Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Sex, Drugs and Rock 'n' Roll.

Or rather: Abstinence, Vaccination trials and Dance music. Anyway the previous statement sounded more exciting.

Yesterday was by all counts a busy day in the grand scheme of things. When I first became unemployed and started to think of different ways to supplement my income, one of them was to register for clinical trials. The idea of contributing to medical science has always appealed to me, and since I do not have the brain skills to become a doctor, I may as well offer my immune system to be a host for the latest vaccination which is still in the 'testing' phase.

You hear stories of people being hospitalised for months, their heads swelling to twice normal size, contracting bizarre illnesses and even death at the hands of medical research, but I choose to believe that hundreds of doctors and research assistants across the world who deal daily with unknown viruses and diseases and fight constantly to find a cure, would know what they're doing. Also, there's the reimbursement - not going to pay the bills for a year, but it's better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick (or rather a poke in the arm with a hypodermic needle).

So after a few months of being registered, I receive a phone call asking me to participate in a year-long trial. Sounds massive. What it actually is, is a few visits over the first 5 weeks, then a 6 monthly and 12 monthly visit. They have the money and the drugs, I have the time and the willingness. It's a no-brainer. Of course it didn't go down well with the parents, or even some of my close friends when I mentioned it, but a quick text to the folks to say I was still alive post-injections (and even walking home with a spring in my step) and most of their fears have been allayed.

Overall the process was just over 2 hours - on arrival I was asked a few qualifying questions, and as long as I promised to curb my drinking they would accept me for their tests. One of the other qualification requirements did make me chuckle slightly:

"We don't want any pregnancies" the doctor sternly informed me, with a look in her eye that said if I disobeyed them there really would be trouble.

"Well, with a face like mine, the chance would be a fine thing."

"That's not funny. And you're not taking or planning to take any recreational drugs for the duration of the testing?"

"No, absolutely not." (Again, the chance would be a fine thing)

"You're sure? Even if somebody offered them to you for free?"

"Why, do you have some?"

"That's not funny, either."

At least to me it was.

So after waiting around for an hour or so, with random nurses taking a few vitals here and there, "hold here", "put this here", "stand here", and so on, I was eventually stabbed with a syringe full of "virus-like particles" to see what my body and its immune system would make of them. Or I could've been stabbed with the placebo - nobody, not even the test administrator, is allowed to know for sure.

Then I was sent home with a diary, a thermometer and a free pen to record my symptoms (if any) for the next 7 days before returning for a follow-up meeting. The equipment was sealed in a plastic bag with my name on it, making me feel like a school kid heading home with his books and a half-eaten sandwich clutched to his side. The nurse even told me to "do my homework". Ah, at least one of them has a sense of humour.

So it's been 24 hours now, and there doesn't appear to be any symptoms manifesting themselves - no extra arms or legs, pus-filled boils or sickness. Plus I got a free pen for my efforts, and they even rang me today to make sure I was still alive and to schedule the next injection of drugs.

Such nice people.