draw a face on the jug so I can feel as if I have a companion there in the trenches with me. It happens to be my enemy, but a companion nonetheless. I think the word is “frenemy.”

GoLytely Face - (c) 2015 pithypants.com

Third – because I am too cheap to take a cab, or too hell-bent to get my 10,000 steps in, or too stubborn in general – I decided it was a good idea to WALK the 1.25 miles to my appointment. This, only three hours after completing the GoLytely. Let’s just agree: probably not the wisest decision. I arrived at the office making a beeline for the bathroom before even checking in. It was my way of playing, “Guess What I’m Here For” with the other patients in the waiting room.

Fourth – turns out, doctors don’t find it funny when you quip, “Guess I’ve flatlined” when they remove your heart monitor and the bleeps turn into one long BLEEEEEEEEP.

Fifth – if I were a nurse, I’d want to work in the recovery room. Because people coming out of anesthesia must say some pretty hilarious stuff. I can’t remember the FIRST things to come out of my mouth after they woke me, but I do remember some of my early sentences being, “Tell me, did I make a big mess in there?” and “Remind me, do I need to fart or something so you can spring me from this joint?” And I really wasn’t trying to be funny. I can only imagine what’s on “best of” reel.

Sixth – everyone should have a sister like Alicia. I went to bed relatively early on Monday night, having completed the first half of the prep and hoping to sleep as much as possible before Round Two commenced at 4am. When I woke at 4am, I found that she had filled my Facebook Feed with anything funny she could find on the topic of colonoscopies – just so I’d have some early morning entertainment to get me to the finish line. Example:

Someecards.com

Finally – everyone should have a partner as awesome as Alan. Not only was he there to collect me and whisk me home at the end of the procedure (helping me navigate since I couldn’t quite walk straight), he showed up with two juices and a box of chocolate bon bons for me to snack on immediately since he knew I’d be thirsty and starving.

Even better – as we walked up the sidewalk to my building and I said, “Um, I think I might be leaking – can you see anything on my skirt,” he just said, “Here – let me walk behind you,” instead of directly answering the question on the table. That’s a keeper, folks!

Poked, prodded and probed – all in all, I’d still say I’m a pretty lucky lady.

I didn’t expect to leave part of myself in that room.

9 Nov

This year I set-up a healthcare Flex Spending Account. I didn’t put much in it, but still, it was a pretty healthy year for me so I have a balance of $300 that threatens to disappear come January if I don’t use it.

I tell you that by way of explaining why I was at a dermatologist’s office this afternoon for the first time in my adult life. Apparently it’s on the list of annual inspections that adults over 35 should do, and since I am just sitting on a pile of money I can’t touch, I figured a bit of preventative care would be a good start.

As I sat in the waiting room (for a full hour, which is a different story), I noticed something: every patient walking out of the treatment area had at least one (and as many as six) circular bandaids affixed to his/her face. The first one I saw, I thought, “Wonder what she had done?” The second one, I was like, “Mole, mole mole…” a la Austin Powers. But by the third one, I was thinking we had a scalpel-happy doctor waiting on the other side of the door.

Turns out I was right. After a head-to-toe inspection (including a glance at my bikini  line – REALLY? – do people even GET moles there?) the doctor uttered the words, “I just want to do a biopsy on this one…” and the next thing I knew, I was on my stomach having a small and flat (but apparently dark) mole completely sliced off my back.

Say what?! The doctor left and her assistant came in to dress the wound. He looked to be an African American guy in his early 40s and was very friendly. “All right! You’re not even bleeding. Good stuff!” he informed me, rubbing his hands together.

“Apparently I’m awesome,” I told him, eyeing the mole formerly known as “mine,” which was now suspended in a sealed container of liquid.

He stopped and looked at me. “Women ARE awesome. Seriously. It’s the men that are a pain, always wanting to know how much something is gonna hurt or passing out when they see the needle. Big babies.”

Right on. I should’ve asked for his name so I could quote him on that.

When I walked out through the waiting room, I could feel all eyes on me. I wasn’t sure if I should run around and high-five everyone since I didn’t sport a bandaid on my face, or if I should turn around and lift my shirt to show everyone the bandage on my back so they’d know I wasn’t a pharmaceutical rep.

I wish I had been more prepared. Next week my friend Margaret is going. I’m going to send some fancy kids’ bandaids with her and recommend that she stop in the bathroom and put at least ten on her face before walking through the waiting room. Because the only thing more terrifying than a doctor who’s a cutter, it’s a cutter who loves Hello Kitty.