Tuesday, September 3, 2013

the joys of being a flunkie

I could've used one of these today. As it was, I had to make do with a not-very-clean trash can.

Today I had a rather delightful [italics used to denote sarcasm] experience at the lab. I had to prepare a fecal  smear. This involves, in the event that the cognitively disabled (who used to be known as mentally retqarded but are no longer termed as such thanks to rosa and her law) are now reading my blog, donning major protective gear, using a small tongue-depressor-like stick to spead a sample of human feces from a jar onto a glass slide, then finally topping the slide with another glass slide.

Doing this would not have been so bad had it actually mattered, but another slide had already been prepared from the same sample by one of the professionals.  I was merely doing it for the experience.

It did make it better that I got the diagnosis right on the first try. It was giardia lamblia. I have no clue who the lucky victim might be.

I tosssed my cookies during the procedure. I can't wait until I'm a for-real pathologist and can make an underling prepare fecal sample slides for me.


  1. I had giardia once, though it was diagnosed based on my symptoms alone. At the end of my Peace Corps assignment, I had to provide a fecal sample. Pity the person who had to look at those slides as a career.

  2. Tossing your cookies while preparing a slide indicates pathology may not be the right field for you. :)

  3. I've heard giardia can be rather unpleasant. Just preparing the slide was unpleasant enough. Linda, I'll have to do my share of preparing slides as a flunkie whether I pursue pathlogy or not, and some wil be stool samples, unfortunately. Once I reach the ranks of that of a full-fledged pathologist, however, it will be the flunkies preparing the slides. I'll still have to look at them, but that will be the extent of my involvement.

    My mom said I'll get used to it. She said the first time she changed my brother's diaper (he had passed the meconium stuff, which doesn't smell quite so foul) before she was strong enough to change a diaper, because we were delivered by c-section, she puked. She said by a weak later, she wasn't even gagging, not that she enjoyed the experience. she says processing stool samples is probably along the same line, although dealing with fecal output from your own baby can't be as gross as smearing poop from just anyone onto a little piece of glass, then covering it with another piece of glass and loooking at it, either under a microscope or with the naked eye.

    I hope she's right. Regardless, there are a whole lot of branches in medicine in which you inevitably have to deal with poop at one time or another. An OBGYN has women pooping while giving birth. An ER physician will encounter people pooping while having seizures or even under conditions less critical. Sometimes, though not often, patients spontaneously empty the contents of their intestines during surgery, which impacts everyone there. My dad said it happened for a long time most often during orthopedic surgery, (usually involving larger bones, radius and tibia and larger). It's very complicated because the entire place has to be scrubbed down, then all the people have to scrub, and another anesthesiologist or anesthetist has to monitor the patient while the presiding anesthesiologist scrubs, ad all this has to be done while protecting the surgical opening from contamination. It didn't happen every time, but often enough to be noticed. It certainly took long enough but the braintrust finally noticed the connection between a particular anesthetic often used in larg-bone surgery and bowel evacuation, so it's not happening very often anymore. I'm glad it didn't happen to me. I know I wouldn't have been conscious, but someone probably would have told me about it aftr the fact, and with my luck, one of the surgical team would've had a big mouth and would've shared the news with one of their kids who happened to be one of my classmates, or some such similar thing.

    As a med school student, intern, and resident, I'll incounter feces. maybe it's good if I get a head start on desensitizing myself.