Sunday, October 13, 2013

Lab Tests

As I explained in my last blog post, Alex has been dealing with a chronic case of thrush for over a year. Despite several trips to doctors and urgent care clinics along with a variety of antifungals, we keep trying to get rid of this stubborn candida in his mouth. Last weekend, his doctor decided to try another antifungal medication to see if it may be more effective. In addition, he has concerns that the thrush will become resistant to the one medication we know works, Diflucan. We started the new medication this week, and so far, Alex seems to be responding without any negative side effects. Hopefully, this will be the one that finally knocks out the fungus for good. However, this may be a slow process, as his doctor gave enough refills for six months of this medication.

Since antifungals can affect liver function, Alex’s doctor wanted a blood test run to make sure the medication was not causing any damage. Last Sunday, we took him to the laboratory where we have his routine blood tests done because we never have to wait long, and their staff are friendly and pleasant. As they rapidly processed Alex’s paperwork, he happily watched a football game on the big screen television in the waiting room. Within minutes, the lab technician came to get us to draw Alex’s blood, and we recognized her because she has drawn his blood for previous tests.

Before we began, we reminded her that Alex does very well with blood tests; in fact, they never seem to bother him at all. As she placed the tourniquet around his upper arm before drawing the blood, she told him that she didn’t like tourniquets “because they hurt.” I’m not sure why she put such a negative spin on this step necessary to the blood test, so I quickly told Alex that they never bothered him in the past. Before she stuck the needle in his vein, she then told him that it would “just hurt for a minute.” Alex looked at me, and I reassured him that it would only be a little stick for a second, which was true and less upsetting. As always, he did great while his blood was being drawn, never flinching or complaining. After she was finished, she placed a bandage on his arm and instructed us to keep the bandage on for about twenty minutes. I told her that Alex never bled more than a pinprick after blood tests, and she replied, “Some people tell me that, too, and then they look to see blood running down their arm.” As my mom would say, this lady was a real “crepe hanger,” finding all the worst-case scenarios in a situation. Fortunately, I know Alex much better than the technician does, and he handled the test beautifully despite her frightening comments. Thankfully, blood did not run down his arm, and he seemed unfazed by the lab technician’s warnings.

In addition to his blood tests, I had asked Alex’s doctor about running a test his childhood doctor had done several times in the past, the Great Plains Laboratory organic acids test with yeast sensitivity and culture. This test assesses intestinal yeast and bacteria and determines which medications and supplements best treat the condition. Although Alex’s doctor was not familiar with the test, after showing him previous test results, he agreed that this test would be helpful in treating Alex’s chronic yeast overgrowth. With his authorization, I ordered the test kit, which arrived on Friday. Since we had not done one of these tests for several years, I had to refresh my memory as to how the urine and stool collection were to be done to make certain the results were accurate. For example, certain fruits, namely apples, grapes, raisins, pears, and cranberries, and their juices must be avoided for twenty-four hours prior to the test. The samples must also not come in contact with water; therefore, the “nun’s cap” specimen collector I purchased several years ago for tests makes the process easier since it fits nicely in the toilet. With all the paperwork completed and instructions clear, I was ready to play amateur lab technician with the single rubber glove they sent me. (Why they don’t send two gloves has always been a mystery to me.) Now, the rest was up to Alex to produce the samples.

Just as he is a trouper with blood tests, Alex is amazingly cooperative about urine and stool tests. In fact, he gets excited about these tests, asking when we’re doing them and when we’ll get the results. I suspect that he likes the numerical statistics that come with lab reports, but he also tells me that he likes the tests “because they’re rare and special.” His enthusiasm helps me deal with the gross factor of collecting the samples, especially the stool sample that needs to be made into a slurry before sending it to the lab. I’ve discovered the old saying to be true: to paraphrase, the more you stir it; the more it stinks. Nonetheless, Alex produced a good stool sample yesterday, and I managed to produce the slurry without gagging. The second part of the test required collecting his first morning urine, and this morning, he came through with flying colors, giving way more than was needed. Once again, I collected his sample, placed it in the test kit container, and was thankful we were able to complete this test easily. Tomorrow, we’ll have it shipped to the lab and await the results and hope to gain insight into what is lurking in Alex’s gut. While I wish that Alex didn’t have to deal with the yeast overgrowth that has chronically plagued his digestive tract, I’m thankful that we have a doctor who will aggressively pursue curing him and that Alex handles lab tests fearlessly and even happily. And now, as we so often do with Alex, we just wait to see what the tests reveal.

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.” Psalm 139:23


K. C. Wells said...

Way to go, Nurse Pam!! I'm sure that Lois is laughing from on high! :)

Pam Byrne said...

Hi K.C.,
Experiences like that remind me that I'm glad I decided to be an English teacher instead of pursuing my original college major, nursing. We just received his test results last week that confirmed what Dr. Pam suspected...
Take care,