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I am a lab rat. (Part 2)

09/05/2009

In follow up to my last (rushed) post, let me explain a little more about what I’ve been up to.

Recently I’ve been following the swine-flu (or H1N1) pandemic with interest. So when my wife told me about a current vaccine trial taing place in New Zealand, I was quite keen to learn more.
After phoning the clinic, we were sent some information on the trial. The following is some information from the consent form:

CSL’s flu vaccine, like many other flu vaccines, contains killed (inactivated) flu viruses. These killed viruses cannot give you the flu. They produce flu antibodies in the blood. Antibodies are a component in the blood which can destroy flu viruses when they infect you. Vaccination with a flu vaccine is believed to protect you
against infection with the types of flu virus that are in the vaccine.

5,000 of the 7500 participants will receive flu vaccine, and the remaining 2,500 will receive a harmless but inactive injection (placebo).

So, in the interest of advancing medical science and perhaps one day helping to save innocent lives (and with the lure of $300 cash AND a free thermometer for taking part in the study), I and my wife signed the consent forms and headed off to the clinic.
Why is it that waiting rooms around the world are full of old copies of Women’s Weekly, plus the token classic men’s magazine that ALL men must surely love – Yacht Magazine? Luckily there was a TV on the wall so I sat back to watch the gun-man crisis in Napier that reminded me of about 10,000 American movies.
After a few minutes, a Doctor entered the room and sat with us to fill out some forms. During the whole questioning process, I was distracted by the fact that this Doctor was wearing a large metal ring with a skull motif that reminded me of Judge Dredd. I tried to focus on the forms but all the while I was picturing the Doctor in a helmet and red sunglasses, fighting crime and leaving imprints of skulls on the faces of the villains that he punches.
My focus snapped back into the room when I realised that my wife was about to take a pregnancy test (pregnant people can not take part in the study). Waiting for her to return from peeing on a stick was probably the most nerve-racking part of the night. She came back with a smile on her face that settled my fears. We plan on getting a dog before getting a sprog so if she was pregnant, we would have to run out to the nearest pet store to avoid interrupting our plans.
So anyway, we were both given a quick health check up (my BPM rate of 72 beat my wife’s 88 – it’s all about who wins) followed quickly by the injections and a nice crisp $100 cash each. Apparently we get the cash in installments each time we visit the clinic. I handed the money to my wife to look after while I greedily awaited the free thermometer which we would use to monitor our temperatures over the next week.
I can’t tell you how awesome the thermometer is. You put it under your tongue (or up your rectum but given the choice, I’d rather stick to the mouth region to avoid any mix up later on) and then wait for a bit. If you fail, you get an “E” message and have to do it again. If you win, you hear a chirpy beeping sound and you’re rewarded with your temperature. It is my plan, over the next week or so, to drink really hot fluids and see how high I can get my thermometer to go. If it’s over 37 degrees C, you’re classed as “having a temperature”. I’m gonna aim for the “having a melt-down” class which I’m assuming is about 60 degrees.
In 21 days, we are to report back to the clinic and give them our results. It’s almost un-nerving sitting amongst all the nurses there as, to get some good results, they’re quite keen for you to catch the flu. You can almost see their eyes light up at the slightest cough.
So for now, we’re off to spend our collective $200 bucks. Is our health worth risking for our total $600 by the end of the study? Well, no I guess not. But … is our health worth risking for $600 and a free thermometer? Now that’s a different question.
P.S. The police dog involved in the whole Napier shooting thing is safe and well.
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