In The Lab


At the microscope, I notice that the patient’s urine is alive with Trichomonas– a writhing, one-celled creature.  I glance at the computer screen.  She’s in the Emergency Room because of abdominal pain.  This is not an emergency, unless some other problem plagues her.   I don’t know. I don’t have access to her history.  I’m a medical technologist, not a doctor, and my job tonight is to analyze the urine of patients throughout the entire hospital. 


Tomorrow night I’ll rotate to the other side of the lab, where I’ll prepare bone marrow specimens.  The next night, I’ll operate the analyzer that counts blood cells. The night after that I’ll be at the microscope looking at those cells, but tonight, I am the Pee Queen of Tinkletown. 


I check the macroscopic results for the patient afflicted with Trichomonas.  Nothing else stands out as particularly abnormal, so I punch in my observations and send the report to the ER.


Eight specimens are lined up waiting for microscopic examination, two of which are also from the ER, so I pluck those from the line and look at them first.


In many ways, my job is nothing more than a manipulation of numbers.  I churn out sets of numbers that doctors use to make treatment decisions.  Several hundred specimens enter the lab every night, many of which pass through my hands.  They are interesting, in an abstract sort of way, especially when they are abnormal or atypical.  Sometimes we recognize certain patient’s names because we see their bloods day after day until they either recover or die.  Occasionally, one of us gets to meet a patient when we assist a pathologist at a bone marrow aspiration.


We seldom know more; therefore I have acquired the habit of reading the daily obituaries.  Sometimes I see a familiar name and maybe a photo. Then, I know that the patient was not just a case, or a series of specimens.  He or she had a family, or a dear friend, and was loved, and had a place in society.  I get sad, sometimes, and then I know why I became a medical technologist instead of a nurse.   I’d never learn how to lose a patient.  They say one gets used to that sort of thing, but I doubt it.


If I had a choice, I wouldn’t work at all. I’d write, and only when I felt like it. Until retirement, when I plan to do exactly that, I’ll continue coming to the lab every day and churning out the numbers that let other caregivers know, exactly, what is wrong with the patient, and/or how the patient is responding to treatment. I like this work, because it is exacting, demanding, and contributes directly to the well-being of patients.


It’s contributed directly to my well-being, too, in a different way. This is the work that took me to Saudi Arabia. I would never have gone there had I majored in English, Psychology or Foreign Languages, fields that claimed more of my interest. I can’t imagine not having lived in Saudi Arabia all those years.  I owe those years to my profession. I could go back again, I’m sure, and slip into my former position as if I’d never left, but I won’t do that. Retirement beckons. Five more years, insha’ Allah…That’s the plan, and Allah knows best.



About Marahm

At first glance, I may appear to be a middle-aged American woman with kids, grandkids, retired from a job in a hospital, gratefully relieved from the responsibilities that come with all of that. Behind the image, which is true enough, I am fairly unhinged from much of American mainstream living, having spent twelve years in Saudi Arabia, years that sprung me from societal and familial impositions, and narrow bands of truth. I have learned to embrace my identity as a seeker, an artist, and a writer. I study Arabic and Italian language, because I love them, and I love their people. I still dream of spending more time in the Middle East and Italy, though the dreaming now seems more real than the possibilities. I am a photographer. I write, and sometimes publish, flash memoir, and now a blog or two.
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7 Responses to In The Lab

  1. Abdul. says:

    Wow Marham your a me dical technologist? How interesting! Really i would have liked to do something like that. My favourite subject at school was Chemistry and i loved doing the analyzing, using the Centrifuge, analyzing the results of chemical reactions. Magnesium, Sulpher all that stuff! Uve taken me back to my school days. Thank you 🙂

  2. God, your writing is beautiful, soothing and enchanting. Please keep writing, you really have talent! I love what you described here, thank you for sharing.

  3. Wow! A cool diddy about lab work. You have accomplished the impossible. Well done. I once spent a year conducting in-vitro antimicrobial susceptibility testing.

    The Sickboy Chronicles – The Gift

    The Sickboy Chronicles – A Day at the Office

  4. Shahrzad says:

    I was more interested in Biology of plants life instead of people’s life. But most i was interested to Math and physics and being an Albert Einstein! lol
    Even if there is no job for physicists in Iran and i had to work in other field, i still like it and i am going to through Geophysics someday.

    I will stop working, when someday Shahryar and i have our babies, untill they be enough grown..

  5. Shahrzad says:

    am going to go*

  6. Marahm says:

    Thank you all for the appreciative comments. I didn’t expect the interest.

    So, Abdul, it’s rare to hear that someone’s favorite subject was Chemistry! It requires a lot of study! I think my favorite subject (within my major, that is,) was Abnormal Pathology. I still like to know what went wrong, and where, when someone is sick.

    Unique, your words make my head swell. Writing is something genetically programmed into my DNA; I couldn’t stop it even if I wanted to.

    Guy in OB, welcome! And thank you for the nice compliment.

    Shahrazad, you amaze me again with your diversity of interests. I hope you achieve all your goals.

  7. ~W~ says:

    Thanks for the perspective.

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