My buddy Mur Lafferty (famous podcaster, author, creative type--merely knowing her provides a level of geek cred that I could never achieve on my own and certainly don't deserve) needed a ride yesterday, first to the tattoo parlor for a consult (alas, foiled by tattoo artist's schedule) and then to the doctor.
Mur's got a condition known as hemochromatosis, (and believe me, no one is more impressed than I am if I managed to spell that correctly) that causes her body not to filter iron, so it builds up in her tissues. It's potentially fatal if untreated, but the treatment is simple and medieval.
They bleed her.
Plain, 'ol fashioned bloodletting. Go figure.
Problem is, of course, that Mur is a wee little thing* and losing a pint of blood leaves her distinctly woozy, more so than can be fixed with a cup of juice and a cookie. So I happily volunteered to drive her out to the Cancer Center (who for some weird reason is the best place to get blood drawn--the blood bank refuses to bleed her, because her hematocrit level is too low, despite the fact that she needs to get blood drawn every coupla months in order to, y'know, not DIE. Paperwork, man, go figure.)
I always feel a little weird in doctor's offices--the specialist places, anyway. I am too damn healthy. Visiting the urology center was awkward, they have so many people who's prostates are exploding and kidneys are failing, and here I am, half the age of anybody in the room, going "Yeah, just need somebody to check on how well the Kegels are working..." It's notably worse at an oncology clinic. (This is probably a horrible thing for me to feel, but I suspect it's human nature to feel a vague urge to apologize for being so gauche as to not be sick in such circumstances. Our society segregates the ill in weird ways.)
Anyway, they had a whole phlebotomy room set up, with rows of recliners and IVs, for people who need the drips and whatnot. Mur's had this done sufficiently often that she can speak with authority on the comfort of the needle vs. the catheter, although she doesn't watch them do it, lest she faint. Me, I just watched in mild fascination as the nurse shoved a needle the size of my thigh into Mur's arm (which, kung fu or not, is teeny. And I should know, I designed a tattoo for it.) and started filling a blood bag.
The nurse was very nice about suddenly having a strange chick peering over her shoulder and going "Oooh! Neat!" and explained about how they used to use glass bottles for the blood, which generated a vacuum to help draw the blood in, and how they'd stopped using the (apparently more comfortable) plastic catheters owing to cost cutting. (I occasionally think that my ideal calling would have been "18th-century naturalist." I find everything fascinating, and I like to draw. Pity they don't really make those any more.) Then we started talking about the black plague, and how it's theorized that hemochromatosis may have arisen from a specific immunity to the plague, much in the fashion that sickle cell anemia provides malaria resistance if you've got one of the genes, and kills you if you've got two.
So that was all very neat. I got Mur home okay, although her speech definitely became slower and a bit groggier after the bleeding (although one might only notice that if they're used to Mur's lightning fast repartee...) and headed home to work on a little art.
Saint Barnaby the Belligerent
*Who knows kung fu. Don't fuck with Mur.