As I discussed in my last blog entry, “Haircuts,” learning how to cut Alex’s hair was one of the surprising skills I had to master because of his sensory issues. Another skill I never anticipated having to learn was collecting and preparing samples for laboratory tests for him. Since Alex had problems with yeast overgrowth in his digestive system and heavy metal poisoning, he required regular tests to assess his condition and to monitor the progress of his treatment. Both types of tests required that I learn how to collect his urine and stool samples at home following strict guidelines. As I did with tests as a student, I prepared conscientiously—reading the instructions carefully, highlighting key points with a marker, and studying these directions repeatedly to ensure I knew what I was doing. These tests were somewhat expensive, and our insurance refused to cover the costs. Therefore, I wanted to be certain that the results accurately reflected Alex’s condition. Thankfully, he was always remarkably cooperative when we were doing these collections. Between his interest in medicine and his fascination with numbers, Alex was a willing participant who wanted to see what numerical values and written medical assessments the tests produced when his doctor went over the results with us.
The good thing about these tests was that they did not inflict any pain upon Alex. The organic acids tests that measure yeast and the tests for heavy metals require collecting all urine for six hours. Before Alex was toilet trained, I made him go to the bathroom every half hour to make sure we didn’t miss any urine during the six-hour test. To make the process easier, I bought a specimen collection container commonly known as a nun’s cap from a home health care store. Not only was Alex willing to go in the plastic container, but he found it fascinating to see how much was there each time, noting the markings on the nun’s cap in ounces and cc’s. Moreover, he watched the clock carefully, keeping track of how much time he’d spent doing the test and how much time was left before completion. After each time he was productive, I had to pour his sample into a bright red plastic jug and put it in the refrigerator. Since we usually did this test on the weekend, that jug sat in the refrigerator until I could take it to the doctor’s office on Monday for them to send to the lab. After devoting six hours to each test, I fretted until the sample arrived safely at the doctor’s office because I didn’t want to have to repeat the test if the refrigerator failed to keep it cold enough or if the jug somehow spilled. Once, getting out of the car to deliver a red jug filled with Alex’s urine, I slipped on the pavement, fell down, and dropped the jug. My immediate thought was not for myself but for that jug. Fortunately, I wasn’t hurt, and not a drop was spilled.
While the stool sample tests requires less time in collection, the preparation of these samples requires more effort. The stool sample home collection kit contains a special small jar about the size of a pill bottle that contains preservative. To assist the person who is collecting and preparing the sample, the lab provides one latex glove. I’ve never understood the reason why two gloves weren’t included, but I kept a supply of latex gloves on hand so that I could use both hands. In addition, the kit includes a paper container for collecting the stool that one of my autism mom friends referred to as the “French fry basket” because it looks like the paper trays some restaurants use to serve French fries, complete with a brightly colored red and white checked pattern. At least someone must have had a sense of humor when packing those home testing kits. Once Alex produced the stool sample, then my work began. The test requires that samples be taken randomly from the stool collected, using a tiny plastic fork attached to the lid of the sample container. These samples must be collected until they reach a red line on the container. As if that weren’t unappealing enough, I had to use the plastic fork to mix the stool sample with the preservative in the container. Due to this experience, I found the old saying about the more you stir it, the more it stinks to be definitely true. Nonetheless, I managed to complete the task and prepare the sample to send to the laboratory. After packaging the sample carefully to ensure that it didn’t spill and placing it in a small Styrofoam container with ice packs and sealing that carefully in a special plastic envelope marked, “BIOHAZARD,” I called the overnight courier service to come and pick up the home testing kit. I always wondered if it made them curious and/or nervous about what was in that package. Nonetheless, those packages arrived safely at the lab, and our efforts paid off in accurate test results for Alex. Once Alex was successfully treated for yeast overgrowth and heavy metal toxicity, I was not only thankful that God had healed him of these conditions, but also grateful I didn’t have to prepare any more samples for lab tests.
“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘…I will test them in this to see whether or not they will follow my instructions.’” Exodus 16:4