Tag Archives: lab work

I’m So Low I Have to Look Up to See Whale Poop

Yay! I’ve become the boring person who does nothing but talk about their medical problems. If you knew my family, you’d know it was just a matter of time. This is how conversations with my relatives go:

Me: So, what’s new?

My Mom: Well, Dad had a doctor’s appointment today. Oh, and did I tell you Uncle X came home from the hospital today? His legs are still swollen, but he’s feeling better. Auntie Y’s funeral is on Wednesday and afterwards I’m going to see Cousin Z in the nursing home.

Me: Really? Okay, we’ll I’m going to go throw myself out the sixth floor window. Have a great afternoon.

My grandfather used to give me advice on aging. “Sara Lee,” he’d say, because he had a nickname for everyone. “Sara Lee, don’t get old.”

“Sure beats the alternative,” I’d tell him.

Now I’m not so sure. I’ve seen old. It ain’t pretty.

Anyway, enough about everyone else. Back to me.

Monday I took my two sets of lab orders and I hied me off to a different lab. I walked in the main entrance of the hospital and up to reception. I had to wait a few minutes, but once the receptionist got to me, she was quite pleasant. She took my name, entered it into the computer and asked another lady to escort me to the waiting room.

The attendant was a beautiful little Asian woman who asked me if my hair was natural. When I told her, yes, it was, she sighed with envy and said, “I love it!”

I like this place already.

She courteously pointed me to a chair and told me someone would be right with me. I didn’t have time to do much more than take off my coat and pick up a BHG magazine when a door opened and my name was called.

A third woman ushered me into an office and took my paperwork. Since I had never been there before, it took a few minutes to enter my information into the system, but I suspect that was a one-time thing. She photocopied my ID and insurance card.

I braced myself, waiting to be told I’d need to walk down to East Japeepee to get a blue card or an orange card or a notarized certificate of authenticity, but she simply printed out two documents, asked me to sign the privacy thingamabob and handed me my lab orders back. Then she gave me directions to the lab.

The directions weren’t that great, but there were signs everywhere so I figured it out pretty quickly. I can read like that.

I walked down to the lab and checked in with the lab receptionist. Okay. Admittedly, that’s a lot of check-ins, but so far everyone had been really nice, so I didn’t mind.

Did I mention I didn’t need a blue card?

At the laboratory, the receptionist informed me that if I had both sets of labs sent to both doctors, I would only be charged for one draw instead of two. Sign me up, yo. There’s no reason each doctor couldn’t each see the others’ results, so I said, Yes, please.

I thought it was nice that she showed me that little loophole. She took my paperwork and pointed me to another waiting room. This is the only sub par part of the experience. Not the waiting room – that was fine – but the fact that I was there about ten minutes. I was the only one in there.

It seemed like a long time, but if that was the worst thing that happened to me, it was going to be a pretty good day.

Moreover, the tech who waited on me was both friendly and…wait for it…competent! Yes, that’s right. She managed not to poke the needle through my vein despite the fact that she had to change out six differnt tubes. Count ‘em, six.

Rock on.

I am, however, reserving my final judgment until the process is complete. I still need to see how quickly the results are processed and how the billing cycle plays out. I’ve had problems with both before and am in no hurry to repeat the experience.

But, it’s looking good. It’s looking real good.

I did get one set of results back today: the thyroid. And because I know you’re dying to know, here they are:

T4: 0.79 (normal range: 0.90 – 1.70)

TSH: 1.39 (normal range: 0.27 – 4.20)

The good news is that the TSH (the thermostat) is in the normal range. I mean, I guess that’s good news. Again, I’m not sure why it needs to be and, again, I forgot to ask. Because I am a jackwagon.

The other good news is that my T4 (the furnace) is lower than normal. I say good because it was that, combined with the now normal TSH, that prompted the doctor to adjust my meds to every other day.

Yahootie! I’m now taking half of what I was before. And that can only be a good thing, in my book.

Still, it irritates me that I had to get lower than whale poop to get a change made. Today when the nurse was explaining the results she told me that I “may be feeling a little tired”. Clearly, she has no memory of our last conversation. The one where I told her I was exhausted and depressed. The one that happened four weeks ago.

Today, though, I didn’t even care. I was just so happy for the news.

I have not heard the results from my OB/GYN orders yet, but I did take some time yesterday to look up what exactly the tests were. My doc did explain them to me, but she has a soft voice, talks very quickly and has a little bit of a lisp. I can totally understand what she’s saying, but there is a two-second delay there. Make that a three-second delay. I’m adding a second due to the effect the sheer terror of being in any doctor’s office has on my brain.

All I remember hearing is, “Blah blah blah blah, Day 3, blah blah blah.”

Right. Got it.

So I looked it up. And I was horrified. You guys, I’m basically waiting for the phone to ring to find out whether or not I have any eggs left.

Hoe. Lee. Whale poop.

Oh good. Because between my job, my father’s Parkinson’s disease and my husband applying for grad school, I didn’t have enough stress in my life. This makes everything so much better.

