Monday, September 17, 2007

for the sake of research

Oh, those silly things we do for the sake of curing cancer...

We had major electrical problems this morning. It's always bad mojo when that happens and you're at a hospital. The really important places don't notice because they have generators. But I'm no longer in a "really important" place, so we were stuck in the dark.

Stuck in the dark with hundreds of vials of frozen blood. Study blood that lives in the study freezer... you know, the freezer that keeps everything -80 degrees F. The freezer that wasn't connected to an emergency generator. Enter "Bad Mojo", stage left. Cue dramatic music. Cue panic level orange.

The idea behind this research study is to collect blood (and freeze and send it off) to a lab that is in the process of developing a blood test to detect a certain type of cancer. A similar version of this relatively inexpensive test already exists for prostate cancer; it's called a PSA. The plan is to develop a blood test for people as the first level of cancer detection, then the people with eleveated tests would be the people you point to getting further diagnostic studies. They're probably still years away from developing that test, and then further years away from it being considered a standard of cancer care, but medical research has never been a fast process.

It's exciting, cutting-edge stuff in the oncology community and really has the potential to impact the future of millions of cancer survivors... so it was no small potatoes that the special freezer was on the fritz.

My vote was that we not panic. I was outvoted.

My vote was that we just leave them in the freezer, which would still be kept colder than if we took them outside and transported them to another place. I figured it was like being at home when the fridge went out and mama said that stuff wouldn't spoil so long as we didn't open the door. I was the only one who figured that and was again outvoted.

So we hand-carried hundreds of frozen vials across the street (in 90+ degree weather)... Our first stop was to the twin -80 freezer that was connected to a generator. There were more vials than we could carry in one trip, so we put the first set of vials inside and shut the door. When we returned with the second set of vials we found that the safety on the freezer was to automatically close if it got too hot (which was apparently -60 degrees F).

Enter Bad Mojo's cousin, "Super Bad Mojo", stage right. Cue panic level red. Cue six people in the office making frantic phone calls to figure out where we can put the other half of the vials as they are obviously no longer -80 degrees.

We ended up literally RUNNING them down the hall to a place that had dry ice. We had just finished packing them when I received a phone call on my cell... telling me that the electricity had been fixed.

This whole scenario took place in a time span of about an hour. Looks like Mama would have been right again.

We waited until after lunch to rummage all of the tubes back into the trunk of a car and return them to their proper home. We could be bitter, but two really good things came out of today. The obvious first, we protected the very vials that may one day be the pivotal samples that secure FDA approval.

Second, according to my pedometer I hit 10,000 steps before lunch. That means I don't have to walk tonight, which makes the whole fire drill worth the effort.


bill said...

Next time, if there IS a next time...use those steps to power a generator!

genderist said...

Are you kidding? Who needs a generator when you've got such talented gophers?

bill said...

Don't you be slimin' my Prius, now!