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?
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.