Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Expanding my resume

Friends! I have captivating tales of fame and fortune and fishermen!

Wait. Scratch that.

No fortune, just fame and fishermen.


A few weeks ago, I received a summons to return to my pride land of Minnesota. I mean, my gut says they just missed me...but maybe the fact that my troublemaker mast cells have been even more out of control lately had something to do with it as well. Details.

In an effort to not spend the entire month of May in Minnesota, my allergist kindly offered to send me some lab work to do at home and ship back, so the results were all ready to go when I arrived. How thoughtful! Sounds easy enough, right?

False. Wrong. Negative. Ixnay.

When setting up the lab testing, I mentioned to the technician that I was going to be heading up to Philadelphia for appointments later in the week and wanted to make sure it was ok to complete the testing when I got home to Virginia again. I was assured this would not be a problem and we went along our merry way of discussing the glorious details of blood work and a 24 hour urine collection (he was impressed with my knowledge. Puhlease. Like this is the first time?). Everything was set up and the box would be shipped with everything I needed to complete the testing and send it back.

Fast forward a few days when I arrive home from the barn to find a giant brown box from the Mayo Clinic.

*Sidenote: You know that moment when you turn the corner towards home and you see a giant package waiting on your doorstep? Your heart rate increases, you start smiling and you can hardly wait to see the surprise that has landed on your door? Ya know, you leap out of the car, rush to the door in anticipation....aaaaaand then discover it is a giant box of test tubes and a pee jug and NOT a prize box informing you that you have won a pony? Yea. Been there.

Upon opening the box, I discover a note that says, "Start testing immediately after receiving this package, do not wait until next week."


I'd like to tell you that this was the first time that I have driven up I-95 with a giant jug of my urine.

It's not.

I'd also like to tell you that this was the first time I've brought said jug into the Delaware rest stop with me, rinsed the attached cup at the rest stop sink and then carried my satchel o'urine with me to the Starbucks to get a soy steamer.

It's not.

So because I had previously added my urine collecting skills to my resume, I wasn't that phased by lugging it around and I knew the exact protocol for shipping it back to my fan club in Minnesota.

I had not, however, ever had to ship them my blood.

In the aforementioned giant brown box, there was a smaller brown box, that contained a smaller styrofoam box that contained a still smaller styrofoam box full of test tubes and vials. Inside this Rubix cube of boxes were instructions for the phlebotomist (person poking my arm with needles) that explained how to collect the blood, where to put it and how to ship it.

If you haven't picked up on the pattern yet, I'll help you out: if something seems really simple, that is actually hospital code for extraordinarily complicated.

You see, you can't just call up any lab in the Philadelphia area and make an appointment. Nor can you assume that they will have the necessary materials to complete the task. The lab has to a) work with your insurance, b) be willing to work with the Mayo Clinic and c) have dry ice to ship the materials.

Allow me to share a conversation with the Mayo Clinic Specimen Office:

L- "Hi, I'm having a rather difficult time finding a lab to complete this testing and in addition, none of them seem to have access to dry ice. Do you have any ideas?"

MC - "Oh dear, let's help you out with that! If you go to a hospital, you will have more luck. Outside labs will generally turn you away, but a hospital has to accept you."

L - "Well I tried the hospital where I will be tomorrow, but they don't have dry ice, where can I find that?"

MC- "Well, where are you located?"

L - "Philadelphia."

MC - "Perfect! Isn't that on the water? Just go down to the waterfront and find a fisherman. They always have lots of dry ice for the lobster."

[awkward silence]

L - "Um...Philadelphia is on a river...we don't have too many lobsters?"

MC- "Oh they might for the fish though!"

[awkward silence]

L - "Okay...let's just assume for a second that I am unable to stand on the wharf with my styrofoam box of blood and locate a fisherman with dry ice...what is my back-up plan?"

Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce www.dryicedirectory.com

Didn't know it existed? Neither did I, but that little gift of a website tells you all of the locations in your area for dry ice...er...more accurately, THE location. In the city of Philadelphia, there is one.

After realizing that I have to be at the lab at 7, the dry ice place opens at 9 and my next appointment at the hospital is at 9:30, it is determined that my poor father will be roped into coming with me on this grand excursion, so he can run and fill the box with dry ice as soon as they open.

Again, seems easy...or at least, do-able, enough. Wrong.

We arrived at the lab around 7, I was rejected by the first phlebotomist around 7:45, spoke with the supervisor around 8:15, who called the grand guru of the lab to look into centrifuge and freezing protocol before calling me back at 8:45 and instructing phlebotomist #2 to take my blood at 9:20, who felt it necessary to comment on the diminutive size of my veins before sending me on my merry, sprinting way, to get to my appointment at 9:30. Meanwhile, Papa Haas has gone on a trip to South Philly with an empty box in tow, hoping to get it back to the lab before said centrifuging vials of blood are returned to the lab and I can pick it all up after my appointments.

Ok, hands in on Operation Dry Ice and we made it. Go team.

But, I still had to send it.

Now my buddies in the Specimen Office had sent me a pre-filled out form for Fed Ex and instructed me to drop the box off at a Fed Ex store or schedule a pick-up. Conveniently, there is a Fed Ex directly across from the hospital, hooray!

Hospital code again? Right.

Did you know that satellite Fed Ex offices will not accept live specimens? Especially if said live specimens contain dry ice, which involves several biohazard stickers and weight notation. True story. Nope, those extra special packages have to be sent from the Fed Ex warehouse. Ya know, the warehouse which is all the way across town, next to the recycling plant, in an area of town that a skinny white girl in a Honda, lugging around a box of pee and blood probably shouldn't frequent solo. See where this is going? Yep, at the ripe old age of 30, I needed my father to drive me, and my live specimens, to the warehouse where they could finally be shipped overnight to Minnesota.

A ridiculously large box for a 1/3 cup container of urine and 2 vials of blood.

So, let's review the expansion of my resume:

1. Need dry ice? I can find it. Or I'll find you a fisherman. I just ask that you get my mom a piece of salmon while you are at it.
2. Need to do a urine test while traveling? No problem, I can talk you through it, let you know which rest stops on I-95 have large stalls and I even have a perfectly sized tote bag you can borrow.
3. Need to send a live specimen? I can provide directions and even recommend an excellent bodyguard.
4. I am also now officially bilingual. I speak English and Hospital Code.

Oh and as for the fame? 

We'll save that for tomorrow.

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