Sunday, December 29, 2013

KIA Sorento Driving Experience - Luxury meets Practicality

2014 KIA Sorento SX Driving Experience

 This 2014 KIA Sorento was provided by STI - The Drive Experience Company for review; the opinions stated below are my own and I received no financial compensation.
I am not a fan of the Mini-van, SUV, or cross-over vehicle except when traveling with a small group it is wonderful to seat everyone comfortably for the ride.  These large vehicles have many attributes conducive to comfortable long range driving.  Many vehicles in this genre are a very expensive purchase whether leasing or buying.  Base prices can range from the mid-20's to over $100k.  Today's SUV has come a long way in style and function compared to models of 10-15 years ago.  The Cross-Over is fairly new in the automotive game and is gaining popularity by leaps and bounds. There are many flavors of SUV or cross-over vehicles to choose from across the automotive manufacturer spectrum.  KIA, the little sister of Automotive and industrial manufacturing giant Hyundai is rather new to the full size SUV gang with the 3rd Gen Sorento but she comes well dressed with exemplary manners, good looks, and solid function all wrapped up in a mechanically marvelous package. 

I recently had the pleasure of driving the 2014 KIA Sorento which was supplied to me and Leslie of Leslie Loves Veggies by STI - The Driving Experience People.

The KIA Sorento is classed as a Crossover SUV.  The 2014 Sorento as a 3rd Generation iteration of the model has undergone numerous extensive refinements from previous production years to make this model year an absolute beauty.  Kelley Blue Book lists Sorento on their 2013  "10 Best SUV's under $25,000 listing".  Safety was a prime design cue for this vehicle which has earned the Sorento the 5 STAR National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Award.  The 2014 Sorento has also earned a Top Pick from Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.  The 2014 Sorento tested by Leslie and I was a V6 FWD SX version with 6 speed automatic transmission and 7 passenger seating.  With a sticker price less than $40,000 I can truthfully say this is where luxury and practicality meet the road.  This vehicle is loaded with safety features as well as standard gizmo items that would satisfy a long wish list of options anyone could ask for and still satisfy the practicality driven car buyer in all of us.  Today, we take for granted many standard features loaded into vehicles which years ago were very high-end luxury sticker options such as back-up camera display, creative cabin lighting, push button start, traction control, and automatic power lift gate.  I love the gadgets and if they help make the driving experience more confident and give the driver more control all for the better.  This vehicle did have many features that are desirable but not necessarily safety related and they just add to the overall value of this beauty of an SUV.

The Sorento will surprise you with economical flare
The SUV is commonly known as a big and heavy full sized road vehicle built on a truck chassis with low 10-15 MPG fuel economy.  Option lists add dramatic gadgetry and bells & whistles to an already hefty sticker price.  But hold on there - you will be surprised with the economy of the 2014 Sorento.  Prices start at $24,100 which is some $700 less than competing big sis Hyundai Sante Fe, and $4,000 less than the competitor from Ford Motor Company.  My test vehicle was a heavyweight contender at 5,292 lbs.  That being stated you are probably thinking; >5000 lbs, 7 passenger, it must have horrible fuel mileage and comes with a gas guzzler tax right?  Absolutely Wrong!  At estimated 18 City and 25 MPG Highway fuel mileage there is road worthy economy here!  You will also be shocked at the technology, safety, and mechanical wizardry built in to this vehicle for less than $40,000.  How does this list of options in the < $40,000 Sorento vehicle compare to your dream SUV build?
Full Leather Seating throughout
Heated Second Row Seating
Blind Spot Warning System and back up camera
290 HP V6 with Push button start
Key-less entry with door handle illumination - Real nice feature
Special illumination appointments throughout the cabin - every button is night illuminated
Full computerized driver controls with Thin Film Transistor Speedometer multi-function display
Driver selectable Steering Assist with 3 settings - I loved this!
Panoramic Sunroof with power shade with wind buffet reduction
Safety Smart power Lift gate
Power folding side mirrors
110 volt power inverter with master on/off switch - saves life on power unit
2nd row full window sunshades
The list of bells and whistles goes on and on.

