I decided that in the interests of advancing medical science, ensuring that Israel remains at the forefront of medical research, and to slightly increase my bank balance, I would sell my body for medical experiments. Not when I'm dead - I'm interested in my bank balance now, not in the afterlife. So, recalling the oft-voiced threat to our children to sell them for medical experiments to try to maintain our fiscal integrity, I am setting the example.
About a month ago, I saw a posting on an email list calling for volunteers to participate in a trial of a new Anti-Flu Vaccine. Altruism to the fore, in went my application: back bounced a questionnaire, forehand return of the duly- (and truthfully) filled-in questionnaire; backhand cross-court return- "You're allergic to cats!" Yes, I volleyed, but I live with four of them and I only start sneezing if the big on sits on my face for more than 20 minutes. "Then come for tests," they snickered, thinking they had won the set...
I went for tests. Blood tests - "hold your arm still please, this won't hurt..." as they filled six vials of my life blood; urine sample: "...mid-flow please"- don't even BEGIN to imagine that; Eh-Keh-Geh (ECG), blood pressure, interviews: "Tyell me pelyese..."(Russian doctor): "Chwen you had adenoid and tonsil out chwen you arrr 5, chwat did you feeyel after...?" That done with, a few days later, I received a formal, gilt-edged approval to participate in the trial....the first day staring at 7:00 am, at the research labs in the center of Tel Aviv.
Nothing daunted, I was up before the sparrows passed gas, fed the cats early (they loved that) swigged my only allowable cup of extra strong "machinetta" brewed Costa Rica (no coffee for the rest of the day) and off I jogged to catch the train which would deliver me within walking distance of the labs.
The world looks very different from an early morning train, as it glides through the darkness, toward the pink glow on the horizon evidence that another day was indeed dawning; most of the apartment blocks still in darkness, a few cars on the city's as yet unclogged vehicular arteries.
Arriving on time at the Medical Research Center, truth-to-tell, a little trepidatious of what was to come, I found myself in the company of 10 men and an equal number of women - all apparently sane, consenting adults who had agreed to lend their bodies, their most precious possessions, to the cause of medical advancement.
This vaccine is supposed to defend the frail human organism from all types of 'flu, from Spanish to Swine, from Bird to Cat, Dog and Mouse - if there are such things, and I'm pretty sure that one day somebody will find a mouse that sneezed and declare that they have discovered Mouse 'Flu...
Should we pull through the two-month trial, we will have played our role in making the world safe for humankind once again...yay for us!
"Men this way, please, women in there" - directed Big Nurse..."find a bed, get comfortable, wait!"
Ten men, all "seniors" i.e. well above 35 (!) - Seven Russians, one Israeli, one American and one South African...ready to give our all for the cause; we happy few, we band of brothers...
And then the slew of tests and treatment started: blood samples again - this time EIGHT vials, blood pressure and Eh-Keh-Geh (ECG, remember?): "...shirt up please," some icy cold water daubed on my chest, six leech-like, flesh-sucking electrodes applied above my heart, one of each wrist, one on each ankle - Jeez, is this what it's like for a condemned prisoner strapped to a gurney to receive his last medical rites?
, ...and then - the NEEDLE. Here comes Big Nurse, brandishing her collection of experimental fluid-filled ampoules and needles, all neatly laid out on a sterile towel.
And then it was done: followed by a set of instructions delivered in rapid-fire Russian, until they realized that I don't speak much Russian even though at least one of my grandparents came from those climes. "Ah, Ivrit, - lo la'zuz, ti'skav, te'nuach, ha kol yiheye beseder - dont move, just rest...it will all be OK."
I hasten to add that I don't normally get 'flu: not in the doses that most people to seem to catch it (claiming multitudinous days off work...). I get it once a year, for 24 hours - that's it. For that one full day, I am a sneezing, dripping, dribbling remnant of a grouchy old fart - and then it's gone. No flu shot, maybe an Acamol (Paracetamol) or two, and certainly a good hot toddy (two tots of Scotch - spoon of honey, warm water...aaaahhhh.) And then I'm back to my normal, pleasant, sunny self.
The trial lasts for two months: the first day was a marathon - we had to be there for eight hours while they checked our vital signs every few hours after the first shot. The rest of the day passed in something of a daze - not a side-effect, just the result of lying about doing nothing except reading, or playing some stupid games on my cellphone when I got tired of reading (I'm becoming a whizz at Sudoku - easy level! ) - then back to my book, then back to my cell-phone, then another test, then back to my book:
Oh, they did feed us (if that's what you call it...) Breakfast was brought in at about 9:00 am - a gourmet rubber omelet (cold) with chopped kibbutz-style salad, kibbutz-style cottage cheese and some vile hot liquid they had the audacity to call herbal tea.
Then at about 1:30, when my stomach thought my throat was cut, (we'd been warned: DO NOT EAT BEFORE THE TESTS); we were served a bowl of that Jewish cure-all which obviously works, because it's served at every hospital throughout Israel - chicken-noodle soup (cold) alongside something in a plastic container. I was sitting at a table with the American member of the team, who asked me what we were supposed to be eating. Was it fish, was it schnitzel, was it some indescribable concoction dredged up from the depths of the hospital’s industrial kitchen...? It turned out to purport itself as schnitzel - cold - with some other stuff and rice, cold...nope, hospital food is NOT for me.
And now we head off into the great unknown: I have to keep a daily record of my temperature (I don't think I'm pregnant), a check on the pinprick where the magic elixir was injected into my system and record if it becomes swollen, or red or itchy. To do this, we were given a square of plastic with various sized holes in it to measure the size of the redness or swelling...and then we go back for a short session next week; and then onward right through until early February. If we survive, we get paid.
Watch this space for the next exciting episode of "General (Research) Hospital..." Sorry, no Dr. Drake Remore, no Grey's Anatomy, no McScrumptious or whatever he's called, no sexy nurses or female clinicians with a mission...just a group of grumpy old men at the mercy of a busy team of dedicated medical staff, trying to find a cure-all - if not for the common cold - then something pretty dam close to it.