Drugs – Day 1

June 26, 2006

Part 1

I was determined not to faint this morning, the morning of the catheter insertion. The main reason being the rather offensively large amount of money they give for completing the trial. The other reason being that I felt some kind of responsibility to my friend who works here, for given me the another crack at it. But he’s based in Tokyo and not actually hanging around, which takes the pressure off somewhat.

The English trial co-ordinator however, the only employee here who knows about the my previous fainting experience, is acting kind of nervous. He keeps ducking his head round the door when they are taking blood samples, checking my color and asking if I’m alright. He’s also made a number of group announcements to the other guinea pigs about the action of the vascular nerve that can cause people to pass out when giving blood. When the nerve is stimulated it sends a messages to the brain, the brain thinks the vein is damaged and the body is bleeding to death, so the brain lowers the blood pressure to prevent this, thereby causing unconsciousness. He’s telling us its rare, but normal and I think he’s using it to try and make me feel confortable. Really its just reminding me of what happened before. And I’m pretty sure the fainting can’t be explained entirely biologically. My own psychosomia and childhood phobia of needles must have a lot to do with too.

One guy listens to these little stories closely though. He’s been nominated the reserve, meaning unless something odd hapens before the drug administration, he goes home early and doesn’t get the big bucks. From our conversations at the screening I gather his financial situation isn’t very good. He’s a ex-english teacher trying to exist as a gaijin TV celebrity “full time’ , so what do you expect. He keeps looking around the table, no doubt trying to figure which lab rat is most likely to faint. I haven’t mentioned my earlier incident, but the trial co-ordinator keeps giving me knowing and concerned looks and I think the reserve guy is cottoning on.

I didn’t have any real game plan for the catheter insertion. I didn’t try to visualize a tropical beach, or metally recite self-affirminative phrases. I guess I thought that dwelling on it too much would increase my tension, so I just went in blind, tried to relax and used my previous experience as a guide. And yeah, I decided to stay in bed for at least an hour afterwards, so even if I did faint, maybe no one would notice.

You can feel the needle as it slides up the vein. I think thats the worst part. I’m not particulary keen on the rubber hose they tie around your arm to make the veins pop out either. I went pale, but thought about the money and regained a little color. It helped that the clear siphoning tube was closed of properly this time. I didn’t have to deal with a slowly advancing column of blood snaking around my wrist.

So the first hurdle today has been jumped. Next up is the drug administraion.

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Part 2

The drug adminstration is kind of fun actually. Its done in the kitchen by a pharmacist, and observed by 4 or 5 other doctors. You are told to stand up, given a certain amount of pills based o your body weight, which you down one after the other, drink a specific amount of water and then open your mouth to show the pharmacist you’ve swalled them. Its a bit like a scene out of One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest. The whole thing is timed precisely, and every doctor present monitors it with their own personal stoptwatch. They are fanatical about time here. Many of our meals are timed – you must eat everything in exactly 15 minutes – and all the blood sampling is done on the minute too. I was up in the television room today watching Family Guy at one point, when I should have been in bed and one of the vampiric little nurses had to run around the clinic to find me (the most vampiric one; she has a gold capped canine tooth and a face like an ogre). She raced into the TV room with her stopwatch out. There was no time to go back to my room so she took my blood then and there, while the other guys in the room looked on amused.

My roommate has been in trouble already; he is constantly net-surfing out on the balcony when he should be waiting in his room for blood sampling. The nurses have complained to the trial co-ordinator, who’s not happy about it. After drug administration we shuffle back to our rooms and the tv lounge and eye each other warily. We ask each other “Hey man, do you feel anything yet?”. Its only natural I guess. Some of the guy’s talk about the moment of truth “I guess this is when I find out if my balls drop off.” My roommate has been complaining about hot and cold flushes, but really the amount of drug we are given is usually lower than an effective dose. I don’t feel anything at all, but maybe I was given the placebo, another hot topic of conversation. Some of the lab rats are even making small bets on it.

Betting is something to talk about. A whole bunch of guys stuck together for a few weeks, unable to go outside and with only so many movies to watch; the cards come out. The prospect of an approaching substantial cash payout adds fuel to the fire. I know of a few guys that have bet parts of their compensation money in poker during their stays at the ‘Country Club’ as they call it. We’re talking a couple of hundred dollars at the most though. But this being Japan, the locals know how to go all the way. Before I came to this clinic I underwent a screening at another clinic in Tokyo, and on one of the handouts was the instruction “Mahjong are (sic) prohibited”; two young Japanese had been gambling, and one lost his entire compensation money (several thousand dollars) to the other. Come pay day he refused to hand it over, and they had a fist fight in front of the nurse’s station.

The reserve just popped his head around the door to say goobye. He’s on a flight back to Tokyo, now that it looks like everyone has taken to the catheter ok. He looked really disappointed and kinda pissed off about it.

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