I need a drink.

Oh, wait. I stopped doing that so that I could get pregnant.

In that case, I need some ice cream. Stat!

The Joy of the Blood Test

My diagnosis of Graves disease came with a lifetime invitation to the laboratory to regularly test my thyroid levels. Regardless of what path I choose, I don’t see this happening any less frequently than once every six months. Right now, twice a year seems pretty far off.

I’ve had so much blood drawn over the last five years that I’m sure I’ve had a complete oil change by now. At best, I’ve gone to the lab every three months, but sometimes as often as every few weeks.

Blood Work Kit

not my photo

The insanity, by definition, is that I keep going to the same lab, hoping that the way I’m treated will change. Actually, it’s not really insanity so much as laziness. The lab is on my way to work.

When I show up, I wait by the sign that says “Please Wait Here” and is plastered with requests that I wear a face mask if I’m sick. Um, if I’m healthy, would I be here? But what I have isn’t contagious, nor is diabetes, high cholesterol or probably most of the other things people go there to get tested for, so the face mask thing is ridiculous. It serves no purpose other than to make me – the germaphobe to end all germaphobes – more nervous.

I have my lab paperwork and my blue card ready. The blue card is another thing I don’t understand. This particular facility and its affiliates require you to have a blue card to get service. Even if you have a gushing limb hanging by a single tendon, you need a blue card before they’ll get out the sewing kit.

Okay, not really, but I’m telling you, they’re blue card Nazis. The blue card has your name on it and your insurance information and to get it, you have to go deep into the bowels of the lab, stand in line again, hand over your insurance card, then wait 20 more minutes while it is printed up.

It also expires in one year, at which point you need it have it renewed. Fortunately you can do that online by filling out a simple 45-page questionnaire in less than 15 minutes, at which point it logs you off.

It’s awesome.

After waiting at the “Please Wait Here” sign for a few minutes while there are no other patients in sight of the reception desk, one of the women behind the counter glares at me and growls, “Can I help you?”

Either this is the worst place in the world to work, or they require their employees to fast for 12 hours before coming to work. Which would make it the worst place in the world to work.

I smile pleasantly as I approach the bench and say, “Hi there!” I hand over my paperwork and my blue card (because I’m efficient that way) to a silent individual who doesn’t once look up as she asked me the following:

“Spell your first and last name.” Why? Isn’t it right there on the paper?

“Date of birth?” Sure, no problem.

“Do you have your insurance card with you?” What?

Because I already have a blue card, I didn’t bother to bring in my insurance card.

“It’s in the car,” I tell her. She sighs heavily.

“Isn’t that what the blue card is for?” I ask timidly.

“We need both.”

This is retarded. And that’s all I have to say about that.

She lets me go this time with a warning. Yay! Still without looking at me, she tells me I’m all set to have a seat.

Since my blood work doesn’t require fasting, I get to thumb through old magazines about babies or race cars, neither of which I’m particularly interested in at the moment, while all the fasters go ahead of me. Once I finally do get called, a tech ushers me into a room.

Sometimes they’ll ask me how I am. Sometimes, not. But once I’m in the chair, this is always the conversation:

“Spell your first and last name.” Eye roll. I swear by all that is good and holy the next time I’m going to spell my name wrong, just to see what happens.

“Date of birth.” Didn’t we just do this?

As the tech preps the instruments, I roll up my right sleeve. I’ve only encountered maybe two people who have been able to draw blood out of my left arm. Without looking at me, the tech says, “Do you have an arm preference?”

Yes, I do. Please take the blood through the sleeve of my left arm. That’s how I like it done.

I really don’t have the patience for this kind of thing. But I answer civilly, if not pleasantly.

“Small pinch,” the tech says as she pushes the needle through my vein and out the other side. I can’t tell you how many times this has happened. It is not a pleasant feeling.

I used to cringe when I saw the interns coming because they looked so nervous. Now I pray for one. The interns are awesome. They are still new enough to be pleasant and they are so anxious to do a good job that they actually do. In my experience, it’s the seasoned techs that suck the most because they’ve stopped caring.

They draw a couple of vials (changing the vial sucks, especially when the needle is all the way through your vein), pull out the needle and press on the gauze pad. Invariably, they rip off a seven-foot piece of tape and practically wrap it around my arm five times.

Okay, that’s an exaggeration, but still. A two-inch piece of tape would suffice. Remember, I’m Italian. There’s no need to put adhesive on the front of my arms. If I wanted them waxed, I’d wax them, thanks.

The tech then recites the speech about applying pressure for 3-5 minutes to prevent bruising. I feel like saying, If you didn’t stick the needle clear through my vein, that would go a long way towards preventing bruising. Instead I smile and say, “Thank you.” Then I grab my jacket and high-tail it out of there.

I’m determined to find a new lab to try next time I get my “orders” in the mail. I’ll report out once I do – it should be in about three weeks.

How about you? Have you ever had to have blood drawn? Was your experience good or bad? Any suggestions or ideas on how to make the process smoother?