Friday, 20 July 2012

Human Guinea Pig: Part 7 - How To Get Over Your Fear Of Needles

Holy lord! Who would have thought, when I agreed to go into hospital for all this testing, that the experience would prove to be such a rich vein of blog posts?

Anyway! This is the sixth part of the story about my overnight stay in the hospital's research department, having lots of tests to look at the effect my pituitary tumour is having on my body and metabolism. Here are links to: part one, part two, part three, parts four, five and six!

A Whole Lot of Blood Tests

After my GEM ventilated hood calorimetry test was over, and the strange astronaut hood was removed from my person, you might be imagining they'd let me have breakfast. If so, you are imagining wrong. Please stop.

No, it was time for my blood glucose testing! And so I was presented with this:

Yay, breakfast
No, it's not a refreshing beer: it's a pint of Lucozade. At nine in the morning. And I had to drink it all within five minutes.

Basically the idea is that, having eaten/drunk nothing but air for twelve hours, they present you with a massive sugary drink and then do a bunch of blood tests over the next two hours to see how well your body deals with it. I'll be interested to find out the results of this, as I'm pretty sure my body isn't great at coping with sugar; sometimes eating sugary things really noticeably raises my heartrate - and especially when I'm on my lanreotide injections, I have to try to be really careful about eating regularly, and carry around a packet of Starburst (or similar sugary hit) because occassionally I go hypoglycaemic at unexpected moments. Lanreotide messes around with your insulin and glucagon levels, meaning that it can confusingly cause both high and low blood sugar, and it sure is annoying.

I looked it up, and it turns out Lucozade was originally conceived as an Irish health drink and called Glucozade! Who knew! Between that and Guinness, it seems my ancestors had some peculiar ideas about what was "healthy". It also turns out that Lucozade contains 85g of sugar per 500ml, which is almost all of a woman's daily allowance. Holy crap! You can see why they chose it for my morning tipple.

While I was distracted trying to gulp down the hideous stuff, the sneaky nurses set up the trolley ready for my blood tests. Having finally finished all my Lucozade, I turned around to see this:
Oh, dear lord.

Yep. All those tubes were for me. I got to have twenty-three bloods taken in total - lucky me!

First they put an IV cannula into my arm - basically it's a giant needle that stays in your vein and they can attach tubes and things to so that they don't have to re-stab your arm every time they take another blood. They took about 16 of the bloods immediately, and then I had the rest over the next two hours. I still can't really bring myself to look at cannulas in my arm due to being a wuss, so one of the nurses very kindly bandaged it up for me.

Safely hidden away!

The nurses and my endocrinologist formed a sort of production line around my arm for the first sixteen, with one nurse preparing the tubes, Dr Olive taking the blood, and the other nurse stacking them up (some had to go straight into a bucket of ice; some had to be left to clot).

Once they've finished taking one lot of bloods via a cannula, the tube is flushed out with saline solution (i.e. they effectively inject saline into the tube). This clears the blood out of the tube, preventing it from clotting and blocking the tube in-between blood tests. Of course, then the next time they come to take blood, this means that they get half a tube of saline back before the blood starts coming through properly, which is of no use to anybody. Because of this, before taking further bloods, they take an extra tube which comes out as a mix of the saline & blood, then continue with the tests - and then sometimes (if you're having a lot of bloods taken, like me) they'll re-inject the blood and saline, to minimise blood loss.

I've never written the word "blood" so much in my life as I just did in that last paragraph, but I promise I'm not just trying to gross you out; there's an interesting fact coming up. Before re-injecting the blood & saline, I was asked if I was ok with it. I was very much ok with it, because sometimes having lots of blood taken gives me a Funny Turn (in this case I was fine, probably thanks to the pint of Lucozade) and thus I like to hang on to the stuff. Turns out they always have to ask before re-injecting the blood, in case you're a Jehovah's Witness.

I have long been aware that Jehovah's Witnesses are against blood transfusions, but I'd always assumed that this was due to believing that it was wrong to have someone else's blood put into your body; I hadn't appreciated that in fact the problem is with any blood that has left the body at all, even your own. According to Wikipedia, for Jehovah's Witnesses "Blood represents life and is sacred to God. It is reserved for only one special use, the atonement for sins. When a Christian abstains from blood, they are in effect expressing faith that only the shed blood of Jesus Christ can truly redeem them and save their life".

My Lucozade & Blood Tests Experience:

Hassle: 4/5
Fun: 1/5 (It would have been a zero, but I learned an interesting fact!)
Weirdness: 2/5
Results: 2/5
Total Score: 9/20

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