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Close Encounters with Science: Picks

Firsts by Kelly Marcon

A blast! A real blast. Adjust the microscope. Lymphoblast? Can’t be. Not on my first night shift alone. I’m over reacting. I’m sure it’s a blast cell and if that’s true then they’re all blasts. Try a higher magnification. That’s better. Yeah, that’s a blast alright. Or is it. The stain doesn’t look right. Too pale. I can’t really tell. Damn. Take a deep breath and start over. Make a new slide. Breathe. Dry for ten minutes. Okay. Think this out.

Where’s the requisition? It says four year-old female in the E.R. with query infectious mono. Isn’t she a bit young for mono? Haemoglobin, what’s her haemoglobin.? Slightly decreased but not significantly. White count, elevated. Not unusual if she has mono. Platelets, decreased. Damn. Where’s that haematology textbook? Essential Haematology for Medical Laboratory Technologists. There you are. Stop shaking. STOP SHAKING. Breathe. You know this stuff. Highest mark in the class, remember that. Well, second highest, maybe third. Causes of lymphocytosis: infectious mononucleosis, pertussis...acute lymphoblastic leukaemia. Leukaemia, not tonight. I’m not ready for this. I just graduated. I’M ALONE! ALL ALONE!

The slide’s finally dry, but the damn stain level is low. That’s why the slide was pale. Not enough stain. Why didn’t I notice it earlier?  IDIOT. I shouldn’t have taken such a long break. Where’s the stain procedure? Filter the stain before using! That’s gonna take twenty minutes. I have to call the E.R. What do I tell them? Slight delay? Technical difficulties I’ll say. That’s the truth, sort of. Yes I’m an idiot. Don’t say that. Lower your voice on the phone, you’ll sound older, older than twenty-one anyway. And speak slowly. Not too slowly or they’ll think you’re tired. I am tired damn it. It’s friggin’ four in the morning.

“Hello, this is the tech from Haematology calling...Yes, that’s correct...At least a half-hour longer...problems with the staining machine...Yes...in the process of performing additional tests to confirm...Thank you...I’ll notify you as soon as the results are available.”

Pretty professional. Hope she couldn’t tell I was scared shitless. But that nurse sounded tired, and young. Should have lowered her voice. Where was I? The stain. Please let this work. Why is my chest pounding? I’d kill for a cigarette. Focus you idiot. Focus on the slide...I’m focusing my focus on focusing the slide under the microscope...I’m funny...FOCUS!

Blasts, they’re all blasts, stain is good, predominate nucleoli, no doubt. Yes! My first leukaemia.  Yes, you did it super-tech. All by yourself. I’m good. Real good. 1982 tech of the year. I can see it now. First night shift! First leukaemia!

Four-year old girl...with leukaemia...oh no. I don’t think I can do this.

Kelly Marcon is from Sudbury, ON

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