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The Clinical Trial

A friend of mine emailed me with an interesting and well-paid opportunity.  It was a clinical trial for a drug going through the Japanese equivalent of FDA approval.  The drug, approved several years ago in the US, was typically used to combat a stomach parasite and resulting diarrhea.  Recently, however, the drug was found to have clinical benefits for rodent sufferers of hepatitis.  Hence, let's try it on humans!

They were looking for healthy, Caucasian men within a certain age and weight range.  Chosen participants would have to stay in the research hospital for 3 nights; however, they would also be well-compensated.  I fit what they were looking for, so I signed up.  A part of me fantasized that the Japanese scientists were planning to drug and kill-off white dudes.

Long story short, 2 health checks and 1 "recheck" later, I was in.  I needed this.  Badly.  I told myself that a lot.

12 white dudes gathered at the clinic at 4pm on a Thursday afternoon.  A slight tinge of tension hung in the air as we all knew not what to expect.  One thing and one thing only we all universally had in common--a selfish desire for that nice wad of cash at the end of the whole thing.

They gave us a detailed orientation explaining eating, sleeping, testing, and showering schedules along with the trial "itinerary."  This was when I was struck with the reality of what I had signed up for.  What had I gotten myself into?  I'll spare the exhaustive details, but here's a quick summary of the more interesting facets of the trial:

No Drinking, but Smoking OK!
Absolutely no outside food or drink were allowed, and we had to eat at the scheduled meal times.  Alcohol was also understandably banned.  However, oddly enough, there were scheduled times for smoking breaks.  Only in Japan, I thought.

We Want All Of Your Pee!
All of our pee had to be collected.  Not just a urine test--every drop of pee for 3 solid days had to be in plastic cups.  They left an ominous stack of large plastic collection beakers next to our hospital beds as well as extra cups in the restroom.  I quickly learned 2 previously unknown facts about my body: I consistently pee every 1.5~2 hours, and I easily fill 2 of those cups.  Thank God for those extra cups in the restroom.  I took the initiative and started bringing 2 cups in with me.

I had to label the cups with the time and my ID number.  Then I rang the nurse call button, and a young female nurse would come to the window to collect.  The fact they were always young and female made this all the more embarrassing, but all the more funny to talk about.  She weighed the pee on a scale, and I recorded the weight on a tally sheet and signed off.  Last, she carefully poured the pee into a larger container (treating it as if it were precious liquid gold), then politely thanked me for my deposit.  This was the procedure for the entire trial.  I asked them if they also wanted my poo just in case.  They did not.

By the end I figured each of us left them with about 7 liters of pee.  I asked if there was an award for the participant with the most voluminous pee deposit.  Unfortunately, there was not.

Hourly Blood Tests and the EKG
The most strenuous day of the trial was the 1st--the day we actually took the drug.  Hourly blood tests using IVs inserted into our arms were required that day the whole day.  We were even woken up in the middle of the night for the infamous "middle-of-the-night" blood test.  Not much blood was taken per test, but the idea frightened me a bit.  Were these Japanese doctors and scientists or Japanese vampires and zombies hungry for white boy blood?  Maybe this drug was making us all the more delicious.

The EKG (electrocardiogram) was uneventful save for the fact they had to mark our chests with a black Sharpie so they could place the sensors in the same place each time.  My chest looked like it was marked for organ removal by a Brazilian doctor wanting to auction off my chest cavity to some sick American millionaire.  Would any of us "disappear" in the middle of the night?  I feared waking up to find the bed once occupied by Hans, the nice Dutch man, now empty, remade, and ready for a fresh "subject."

Fantasy Gets the Best of Me
As the days rolled by, my over-active imagination began to get the best of me:
  • What would they do with all that blood?
  • More importantly, what would they do with all that pee?
  • Would this drug give me super hero powers?  That would be sweet if I could fly home from the hospital.
  • Would the scientists start calling everyone "Mr. Anderson?"
  • Why weren't we given official clinical trial uniforms?  I totally wanted this to be far more sinister than it was.  I purposely wore the same pair of pajamas for 3 days straight, stopped shaving, and walked around like I was succumbing to zombie-dom.  I didn't make many friends during the trial.
  • When would our bio-ports be installed?
  • Where will I wake up tomorrow morning?  Will I have wires coming out of me?  What will the wires be connected to?
  • Do I still have 2 kidneys?  It's 2, right?  That's how many I should have, I think.
  • Is that a barcode tattoo on my forehead?  No, that's just a zit.
  • Wait...do I remember my name?  I remember my ID number, but what is my name??  These bastards took my NAME!!
To my disappointment the trial ended void of such molestations.  We were handed our wads of cash and reminded of the final follow-up health check.  They told us, "Whatever you do, don't eat grapefruit!"  This was the drama I was waiting for.  What happens if we eat grapefruit?  It will throw off the final measurements, they replied.  Damn.  I want explosions, death, and zombies!

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