Being a Guinea Pig

Last week was interesting. Monday, Thursday, and Friday were no-school days because of blizzards. The roads and sidewalks continue to be icy, with caked-on slabs of slippery snow, allowing me to delay my weekly grocery shopping trip and providing no incentive whatsoever to go for a walk.

Still, I had a good week. One of my personal goals was to try being a professional guinea pig. Just once, I wanted to know what it is like to get paid for contributing to science. I had given my name to somebody who does sleep studies and she emailed me last month about one that sounded appealing, so we set up a time.

On the big day, I drove over after dinner.  Feeling not a little self-conscious, I parked at the hospital and walked in with my bag to the CRU (Clinical Research Unit) where I checked myself in.  They have a whole unit for research… and some people spend almost a month here! They have a dining area, their own lab, not to mention patient rooms with all sorts of contraptions.

After some basic intake questions, consent forms, vitals, height and weight, and a normal EKG, they got me a snack and let me watch the Olympics.  Then the delightful sleep technologist came in and spent an hour getting me ready for the study. She put sensors on my arms, legs, and all over my head.  Here I am all dolled up with my electrodes, sensors, and a blue cap to keep things on.

(Note – this was before they made me put on the pulse oximeter on my finger and the nasal-cannula-like thing in my nose. You’d have to pay to see that picture).

Speaking of which… I got paid to sleep!

How did I sleep? Well, I won’t lie, it took me longer than usual to go to sleep, and I woke up a couple times during the night. But I did sleep for at least 6 hours, and in the morning after a few more relatively non-intrusive tests I got breakfast and a hot shower.

Some people do sleep studies like this for 16 or 21 days. They make really good money but they can’t leave the unit. Sometimes, people have sleep deprivation studies where they only get 4 hours of sleep a night, and the nurses and researchers make sure they don’t take catnaps during the day.  When they are there for that long, the sleep technologists glue the sensors on. They braid the girls’ hair so that the sensors can stay on for longer.

There are all kinds of other studies, too, of course. It all depends on what you can tolerate. Fat biopsy? CT scan? If you’re interested in making some money this way, here is the website: http://www.mayo.edu/research/clinical-trials There is a link on the side for Healthy Volunteers, but if you have a health condition there may be a study or clinical trial just for you!

So after my sleep study I took the dogs for a walk and realized what a glorious day it was. I knew a blizzard was coming and this would be my last chance for a while, so I headed to Eastwood Golf Course and enjoyed a quiet solitary ski in the soft snow. AMAZING.

Here is my blissed-out selfie from my ski. Yay sunshine! Yay Vitamin D! Yay above-zero temperatures!

Then a blizzard came… and we are supposed to get more snow today… but at least I got one glorious ski in!

Next up: what is a Pisco Sour and how do I make one?!

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