July 30, 2009

The Human Guinea Pig

Butters and Reese

It's pretty rare I get so embarrassed I almost start crying, but today was a rare day.

First off, I'm all for human testing. Humans give their consent to be tested upon, animals don't, and human products don't have consistent results when tested on anything other than humans. So when I found out about a clinical trial testing a new generic cream for eczema I signed my rashy self up.

The trials were conducted in what used to be a dentist office. The nurse, who looked my age if not younger, asked to see my eczema. Unfortunately for me (and everyone else involved), it's not in an area I can see without using a mirror... I had to put on a paper gown while she fetched the (male) doctor. I told her the idea of a male doctor viewing that area was an uncomfortable one, and she tried assuring me it would be just fine.

After waiting almost completely naked in a dentist chair for 30 minutes the doctor and nurse finally came in. He checked my skin in the less embarrassing places with a doubtful look and asked me to stand up to show him the rest. Oh. My. God.

"That's not eczema."

Huh? Sure as hell better be eczema or I want my $400 back from UC Medical Center.

The doctor is convinced it's not eczema because it's not a full blown rash despite me telling him it was when it was originally diagnosed, and even if it was I don't have it bad enough to participate in the trial, so he starts telling me my options. I could go to my general health practitioner, but I don't have one. I could talk to my insurance provider, but I don't have one. I could restrict my diet, but he can't tell me what foods I should eliminate. I could get a prescription for the drug this clinical trial is testing, but they're testing a generic version because it's fucking expensive. I could use him as my doctor, but he'd have to charge me for a visit. I also should not use any antiperspirant until the rash goes away, but I work in fucking Escondido, outside, in the cab of a truck with no air conditioning, in an environment made to resemble Africa. I sweat.

Then he asks me if I have any questions, and at this point I'm so embarrassed I had to bend over for no reason and frustrated at my conflicting diagnoses that I'm slightly teary-eyed.

"No, I don't have any questions."

Then we have a staring contest for half a minute.

"Should I have a question? Is there something I should be asking?"

"No," the doctor says. "Only ask the question you want to ask."

"I don't have any questions."

Keep in mind all this is going on while I'm in a paper robe and have shown very private areas to the dude. Thankfully he leaves, hopefully feeling as awkward as I was. I put my clothes on in record time and am about to bolt when the door opens and the nurse comes back in. I can tell she feels for me and maybe understands my position as a broke-ass person with conflicting diagnoses about a relatively new disease, and she secretly hands me a few trial sized tubes of the test cream. I take them and practically run to my car.

I'm unsure what I should take away from this experience. This all started at Urgent Care with a rash spanning almost my entire body and I was told I had eczema and the eczema medicine helped. All the information I could find on the condition says it's worse in the winter, and since it's not only not winter but the hottest part of summer and I work in "Africa" it makes sense that it's not a full blown rash right now, but a well managed, uncomfortable skin condition. Also, nowhere did I find a consensus on what products or foods to use or avoid- this seems like a highly personal condition, and my version of it is highly unusual, especially having been diagnosed as an adult with no relevant family history. Then this new doctor takes a look and says nope, last doctor got it wrong, so it's probably just an allergy, and maybe I eat too much broccoli and kale. What the fuck is kale?

I'm just going to stay my current course. I make sure to take cool showers, pat or air dry, put lotion on immediately and as often as needed, stay hydrated and eat healthy. And until I can afford health care this is about the only option I have. This is why I get so pissed when people complain about how a public health care option is going to ruin our country- I'm sure these naysayers are all happily insured and don't have to go through embarrassing clinical trials in order to get medicine. And to them I say fuck you, you put me in a terrible mood.


  1. Hi, LM
    Some time ago, I wondered if snark and sarcasm aptly described your writing. While I have not commented recently, I have continued to follow you, and I still have reservations about the "snarky" label, but those concerns are different now than previously. Snarky and to some degree cynicism and sarcasm, while entertaining and clever, rarely have much carrying power and substance. They are the refuge of people who are clever and quick witted, but more critically, they are also the hideout of people who write glibly and intellectually, from the head and not the heart.
    You my friend, have started to develop a voice that is resonant, honest, and intimate - a voice not originating from your clever and facile pen (although there are some delightful traces flitting around) but from a sense of conviction and intensity. A danger of that style could be preachiness and pomposity, but your writing shows not a trace of those traits.
    I am quite impressed.