Revisited: A new career, perhaps?

So it’s come to this: as I struggle to keep up in a declining industry in a declining economy at an advancing age, I’ve turned to offering my body up for medical research in return for $40 now and another $10 a month each time I call in and tell them I’m still alive.

I guess it’s not as bad as selling my plasma or a pre-owned kidney. I’ve volunteered to receive an anti-shingles vaccine that’s already been proven safe and/or effective for populations over age 60 and now the drug company wants to see if 50-somethings can survive it as well. It’s all above board and totally without risk, I’ve been assured by the Internet. Because it’s a double-blind study, I actually have only a 50% chance of receiving the real vaccine, but a 100% chance of receiving the money and feeling vaguely cheap and a little woozy only an hour or so after the procedure.

I arrive at the office park medical facility and fill out the requisite paperwork. No, I’ve never had cancer, diabetes, polio, HIV, hepatitis, cardio-pulmonary obstruction or a desire to do this before. Yes, I’m willing to pretend to read 12 pages of fine-print risks and sign at several different spots that I won’t sue if anything goes wrong. I finish the form and wait to be summoned from the lobby. A pink card left in the chair next to mine suggests “next time you have low back pain or spasms, please call.” They’re also interested in testing those who are “constantly running to the bathroom,” have decreased sexual desire, and abdominal bloating. But I have to complete this study first before I can aspire to those conditions and another $40.

When my Jennifer calls me back (seems there are several that work in this office), she reviews my paperwork and asks basically the same questions over again. I guess they’re trying to trip up anybody who claimed to have jaundice in the waiting room but has suddenly pinked-up when personally confronted. She takes my temperature, then explains how I need to keep track of any side effects I might encounter. For the first five days, I’ll need to watch the site of the vaccine and measure the size of any redness or swelling with the ruler they’ve printed across the bottom of the log. “If it’s over three inches, just check the box that says ‘3+’”, she says. I’m starting to worry a little. “The swelling might be over three inches high?” I ask. Fortunately, that’s a stupid question. The swollen area, if there is one, would be measured in width, not height.

Jennifer leaves again for a few minutes and promises that when she returns I’ll be taken to the lab for my blood to be drawn and to have the vaccine administered. Shortly after she leaves, I hear a god-awful pounding noise coming through the wall – blow after blow after blow. Are they also testing here for how people respond to physical beatings? I don’t hear any cries, so I figure they’re either cleaning a throw rug or trying a vaccine that keeps subjects from feeling the pain of an aggravated assault.

I’m finally escorted to the actual lab where an older lady in scrubs is prepping for my blood work. Apparently Jennifer, hot young babe that she is, handles only the interviews and doesn’t have to do any of the dirty work. The older lady – I don’t care what her name is, but I’ll call her Mona – asks which arm I’d like to have the blood drawn from and which will get the vaccine injection. I offer up the right arm for the blood draw. She takes a look at my extended arm and calls out to Jennifer, “Oh, look how good his vein is.” Jennifer comes over to check me out. She agrees it’s a really fine vein, and I figure that may be the last come-on I’ll ever get from a young lady 30 years my junior. “Yeah, I work out,” I say.

Off to my left, there inexplicably sits a small green brain. It’s probably not a real brain, because it’s just lying out in the open air and doesn’t smell bad. (I assume disembodied brains left unpreserved would smell, but I’m not a medical professional like these people, so maybe they know better). It’s about the size that would fit into an alligator, I’d say, but then realize it wouldn’t have to be the same color as the animal it came from. Maybe a dog brain. Finally I make the connection that it’s sitting next to a couple of rubber balls, and realize it’s meant to be that thing you squeeze on to make your veins pop out. I’m disappointed I won’t be able to squeeze the green brain. I so wanted my adventure in medical experimentation to be interactive.

Mona sticks my right arm to draw the blood. I wince a little and she apologizes. “Oops, did that hurt?” Yes. We repeat the same ritual on the upper left arm, where the vaccine is placed. I get a blue wrap-around tape holding down a cotton swab where the blood was drawn and a simple bandage at the site of the vaccine. Apparently, that’s it and I’m free to go.

“Don’t forget to call me,” says Jennifer as I rise to leave. Turns out she’s not into veiny guys, she just has to report to the drug company on my progress.

I take my symptom log, my $40 check and my bruised limbs and self-esteem, and head out into the parking lot and my uncertain medical future. It’s back to the office to study up on the coming annual health insurance sign-up.

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One Response to “Revisited: A new career, perhaps?”

  1. Phillip Donnelly Says:

    Is there nothing Davis W won’t do for comic inspiration? What’s next, I ask myself: ‘David W in Iraq’; ‘David W reads to sharks’; ‘David W teaches George W Bush to read?!’
    Anxious to make some extra cash myself, I’m considering begging, borrowing from the FED, or bullying squirrels.

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