Tuesday, August 31, 2010



So funny thing happened the other day. It was the 3rd day of school, which I was thoroughly enjoying, in my Hematology lab. We were learning how to do manual White Blood Cell counts! I had finished mixing my sample, loading it into my capillary tube, and placing it into my Ammonium Oxalate solution to lyse the Red Blood Cells. Now. To do all this, we use a snazzy little contraption called a unopette.

The needle looking part on the top of the chamber is the capillary tube. When it is full with the patient's sample, it is inverted into the container that holds the diluting solution. While the capillary is inverted, one is supposed to gently squeeze the chamber until liquid is near the top and then seal the opening with one's finger. The capillary is then cautiously removed with the finger seal still intact. The chamber is then squeezed even more, and the capillary re-inserted into the container causing negative pressure to create a vacuum. Once the finger is released from the capillary, a faint "woosh" can be heard from the intake of air. This is repeated 3 or 4 times to mix the sample and ensure the RBC's are properly lysed.

Now. Can anyone guess what happens when the chamber is squeezed too tightly while trying to remove the finger-sealed capillary? That's right. Fluid expels from the tube, hits the finger, and re-directs into the unsafety goggled eye. *Disclaimer: I wasn't instructed to wear safety goggles*

Naturally, I blinked at the reaction of something shooting into my eye, but while I was wiping my face clean the girl sitting next to me started screaming that I had been contaminated. Before I knew it, all 3 of my teachers were picking me up out of my chair, taking my contact out of my eye, and shoving my face into the eye-wash station where I stayed for a miserable 5 minutes. (If anyone is curious as to what that experience feels like, I felt like I was suffocating.) When I pulled my face out of the water, I turned my sopping, mascara smudged face to see the entire class staring at me. I dried off and ran down the hall to the ladies room to take out my other contact. Having only one in was making me nauseous. I returned, filled out the incident report and began to count my White Blood Cells, all while blushing from embarrassment.

Because the sample had already been diluted by a factor of 100 and my eye was washed out immediately, no one was concerned with my contamination. That is, until my professor pulled me into the "students prohibited" prep lab. Another one of my professors, Becky, was just ending a phone conversation. The Dean of the School of Medicine had been informed of "the incident" and instructed that I go see a doctor as quickly as possible. Becky had already scheduled me an appointment with the Student Health Clinic and I was to go immediately for a follow up. When I got to the doctor, she didn't know what to do with me! Since they don't often see patients for biological exposures, she left me in the room while she made phone calls to find out what to do with me or where to send me. No one answered, so she sent me home. I returned to class the next day to report my big-waste-of-time doctors visit to my teacher which infuriated her. Apparently I was supposed to have had a panel of blood work done to check for HIV and the different Hepatitis infections. My teacher called the lady in charge of Risk Management for the University of Utah and I was supposed to follow her instructions on what to do next. Well, when I called said Risk Management lady I was only able to talk to her front desk boy who informed me that the chick would call me the next day. The next day came, this is Friday by now, and I was told by the lady to go back to the Student Health Care center and have my blood work done. I called the doctor who told me I didn't need an appointment and to come in after I was through with class in the afternoon. Well, it just so happened to be International TB testing day. Every new international student at the U was at the student clinic having vaccinations and TB test being taken care of. When I went to check in, I was turned away because they were too busy and none of the nurses had time to do blood work.

The weekend passed and I returned to school Monday morning to inform my teacher of yet even more run around. Once again livid, she called my doctor and had my lab order faxed over to the hospital where she proceeded to personally escort me to have my blood drawn. They finally stuck me yesterday and I was informed of my results today. Negative for everything! I wasn't worried about it because for one, I wasn't even sure it actually reached the mucosal membrane of my eye and also it was such a dilute sample to start, there was hardly even any infectious material to be contaminated with. Anyway, the most unfortunate part of this whole circus act was that unluckily for me, John's benefits hadn't kicked in yet so we had no health insurance. :( However, even though I signed a waiver to be fully responsible for any medical costs I might incur during my studies, the university offered to pay all my medical bills because I hadn't been instructed to wear protective gear during the lab. :)

Needless to say, when I got into lab yesterday to perform the exact same experiment, it was mandatory that the entire class wear full face protective shields to protect all mucous membranes from possible contamination. Oops!

The moral of the story is, if you want to stand out the first week of school, splash blood in your eye. Your teachers will never forget who you are!

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