24-Hour Potty People

Nothing reminds you that you’re the lucky owner of a chronic condition quite like a jug of your own urine ripening in the refrigerator.

Ah, yes — it’s the 24-hour urine collection routine. One I hadn’t experienced since college, but had the good fortune to relive this past weekend.

And what a routine it is. Start in the morning, and collect every darn drop until the same time the next day. I became vigilant in my bladder awareness, afraid that I would find myself having to use the bathroom somewhere far away from that damn orange jug. What if I forgot? What if I lost it? (What?! Where would I lose it?) What if a representative from Self magazine dropped by to do one of those “What’s in your fridge?” profiles?

They’ll tell you that the purpose of the 24-hour urine test is to detect the presence of protein in your pee and, therefore, any possible kidney issues that diabetes hath wrought. I’m convinced, however, that the 24-hour urine test is an ongoing joke between prescribing doctors, lab technicians, and the manufacturers of gallon-size orange plastic jugs. Because really, what’s more entertaining than watching a bleary-eyed diabetic stumble into a hospital first thing Monday morning, carrying a jug of her own pee?

Image via I HEART GUTS

The first time I participated in this experiment, back in 1999, I was a student at Truman State University, which was a good 3-hour drive from the endocrinologist I was seeing at the time. Instead of transporting my own urine across the great state of Missouri, I was instructed to perform the test at my school-home, and then drop the specimen off at the campus health clinic.

I managed to make it through the collection process itself, which isn’t easy when you’re sharing a single bathroom and a refrigerator with two other young women (those poor girls). The real adventure came when it was time to drop the jug off. For some reason, I decided against concealing the container in any way, so I marched up to the campus clinic with a very conspicuous urine sample in hand. I must have expected the place to be empty, because I remember being quite surprised to find that it was flu shot day, and that the waiting room at the clinic was packed with fellow students, a few of whom insisted on asking me what was in the container.

I don’t even remember my response. What could I have said? Saliva? Stale beer? Unicorn tears? I just recall butting to the front of the line to drop the thing off and getting the hell out of there as quickly as possible.

This time I was a bit smarter. After spending almost all of Sunday within 100 feet of our refrigerator and the J.O.P., as my husband called it, I got up early this morning to take the goods to a nearby lab. I put the container in a Walgreens bag. Then, I put that bag in a Target bag, and tied it up. Then, I put that bag in a fashionable blue shoulder bag — perfectly sized for carrying snacks and cosmetics and gallon-size jugs of urine.

When I arrived at the lab, one of the technicians looked over my paperwork, then ducked into a room. She popped out moments later with one of those little cups, and explained that I’d need to provide a “sample.”

“Uh,” I didn’t know what to say. I’d been too successful in concealing my pee — and now I’d have to give more! “I already have some. I mean, I have a lot. In here.” I nodded toward my blue bag as if it contained a severed head or a stash of cocaine. Luckily, she understood, and whisked the whole thing away before bringing the blue bag back, empty.

And that was it. The whole exchange felt so anticlimactic, so . . . clinical. I mean, I know they’ll perform some tests and get back to me and let me know what’s going on with my kidneys, and I dearly hope that what’s going on with my kidneys is “nothing.” I guess I just expected a little more magic after all the effort I put into the process. Maybe I expected a lab technician to read the stuff like tea leaves and foretell my diabetic future. Maybe I expected to see it blessed like holy water or sprinkled ceremoniously into the St. Johns River. I don’t know. I feel like I at least should have received a badge or a medal — even a sticker — some reward for enduring the ordeal.

In exchange, I’ll appreciate the thought that I won’t have to do another marathon pee test for at least another several years. I never thought I’d be so grateful to use the bathroom like a normal person.

16 comments on “24-Hour Potty People

  1. I haven’t had to do one of those in a while, but I always get caught up in the name of the thing you’re supposed to pee into. A hat. Really? A hat? Couldn’t they have come up with a better name??
    Great story here! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Joanne says:

    I have never heard of such an animal? Peeing in a jug? The mere image is so awesome I am rendered speechless. Do you use a funnel so you don’t miss the hole? So many questions…

    • Joanne, it’s like this weird boxy jug with a big hole on one end. It only occured to me today that maybe there was another way to get the pee in there, but yeah — I just did it. It’s less annoying if you pretend to be a boy.

  3. Stacey D. says:

    This post cracked me up! 🙂 But believe me the whole urine collection process seems like a walk in the park once you have to give a stool sample. Now that’s a whole other charade!!

  4. Tammy says:

    I am cracking up at this post…(and then the comments!!) I have to do this ridiculous test yearly (thanks Doc) even though my kidneys seem to always be doing fine. (Thank you very much for that, Dear Kidneys)

    And now that I HAVE done the stool sample, I’ll pee in that hat any time! And I’m suddenly curious why they didn’t offer you a “hat”?!?!?!? That must’ve been some chore getting it in the hole! Oh the things we endure in the name of staying healthy.

  5. Kaitake says:

    Haha, most excellent post 🙂 I shall remember this next time I have to do one. I have them AT LEAST every year, sometimes more, cos my stupid stupid kidneys do that proteinuria thing and set all the alarm bells off. A kidney biopsy (not fun) and so many pee tests (I now get a surprise when a doctor doesn’t ask for one!) and still…, nothing. No conclusive results. They put me on statins and ace inhibitors though as a precaution, and like a good little T1 I promptly forget to take them, cos like, they’re not insulin and all 😛 Great post.

  6. Maria Q says:

    I can’t believe I almost forgot about doing this test as a kid. I haven’t had to do it in at least the last 7 or 8 years, but they keep telling me my kidneys are still very much kicking and functioning like normal. Thanks for sharing this story!

  7. Karen G says:

    You totally should get a medal! Or, like you said, at least a sticker. Heck, they hand out those “I voted today” stickers at the polls – why can’t you get an “I peed for 24 hours” sticker from the lab??

  8. Marla says:

    Cute new header and chevron background on the blog! No reason that diabetes and cute design can’t go together.

  9. Sara says:

    Wait! Did you pee directly into the jug? (add that to the questions I never thought I’d ask)
    I peed into a plastic promotional cup that my job was giving away and then poured it into the jug. I don’t think I’m talented enough to get it directly into the jug.


  10. I had to bring my gallon jug to the lab via the subway. It sloshed inside the entire ride. I was *horrified*.

  11. shannon says:

    i love your blog title, wasn’t that a rad movie?

    also, st. john’s river? is that an actual thing? or did you hilariously make up a river name with the slang term for bathroom?

    either way, stellar post as always.

    • The St. Johns River is real! It’s right outside my window right now. And yeah, 24 Hour Party People was a movie. Good call! 🙂

      • shannon says:

        well it’s appropriately named then!

        ahaha something about me saying “wasn’t that a rad movie?” and you replying “yeah, it was a *movie*” just really hit my funny bone, like you are not willing to commit to the radjective.

  12. Krista says:

    I just had a good laugh while reading this. Thank you! I also went to Truman (class of 08), small world! I was diagnosed in 96, right after my tenth birthday. I was fortunate enough to have a no-nonsense nurse for a mother, who kept me in line and alive with little effort on my part for the better of ten years. Unfortunately that leaves me near paralyzed in terms of taking care of my diabetes as an “adult” (gasp!), left to my own devices. I’m at a crossroads at 26, realizing that “I have plenty of time to get this under control” has turned into “I’m killing myself” in what seems like no time at all. UGH. I’m glad I found your blog. Maybe it will help.

  13. […] downside of his thoroughness is that he sent me home with an orange jug to be used later in the month and I have to return later today for an ultrasound to check on […]

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