I had a big day lined up today. After my morning class I planned to eat a hearty meal and then donate blood at noon, after which I was going to walk over to Baylor College of Medicine to have an MRI for cash. When I told David about this latest experiment he just said, “Oh Kat,” and smiled. He’s made his protests, and now he’s coming to terms with our differences.
Anyway, I ate the hearty meal as planned – a huge ham and provolone sandwich on a croissant, a banana, and two chocolate chocolate-chip cookies. I then meandered over to the blood drive to begin the screening process. At this point I was nervous about the whole blood-giving experience because I have had issues in the past, and I was already feeling bad with a headache and cramps. Also, I have an important soccer game tonight which I still planned to play despite my cells being drained of their oxygen source. Because I’m tough like that.
So I began the screening process. My vitals were good: pulse 60, blood pressure 102/70, temp 97.2. Yes. I got my finger stuck and my iron level was 39. On a roll! Now all the questions…no, I don’t have HIV, hepatitis, hemophilia, or anything of the like. No, I haven’t had sex with a man who has had sex with a man. No, I haven’t paid for sex. I got hung up on the travel questions. In 2006 I went to a small town in Mexico that isn’t in the database. We spent approximately ten minutes figuring out what state it’s in, enlisting the help of a supervisor for this process.
I was getting worried at this point that I would be late for my MRI, but after about thirty minutes of screening I was told that I can’t give blood for a year because of the unlicensed bird flu vaccine that I received the other week. My gift of life was denied. Should I worry that I had an unlicensed bird flu vaccine last year as well and donated blood three times without reporting it? Nah.
After this disappointment (although I was secretly relieved) I walked over to the neuroimaging lab. After a bit of waiting and paperwork I was loaded in to the MRI machine. First came a quick 10-second scan. No problem! Then I waited…and waited. This was a group study, and apparently the others were having issues with their scanner. I am still having cramps during all of this. After more than enough time had passed, I began a 4 1/2 minute scan so that they could get my basic structure…or something like that. This one was extremely loud and sounded like some kind of emergency alarm that gave me the serious urge to exit the building NOW. It also gave me the serious urge to vomit, because the magnetic field was so strong. I had to implement controlled breathing exercises to make it through that one. Afterwards, a voice asked me, “Are you comfortable? We want you to be as still as possible for the rest of the experiment.” Um, no. I am decidedly NOT comfortable, I am dreading the actual experimental scan (30-40 minutes! Torture!), and as soon as someone tells me not to move, that is ALL I want to do. But I replied “Sure,” with only a hint of sarcasm.
More waiting, and then it was time to begin. I was going to be playing a computer game against another person while they scanned me. This was to try to discover something about the brain and how people work together. I would explain the game to you, but it’s probably not interesting to 99% of the people reading this. But I guess I did alright on it, because I earned an extra $15 for my performance. Add to that the $20 flat rate for being involved in the study and the $10 extra they gave me for being a “good sport” with all the waiting, and I have myself 45 big ones. You may not think it was wort it, but to me it totally was, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.