Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The good news is that I can feel very special.

If I needed a reminder that I am just like everyone else, yesterday was not reassuring. However, if, as my life history indicates, I just want to be "special", then things are going exactly as planned. With only two more days left of winter break, I had a long list of errands to run. Here was my list:

  1. take my teenage son, Rowan, to his get his allergy shot, 
  2. then go to his prescribing doctor in Santa Fe. 
  3. We needed to hit Trader Joe's and Target while down in Santa Fe, 
  4. and then on the way back pick up my cat at the vet. (My cat was at the vet spending down my small savings getting all his goddamned teeth dealt with so that I don't feel like a bad person, but that is another blog post entirely.

But, first, I had to go to the lab and get blood drawn.

If you know me very well, the background of your consciousness is now filled with maniacal laughter. In case you don't know, I am part vampire. Blood draws for me typically take 45 minutes to an hour and end with a room full of fascinated, frustrated phlebotomists apologizing profusely while they cover me all over with cotton balls and medical tape.

This time, I made sure I drank plenty of water coffee first.

At the appointment with bad-assed rheumatologist who ordered these tests, my impression was that he was generally satisfied that I had primary Fibromyalgia and was just going to check a couple of rare conditions to make sure they were not provoking the fibro symptoms. Hence, I was a bit surprised when he emailed me lab orders that looked like this:
Me: "It would have saved time if he had just had a 'select all' option."

Mike: "I'm sure he's just being very thorough."

Me: "Anti-Smith antibodies sound like something you would need in the Matrix."

Rowan: "Yeah, antibodies to keep him from doing that thing where he takes you over and you become Agent Smith."

Me: "Exactly. I might need those."

Rowan: "They are testing you for C4. That's cool! Actually, though it would suck if you had C4 in your blood and then you were shot because boom!"

I have certainly gotten a lot of lab ordered before, so I grimly accepted this reality and went, orders in hand, to meet my fate. I had never been to this particular lab before and when I arrived there, I was pretty focused on warning the phlebotomists that I was a hard stick, so that they didn't get all freaked out when they started dealing with me. But this turned out to be a very minor problem compared to their reaction to my lab orders.

At first the lab tech, a sweet-looking pony-tailed woman in her mid-twenties, sat down with a professional demeanor at the computer to review the lab-work that had been sent for me, but very soon her competent exterior began to crumble.

Lab Tech: "He must have like 50 tests ordered here! Is he crazy?"

Me: "Well, my primary care doctor did say, when he sent me to this rheumatologist, that this would be the closest thing to seeing Dr. House."

LT: "(pensively) I think I need to call the doctor's office and just make sure there isn't some mistake. I mean, what about your insurance? Do you know how much money this would cost? Did he enter all the diagnostic codes for all these tests?"

Me: "I don't think it's a mistake. He sent me a pdf with the written orders and they're all checked off. I brought it with me in case they didn't come up on your computer."

LT: "(excitedly) Can I see that?"

Me: "Sure."

I retrieved the lab order, and the phlebotomist studied it in disbelief.

LT; "He's more or less checked the whole thing."

Me: "I made a similar observation."

LT: "I have worked here four years, and I have never seen anything like this. Can I ask...what is wrong with you? I mean, what symptoms do you have?"

Me: "Well, I have fibromyalgia, but I had an unexplained hepatitis and pleurisy and I have some joint damage. I think they are trying to rule out conditions like Lupus or other mixed connective tissue disorders."

LT: "Oh...I guess that makes sense."

She made two calls, wherein she made several snarky remarks about the number of tests ordered being astronomical, and it was ultimately concluded that yes, my doctor did want for me to have all these tests, and that they would require about thirty tubes of blood. The lab could only take fifteen at a time, so I would have to come in twice.

LT: "If I take more than that from you, I'm afraid you won't be able to drive."

So, forty-five minutes after I arrived, they actually inserted a needle in my vein and, miracle of miracles, blood came out, and filled all fifteen tubes. (I tried my anti-Smith joke on two lab techs, but my level of geek was apparently slightly elevated above what could be appreciated in this situation.)

Image credit
LT: "You should definitely eat something when you leave here. Do you feel faint?"

Me: "Yes, but I always feel faint. That's why they are running all these labs on me."

LT: "Oh. I see.  Well, your doctor is being very thorough. The good news is you can feel very...umm....special."

Me: "That is a great relief to me."

LT: "Before you go let me get your urine test collection container."

Me: "My what?"

LT: "Oh, for one of these tests, you will need to collect all your urine for twenty-four hours in this container and bring it back to us when you come back for the other blood tests. You might want to plan on staying home that day."

Me: "I guess so."

Although, I could totally get another blog post out of what would happen if I took it to work with me all day, and that is unbelievably tempting. It's a full-time job being special.

If I come up with Anti-Smith antibodies, I'm totally going to assume I'm "The One".


  1. OMG! - Tara you can now never get private health insurance as they don't like "special." Well, I hope they find something, but nothing hard to treat.

  2. That's OK, Kimberly. I think the ship sailed on that one a long time ago. Mike can never lose his job. They may totally find nothing.

  3. Working on lab equipment for a living, this might be rare for some labs, and require a lot of blood for some analyzers, but most decent labs have equipment that don't require that much nor is it odd to have a stack of tests this "big".


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