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Friday, June 1, 2001

When we ran out of time yesterday, I was still worrying whether I would be able to follow the Lab Guy's instructions, since I hadn't listened to him very closely. It could have been nervousness on my part, or I might have been distracted by his orange aloha shirt.

In the interest of good taste, I won't describe the feeling of straddling a disposable aluminum loaf pan, but I'll admit I was glad to have one available this morning. With the help of the pan, I was able to make the smears the Lab Guy wanted. I sealed the smear cards in the plastic bag and lit out for the lab, intending to drop it off and go.

The hospital lab is new to my HMO, and today was the first day the HMO's doctors were required to send patients there. There are a lot of doctors suddenly learning how to fill out the new forms, and a lot of patients unsure of where to go or what to do. So that's just where I wanted to be at ten thirty on a Friday morning. It took me at least ten minutes just to find a parking space.

There was a long line at the admitting desk where I was told to go, so I stood and watched other people fill out forms and give information to the clerks. The retired cop in front of me grumbled the whole time and made feeble jokes about this not being any way to run an airline, and the rest of us nodded and chuckled and didn't say anything and wished the guy would go away.

It wasn't until I got to the front of the line and talked to someone that I learned I couldn't just drop the sample off and go. I had to be admitted to the hospital, apparently, because the young woman started asking me the kind of questions that made my heart beat a little faster. Religious preference. Next of kin. Birth date (shudder!).

Then she gave me a plastic bracelet with my name on it and told me to take my baggie to the lab. I had to ask her where that was, and she said to take the elevator to the second floor and turn right. I had no trouble finding the elevator. I had a lot of trouble turning right, because a right turn took me to patient rooms, and I didn't think I needed a bed just yet.

I kept turning right until I was back where I started, and I asked a woman in scrubs to point me toward the lab before I got any dizzier. I was standing in front of the elevator again, and she directed me to my left. "Walk toward the light," she said ominously, but she meant the light over the desk halfway down the next hallway.

I handed over my package and my bracelet, and the lab tech thanked me. Not quite able to believe anything in this place could be that simple, I asked her, "Is that all?" Yes, that was all.

That wasn't all. When I got home I found a message on my answering machine, asking me to call Sharon at the lab. This couldn't be good. She apologized for the Lab Guy, who hadn't read the doctor's instructions correctly (if at all). He gave me the wrong kit. I needed a sterile container (the margarine tub I mentioned yesterday). They couldn't do the tests with what I'd so carefully provided them.

She wanted to know how soon I could come back. I told her twenty minutes, but by the time I found a place to park and walked back the four blocks, it was at least twice that much time. But at least this time I knew where to go, once I got inside the hospital.

I was a bit overwhelmed with all the instructions Sharon gave me, but I did listen to her. One margarine tub, plus three little vials with scoops attached to the lids, and chemicals inside that I was supposed to mix with the sample. And I had to get it all back to the lab within one hour of production, no more, day or night.

I'm thinking I'll make sure it's daytime. I have at least that much control over the situation. Otherwise I'd have to sleep in my clothes, and muck around with this stuff in a late night semi-stupor. (To put it more directly, I don't want to be up to my elbows in shit in the middle of the night.)

(Or any other time, frankly, but especially in the middle of the night.)

yellow rose

So now I'm waiting for the next opportunity. The disposable loaf pans came in pairs, so I'm covered. (Well, I hope one more will be enough.) I was so relieved this morning to think that I'd done my duty (and my doody) and all I had to do was wait for the doctor to call with the results. I'm not looking forward to doing it all again.

But at least it wasn't my fault. Damn you, Lab Guy!

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