Every day I look at a series of disgusting samples of bodily waste and diseased flesh to figure out why a patient is sick. I'm a microbiology technologist (a specialized type of clinical laboratory scientist). Whereas in a hospital drama there's a team of genius doctors who solve the puzzle of a mysterious disease, in real life those puzzles are solved by people like me.
But, thanks to shows like House (where the doctors inexplicably run the tests themselves) and the fact that we never see patients, most people don't know that this job even exists (even though 70 percent of all decisions involving a patient's treatment are based on the work we do). It's a job that's incredibly important, and also really, really gross.
7 Random People Try To Bring Us Their Poop
So why would strangers randomly show up to my lab with a box full of their own shit? Several reasons.
First, there's a disorder called delusional parasitosis. It's what it sounds like; people think they have parasites when they don't. We get them in the lab all the time, and it doesn't mean they're crazy. For example, remember seeing headlines about listeria-riddled hummus earlier this year?
Your move, baba ghanoush.
Every hummus-loving soul near our hospital started freaking out as soon as they heard the news, coming to us certain they'd been infected. When people hear about a parasite going around, they just assume that's to blame for any ache and pain in their body.
We once had a retired dentist call the hospital because he claimed he was seeing worms come out of his eyes. The doctor didn't see anything, but somehow this patient got a hold of the lab (the hospital's security guards can be, uh, too helpful at times). He spoke to a tech who is a master parasitologist, who explained, "No you have to go to your doctor to collect specimens the proper way, and then we'll have an answer." The patient didn't like that idea, and he decided to just start collecting stool samples on his own, the system be damned. He mailed us his specimens in a box, about 18 inches wide and 18 inches long. It was full of feces, as well as his and his wife's hair and skin, his dog's poop, and cat poop.
"Please refer to the scratch-and-sniff labels to identify the poop you need for your tests."
Obviously, it was all useless to us. You can't just drop shit off at the lab in a hat box. You have to preserve this stuff or it breaks down. Other times, patients just aren't particularly well instructed on how to collect their poop samples. So we've literally gotten things like poop on a plate, or patients who just scooped their shit into food containers and shipped it on down to our office through the pneumatic tube system (yes, like at a bank drive-thru). I'd describe this in further detail but, y'know what? Here:
That is one small pile of shit.
Another co-worker got stool in a chocolate pudding container. I've gotten it in mayo jars. Lunch Mate Tupperware is a popular choice. We've gotten it in I Can't Believe It's Not Butter containers ("Yep, I'll believe it"). I just got a lime-flavored mayo poop jar last Friday. Turns out that used to be my co-worker's mayo flavor of choice.
Used to be.
I guess they'll have to try one of the other perplexing number of mayo flavors.
Oh, and if you're wondering about eye-worm guy: We called the doctor, who contacted the patient and had him come by and give specimens the normal way. They were negative, but he still complained about the eye-worms. That's when we realized he'd had a recent change in his heart medication. So they changed him back to the old drugs and boom, no more worm hallucinations. His heart medicine had been the culprit all along.
Now, obviously that's the grossest thing we have to deal with, so it's smooth sailing from here on out. Oh, wait ...
6 Sometimes You Cut Into Massively Engorged Testicles
Let me tell you about a scrotal abscess I once saw.
Our patient had been in the hospital a couple of days. He had something else going on, diabetes, I think. Anyway, he had this abscess and it just kept getting worse -- festering and swelling to the point where I'm honestly not sure how he walked into the hospital. So doctors removed the abscess and sent it to us to check it for bacteria. It came in this giant white bucket with a lid. And the mass was about the size of a human head. Just a giant sack of fluid.
It was big enough for Rocky to use during a training montage.
I had to dig around for an uncomfortably long time before I found the guy's testicle inside. The doctors weren't even sure if it was still there at all. Words cannot describe what it feels like to cut into a giant, pus-filled testicle, only to find a real testicle buried inside it.
By the way, this happened on "bring your child to work" day. Yeah, that's something they do once a year here, for some reason. Parents all over the hospital compete to bring their children to the office. So those lucky winners visit our section and ask what I'm working on, and I'm like, "Well, I have this giant scrotal abscess if any of the kids want to see it."
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Like any kid is going to say no to that.
They did, but their parents wouldn't let them. I was disappointed.