The Human Guinea Pig

A few weeks ago I received a letter. It was from the Oxford Centre for Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolism. It said that I’d been picked at random, as a healthy person, and asked if I’d like to be involved in a study. I sent my reply slip in straight away. Yes. Yes please. I’d love it! My reason? I’m never going to save someones life, no matter how much Grey’s Anatomy I watch. I knew from an early age that I was not cut out for a career in medicine. I am super squemish. I cannot even watch operations on fictional TV shows. I don’t really like hospitals, I don’t coo over babies and never want to be around human waste. So I was never going to be in medicine (Plus I do not have the memory for all those bones. I struggle to remember my PIN number!) But, I do want to give back. I want to know that there’s blood for me if I have an accident. I want to know that treatments for diabetes and heart diesease will be the best. I know people who have them and I’ve lost family to them. So I give blood three times a year, without fail, I’m registered on the bone marrow donation list and I carry a donor card. This is why I was so excited to be involved in an actual study.

When I arrived at the biobank I was spoken to by a lovely research nurse who explained the whole process. I was going to be weighed (yikes!), have my height measured, have a scan, have four blood pressure measurements, have my arm, back, thigh & tummy measured and finally have some blood drawn, where they’ll test for cholesterol and fat. My favourite bit was the scan. It was described as being like a ‘human photocopier’ and that’s exactly what it felt like! It was so cool to see the pictures afterwards too. The technician showed me my skeleton. She could tell that my bone density was good and was able to tell me that the, ahem, extra fat that I’m carrying is in all the right places! I didn’t know that fat could be in the right place!

The good thing is that they gave me the images from the scan and will send me all my results. My blood pressure was normal, which it usually is – a perk of giving blood is regular checks on this. If it’s low, you ain’t giving it! They’ll also add me to the list of people who might be interested in being involved in further studies. I’d love to be involved in more, though ideally an Alzheimer one would be great as there’s a big history of it in my family.

Another reason is that now I’m not employed full time, I can do things like this. I’ve often wanted to do things during the school day but haven’t been able to, though I did have to hot foot it to a school to do some emergency supply in the afternoon!

It was a very bizarre but brilliant experience. And I’m looking forward to my next one!

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