Medical Collections

I knew a woman once who loved to have surgery. Just about everything on her body was either cut away or implanted. The same was true of her insides. To make matters worse, she loved to talk about it, so when you saw her coming you looked for the exit door.

All of us are forced from time to time into dealing with medical professionals, but truthfully, the experience is usually unpleasant and a relief when it ends. I’ve known dying men say “At least I’m done with doctors.”

But I want to be fair. Usually they are trying to help. I have a urologist like that. He wants to help me find out why I have blood in my urine. I wasn’t that concerned since I didn’t know it was there, but he saw it through a microscope and sure enough there it was. My first reaction was why did he look at it through a microscope in the first place? But that’s what they do.

He’s a good doctor I think and told me, “We’re going to do a 24-hour urine collection on you. It’s easy. You don’t have to leave your house. FedEx will bring you a box with simple instructions.”

“Great,” I said. “Sounds painless.”

“You don’t even have to bring it in afterwards. FedEx will collect it.”

A few days later I got the box. Plain brown wrapper, as they say. I opened it and took out a bright orange, 4-liter jug with a screw top lid and a spigot. My first thought was I hoped they didn’t send the same jug to women because the lid offered a small target and most of their collections would end up on their shoes.

The first morning I read the simple instructions. There were twelve steps. Step 1: The first morning urinate into the toilet and discard. (It included a picture of a toilet, just in case you’d been wondering all these years what that thing was in your bathroom.) Then in bold print Do Not Collect This Void. So, you begin a scientific test by taking a leak in your toilet and flushing it. I wondered did they tap into my sewer line to collect the sample?

Step 2: The next time you need to urinate, unscrew the lid of the orange container and urinate directly into the container. Avoid skin contact with the inside of the container. Do Not Swallow. I’m not stupid. I know which skin they’re referring to, but this is a large jug and unless it somehow becomes a moving target I can’t imagine how your skin could come into contact with the inside of it. But that didn’t bother me as much as Do Not Swallow. Did they think that once you collected a nice cup or two of your urine you’d be tempted to drink some? Somebody had to write these instructions. “You know Ed, the first thing they’re going to do after they collect their pee is drink it.” And Ed nods and says, “You’re right. We better forbid that in the instructions otherwise they’ll probably run it through twice.”

Step 3: Refrigerate. (This explains Step 2) There is a picture of the orange container and an arrow pointing from it to a refrigerator, in case you haven’t seen one before. Nearby is a cooler, for campers who are collecting their urine I suppose. Camping all these years I’ve been wasting mine by peeing in the woods. But whether you put the orange jug in a refrigerator or a cooler it will be cooled. So now I know why you might be tempted to drink it – cool urine must be a thirst-quencher.

I should note here that each step is drawn on the full page instruction sheet as a separate box, like a comic strip, but funnier.

Step 4: This step just tells you to keep voiding for 24 hours into the orange container, then when the clock ticks exactly 24 hours you write down the date and total volume in the container – to the nearest millimeter. Now I can’t speak for anyone else, but if you collect 24 hours of my voids you’ll have enough of it to float at least a small fishing boat. In addition, like most Americans, I don’t know a stinking millimeter from a pedicure. But luckily, Step 4 has the illustration of a bulging eyeball with a gray-shaded dotted line connecting it to the side of the orange container where there are little marks to indicate millimeters. Or not, it’s too small to read.

Step 5: This is where it gets complicated. The instructions say to removed two vials from a box. The illustration depicts two little plastic vials jumping out of a cardboard box onto a surface and spinning off their lids, and reads: Do not remove gauze from the vial. Okay. I didn’t know they had gauze. What could you possibly need with gauze? Who would look in there to see “Is there gauze?”

Step 6: In this step the illustration depicts a man wearing cuff links shaking the orange jug up and down. You are instructed to “Vigorously shake the orange container.” No kidding. To make sure nothing is lost you are also instructed to tightly cap the container lid and close the spout. Awhile ago they were concerned we might be drinking it and now they’re worried if a drop or two escapes. And what’s the point of shaking it in the first place? It’s going to get all mixed up. And if they wanted to mix it, why can’t they shake it? I know FedEx is a great company, but don’t they know that between my house and some other point in the continental United States there are some bumps. The collection will get a good shaking somewhere.

Step 7: Simple. Pour the contents of the orange jug into the two small vials. Sounds easy. But even a guy like me knows that four liters doesn’t fit into two three-millimeter vials. You can’t pour a gallon of milk into two glasses. Of course, most likely they expected us to have drunk the remainder after it was refrigerated anyway.

Steps 8 – 11: Boring shipping instructions.

Step 12: You have to make it all the way here to discover that the excess urine is poured into the toilet. An illustration of the orange jug suspended above a toilet bowl, yellow liquid flowing, and a red arrow from the other side of the jug pointing to a container marked “trash.” Some “don’ts” again. Don’t send orange jug back to them. Don’t flush gauze, which is a thing about the size of a Kleenex. Discard jug and gauze into trash. The plastic bag used to send the vials back has a biohazard warning label. Guess it doesn’t apply to garbage men handling jugs of urine that look like orange juice containers. At the very least they should include a label – Don’t Drink This – and that would cover us all.

A cautionary note for those who might donate a similar collection: Even if you overcome the temptation to drink your pee, don’t place the container near anything in the refrigerator you might later eat or drink. I stored mine alongside my wife’s yogurt. I don’t like yogurt anyway.