I recently spent a couple of days at the hospital as a guinea pig for some upcoming drug trials. I hadn’t been looking forward to them to be honest but as I was a growth hormone deficient adult and the trials were for growth hormone impact testing, I fitted the criteria.
I’ve been without growth hormone for about 15 years, thanks to a brain tumour removal and lack of pituitary function, so it has had a reasonably big impact on my life. The trials are a way of testing to gauge the benefits of an injectable growth hormone on people like me. As far as I’m concerned, if there are benefits then I’m in. The fact that I get free growth hormone for eight months is no small bonus, as growth hormone is expensive in this country and it is not on the government access list even though the health benefits for me would definitely outweigh the risks.
I fronted up to the hospital at 8 am and was met by a likeable man who took me for a tour into a veritable rabbit warren of corridors, lifts, sliding doors and test rooms before I finally reached my destination and met the head study guy, a pleasant endocrinologist who I will just call Chee.
Chee sat me down and did all the usual things like asked questions, handed me a questionnaire, took my blood pressure and freaked me out with what was to come. The first thing I had to have done was have a cannula inserted so that my blood could be taken while I was relaxed and under stress while exercising. I was a tad keyed up about this, as I have had many bad experiences with the ‘find the vein’ game over the years and it has never ended well. My veins are pretty bad but over the last couple of years they have decided that they don’t like the game either and have disappeared. I had explained this to the doctors by phone, in an email and in person many times and they assured me that they were pretty good at it and that it would be no problem.
I was sweating even before I started to exercise as the doc took what looked like a supersized needle out of the cupboard and proceeded to put the tourniquet around my arm and tap my ‘veins’ or where he thought a vein might declare itself eventually. I asked him about giving me a local so that I didn’t feel anything, as this was going to be a long process and he smiled and told me that he would try and get it in ‘the first go’ and not to worry. As he was talking to the veteran of the pain and agony of cannula insertion, it didn’t hold any credence as far as I was concerned.
He found a spot down on the inside of my wrist at pain central and started tapping, produced the needle again and started to push it in. I start tapping on the wall with my free hand to try and distract myself from the shards of pain shooting up my lower arm but it wasn’t working. I took a quick look and there was no joy. Not a drop of blood in the tube. The doc shook his head and told me he was going to try the other side. I almost passed out.
After about five minutes of tourniquets and tapping he declared that I had the worst veins he had ever seen and told me he was going to use a local so he could happily dig without causing me any more grief. I sighed with relief and after that it was plain sailing until he positioned the cannula successfully into a cooperative vein. As there was no pressure on the other end of the tube at that point in time, for reasons unbeknown to myself, the blood gushed out, and kept coming.
By the time they got it under control, I was lying in a mess that looked something like a kill zone. At least he got the vein though.
The rest of the morning passed in a blur of stress tests and exercises that broke my ‘no pain no gain’ barrier. I had to come back the next day for some more of that and in one month’s time will have to do it all again.
The one positive to come out of the two days of hell was the half-decent hospital cafe that made a killer iced chocolate to go. That will probably be the only thing that will get me back there for the next instalment.