Touch of Grey will, well, touch upon the rainbow that is life. Good music, good times, and good friends combine to make all the splendid colors. Touch of Grey will celebrate this beautiful rainbow.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Why I Do What I Do

This is a repeat of one of my older blogs from my Victoria Advocate archives. I am posting it now in honor of National Laboratory Week, which begins tomorrow, April 19th. Enjoy.

Like the color here? Blood red. That's why I do what I do. For the blood.

For the love of blood, I mean. For the fascination it holds as all animals' life-giving fluid, for the secrets it keeps and for the secrets minds much greater than mine are just beginning to discover. For the most basic meaning to life that I have seen proof of: the graceful strands of DNA, the unfathomable capabilities of RNA, the frenetic dance leukocytes, erythrocytes, and thrombocytes do in their miles upon miles of vessels. For the sustenance of oxygen, proteins, ATP, and carbohydrates those cells deliver to keep us alive and well.

I am blessed and so proud to say, "I am a Medical Laboratory Technologist". Yes, I am a "lab rat" of sorts, and, yes, you may (and have many times) call me a bloodsucker, a leech, a vampire, and other names I cannot possibly print in a family paper. Yep, I'm the one with the needles who draws out those vials of blood (no, I am NOT draining you; yes, I will leave you some), the scientist you mistakenly call nurse, but of no offense to me. I understand you are anxious, you are worried, concerned, and just a little bit scared when you have to get your blood drawn. I have been spit on, vomited on, yelled at, cursed, hit, pinched, and kicked by patients who sometimes don't understand that the only reason I am here is to help them, to relieve them of their pain, to get them well, to lend a sympathetic ear if needed, to be a part of their healthcare team. I do what I do for you.

I do what I do because the fascination never wears off. There is a vast other world that exists beneath the lens of a microscope, and therein lie the clues that may reveal a diagnosis, sometimes common, sometimes rare, sometimes unexpected, sometimes devastating. I am, along with the dedicated pathologists, phlebotomists, and laboratory secretaries, the physician's detective, piecing together a puzzle so that patients may have a better chance at recovery. Did you know that 70-80 percent of a patient's "hard data" on their medical record is comprised solely of lab test results? There are people behind those numbers. I am one of thousands.

The microscope, needle, stain, spectrophotometer, fluorometer, cell counter, centrifuge, agar plate, incubator, refractometer, blood units, and chemical reagents are the tools of my trade. I measure, mix, separate, analyze, and "do the math" every day, day in and day out. I find myself at a crossroads when I culture out or find a microorganism that is not so common, exulting in my discovery and identification, but then remember that it is growing in a human being somewhere, causing serious damage, as bugs so often do. I find salvation in the fact that the physician can use this knowledge to now find appropriate ways to attack an infection, thus hopefully putting the patient on the road to recovery. Behind every tube of blood, every specimen jar, every bacteria on an agar plate, every cell on a slide, I remember that there is a person. This acknowledgement has kept me sane for the 20-plus years I have been a lab tech.

Last week was National Lab Week, a celebration in the medical community of laboratory personnel and the important work they do. For some reason, maybe because I sometimes feel that I have seen too many of these weeks go by, I just wasn't into it. Tonight, I am. What changed? A simple thank you. From a doctor. Because lab workers so often work behind the scenes, we are sometimes in danger of becoming invisible. So many times, the numbers we generate that go on a patient's chart seem to be spit out by a machine, not analyzed and scrutinized for accuracy by a real professional. We don't often hear "thank you", since we are not the nurses who are on the frontlines and answer your calls, and we are not the physicians who have a "Dr." before their name with all the answers. So every "thank you" we hear means that much more to us. And we remember why we are doing this, when our day-to-day workload sometimes seems more than we can bear. We remember we do what we do for the patient, and for the love of science.

I do what I do because those brilliantly bold scientists who have come before me opened up new frontiers, and the great scientists of today continue to blaze trails and make new discoveries every day. I do what I do because it never gets boring. I do what I do because I know that I can't imagine my life doing anything else. I do what I do because no other line of work allows one person to be so many - a blood banker, a hematologist, a serologist, a chemist, a microbiologist, a mathematician, a scientist, a dreamer.

I do what I do out of sheer love of science.

I do what I do because I am a Medical Laboratory Technologist.


Truth Ferret said...

Thank you for your dedication to helping find what makes us tick, sick and eventually well. Our family will be eternally grateful to the lab people who have helped diagnosis what is ailing us. Without you and your peers, the doctors wouldn't know where to start.

You have allowed us into the secrets that go on beyond those lab doors and put a face to the people who come in our hospital rooms and cause a little "pinch" to find out what makes us sick.

You are appreciated as a professional and a friend.

Sugar Magnolia said...

Thank you for the kind words, Ferret. It is my pleasure to do what I do.