I have been recently prevailed upon by the precarious position of my bankbook into participating into a clinical research trial. My first series of tests was this weekend. Here is a blow-by-blow description.
I did not drink coffee, eat chocolate, or do anything else caffeine-related starting Thursday morning. When on Friday I arrived, severely sleep-deprived, at the facility way out in the boonies (i.e. the St-Laurent industrial park, 45 minutes from my house by bus and metro), it was as a “standby”, in case one of the 44 men who were originally slated to participate cancelled or was cancelled.
My possessions were searched, to be sure I wasn’t smuggling in any dangerous substances such as M&M’s that could queer the results. I wasn’t, but a couple of herbal amulets in my backpack narrowly escaped unwitting destruction before I could convince the doctor that they were religious artifacts and not to be messed with. I then had to sit for three-and-a-half hours, during which time I finished one of my books (Better Living: The Pursuit of Happiness from Plato to Prozac), by Mark Kingswell), before getting called up for screening. I had been chosen to replace someone who had cancelled - just in time; I was now #43 out of 44. I signed some forms, then got screened and bebraceletted with that number. I was then dispatched to pee in a cup (finally, since by this time I was bursting) and get three vials of blood drawn from me. We then got dinner, and hung around for a while before being dispatched to bed.
We were rudely awoken at 4:30 (!) the next morning, and propelled grumbling to the main room where we had to sit for another two hours (!), during which I finished Girlfriend in a Coma by Douglas Copeland. We were required to drink a large amount of water, and then given a small, pink, diamond-shaped pill, which we washed down with another large drink of water. After having my mouth probed to make sure I had swallowed the thing, I then had to sit at a table. Without getting up. For four hours. Every half an hour or so, a nurse came around to each of us in turn and jabbed us in the elbow. A nurse told me at one point that I had nice veins. I chatted with my tablemates, did some proofreading, and generally sat around.
At one point during the morning, I started to feel dizzy. An enormous green padded chair was wheeled out into the centre of the room and I was put in it until I felt better.
Worse was to come, though; the last blood draw in the morning absolutely killed (I think they hit a nerve). Consequently, after lunch and before my next blood draw, I started to feel as though my heart were racing, I felt anxiety, and I had trouble breathing. I was put into the Big Green Chair again, and one nurse took my blood pressure on one arm while another took my scheduled blood draw from another (!) I was then rolled into the infirmary and put onto an exam table, where some nurses rubbed me with jelly and stuck suckers onto my chest and ankles, which they used to take an EKG. (No joke.) Anyway, it came out normal, the doctor informed me that I had suffered a panic attack due to the pain of the earlier blood draw and the fact that it was my first study, and I was permitted to lie in the dark for a while until I felt better again.
Anyway, after that it was OK. The food was quite decent, and mostly I just sat around reading (I also finished The Common Good by Noam Chomsky), listening to music, or playing video or board games with some other folks. I made the acquaintance of two Richards, and an Ivan, quite pleasant characters. There were two more blood draws on Sunday, and then we were allowed to go, $40 richer. The total value of the study is $1000, which will be remitted us once it is finished.
I had to go back this morning and will have to tonight and tomorrow morning, for what are called “follow-ups” (more blood draws). Then we repeat the same procedure in two weeks, and then I’ve got my $1000, which will restore some colour to my bank account’s cheeks.
I had lots of time to think, and I came to three conclusions:
This study isn’t so bad, but if it came to the study Ivan told me about - $800 for 900 mL of blood (!!) - I’d rather suck cocks for quarters.
Speaking of which, I find it interesting that MDS will pay $1000 for what, being a fag, I couldn’t give to Hema-Quebec for free.
Finally, in exchange for a sum of money, a corporation got me to radically alter my lifestyle, wake up at obscene hours, sit around a building with lots of people I don’t know, and get my blood sucked out of me by people addressing me with “tu” instead of “vous”. Essentially, an entire corporate career compressed into a weekend.