A Visit To Lab LandPosted: January 12, 2012
For an completely sedentary couch potato of 86, Mom’s in remarkably good shape, but was time for her bi-annual wellness/blood pressure check followed by standard lab work. The three story medical building where we go is really nice. The two top floors contain offices for doctors and specialist and labs, X-ray, MRI, CAT scan, and Mammography are on the first floor.
After visiting her doctor on the third floor we exited the elevator on the ground floor and turned right. Well, I turned right. Mom headed for the exit door. I called her back, then started walking towards the windows that had large labels on the bulkheads above them, identifying them as LABS AND X-RAY. I was brought up short by a sweet little blue-haired lady who was sitting behind the kiosk labeled GENERAL INFORMATION.
“Can I help you dear?” she asked.
“Yes,” I answered politely. “My mother’s here for labs and she needs to give them a urine sample but the restrooms are closed. What should she do?”
“Well, she can use the facilities back there,” she said, smiling and pointing to an invisible area somewhere behind the LAB AND X-RAY counters. “Just follow the blue feet.”
I leaned around and looked at the floor behind the kiosk and sure enough, someone had painted blue footprints, about a man’s size 11, on the floor. They led through an arched doorway and back behind a wall to, I’m assuming, a restroom somewhere in the netherworld of Lab Land.
“Look, Mom,” I started to say. “That’s where you go once you’re checked…” but she was already gone, pushing her pink walker and following the blue feet, on a beeline for the bathroom. I looked at the little blue-haired lady and asked innocently, “is this where we check in?”
“It certainly is,” she said. “As long as I can figure out this darned computer. This is my first day,” she continued, pushing random keys and staring at the monitor screen with a frown. Seven minutes later Mom was checked in and the line of seniors waiting behind me had snaked through the lobby. She still wasn’t back from the bathroom and I just wanted to tell someone in a medical uniform that if they found a cup of warm yellow liquid in one of the bathrooms, not to throw it away thinking it was left by an anonymous pee donor.
That’s when somebody called out “Elaine.” Not Mom’s whole name, just Elaine. I figured, how many waiting Elaine’s could there be in the waiting area at one time. So I started walking towards the LAB AND X-RAY counter. I was just about there, returning the wave of the nice middle-aged lady in the blue scrubs behind the counter when a man leaped from his chair and crashed into me.
“Here, here,” he yelled, waving his hand in the air.
His wife quickly grabbed the back of his coat, shouting, “Elaine, Edmond. She said Elaine. ELAINE.”
I continued on to the counter as Edmond sat back down, waiting for the next name to be called and another opportunity to leap from his seat. The blue scrubs-clad woman smile at me and asked if I was Elaine.
“No, that’s my mother. She’s here but she’s peeing in a cup somewhere. Don’t ask me where, she just sort of vanished.”
“Okay,” the scrubs lady said, trying not to laugh – but not trying very hard. “Believe it or not, that’s not that unusual.”
“What, that people lose their parents or that people here wander off and pee in any old plastic cup they find laying around? I asked with a small measure of guilt. “She did that one time, you know” I babbled. “Just got a cup out of the trash, rinsed it out and peed in it. I can’t even begin tell you what the lab results were, only that we got a frantic call from her doctor – in the evening – and we had to go back the next day for a re-do.”
Now she really was laughing because she thought I was making up a story. Unfortunately, I wasn’t and at this point I just wanted to make sure Mom’s particular cup was certified sterile, then identified and labeled correctly so I didn’t have to bring her back before her next doctor appointment in six months.
“I understand,” said scrubs lady. “How about if I send a tech to find her and…”
“There she is,” I shouted, pointing in relief as Mom came toddling around the corner from the dark labyrinth of the labs. “Mom, where’d you leave the cup?” I called to her. “Was it sterile this time? Not out of the trash? They need to label it before someone throws it out.”
“It’s in the john back there,” she shouted back, waving in the general direction from which she’d just come. “They had a whole shelf of them. It’s the only one so they should know it’s mine.”
“The only bathroom or the only cup?” I asked as she came around to my side of the counter.
“Yes,” I said to the scrubs lady who nodded knowingly, winked and head back to the bathroom. “Got it covered,” she called over her shoulder as she disappeared around the corner.
“Thank you,” I called back, rushing to catch up to Mom.
I wish I’d gotten her name. She deserves a prize or a trophy or a plaque or a raise. Or, at the very least, a big hug!