Made right here in GA
The 2014 KIA Sorento is a beautiful contender in the SUV market which is built in the state of Georgia by US Citizens at KIA Motors Manufacturing Georgia.  A state of the art car building plant with an annual capacity of 360,000 vehicles.  Keep in mind that this vehicles keeps Americans at work!

Safety and drivability in a dream boat package
My test vehicle was appointed with many standard equipment items making for a well balanced, secure, and pleasurable driving experience.  With a commanding height above the road the Sorento gives a feeling of driver superiority that all SUV's give but with technological safety features that definitely enhance driver acuity.  Electronic auto dim rear view mirror, large side windows with unobstructed view, blind-spot warning system, traction control with anti-rollover sensing, all combine to help the driver keep this luxury aspiring "living room on wheels" precisely placed on the road.  If you did not notice yet I have not referred to the Sorento as a truck in my review as some SUV's are structurally classified.  Engineering refinements made to this vehicle differ from the 2013 and previous model year with the institution of a car based structure and frame platform rather than a truck based platform.  I definitely noticed the ride quality and the Sorento's U-turn abilities of this agile giant.  Starts from a traffic light were more like a launch with brisk smooth acceleration.  Although at times I did feel some minor body rotation upon accelerations and brisk stops the Sorento always felt competent and stable.  At highway speed the Sorento was very competent, smooth riding, and predictable.  The blind spot monitoring system which can be activated/deactivated with a push button was a silent back seat driver always warning of vehicles just to the rear of the Sorento in adjacent traffic lanes.  Activating a turn signal in the direction of the detected obstacle created an audible warning signal in the cabin.  Driving the Sorento was a joy with comfort, predictability, agility, luxury, and practicality all wrapped up in the KIA Sorento package.

The 2014 Sorento cabin is extremely quiet
The Sorento has great road noise dampening capability with insulation so good it was quite a shock compared to the raucous ride I get with my worked 2000 Celica and even some of the latest test vehicles previously reviewed this 2013 year. In fact this was the quietest vehicle at any speed I have ever driven.  Many years ago Ford Motor Company ran TV commercials showing a diamond cutter sitting in the back of a Mercury Marquis cleaving a diamond perfectly.  Bumpy roads and other road surface challenges are smoothed out by the able suspension and all noise is virtually eliminated with the insulation of the Sorento cabin.  Take a look at these two spectral sound readings taken at approximately 35 - 40 MPH in the Sorento and my Celica.  The red trace is peak noise.

 Luxurious and Confident Driving Experience
Around town driving was effortless and comfortable.  Vehicle seat height makes for easy entry and exit even for me and Leslie with our short 5'4" statures.  With the driver controlled steering assist settings I could change the driving feel for Comfort, Sport, or Normal driving.  By pressing a button on the steering wheel I toggled the road feel from comfortable (road numbing) which is best for highway driving to a light-nimble sport setting which was perfect for negotiating tight turns of parking lots, neighborhoods, and backstreets.  I tested this feature on another KIA vehicle but the difference in settings were more demonstrable with the much heavier Sorento.  I really was astounded by how this vehicle handled compared to the mini-vans and pick up trucks I have driven in my lifetime.  Lets face it, this is a big heavy SUV.  Negotiating a slalom course of traffic cones is beneath the dignity of this gentle giant.  However, I was astonished at the Sorento's tight turning radius enabling me to make a stop light U-turn and not creep into a 2nd lane to negotiate the turn.

If you are in the market for an SUV or cross-over vehicle you would be making an uninformed choice without test driving the 2014 Sorento.  I really enjoyed the capable agility of the handling, the peppy starts, and oh-so comfortable highway disposition.  The cabin is fully awash with indicator lights for every single button and switch on the dash, the console, and in the 2nd row seating area.  Heated seats were absolutely hot and therapeutic making a cold rainy morning drive a pleasure.  The sound system was a joy to the ears with the Infinity enhanced sound system.  Navigation and satellite radio perfectly rounded out the technological large screen information pod at center of the dash.  The power moon roof with power sun shade was incredible.  Push a button and the shade opens.  Push a 2nd button and the giant glass canopy above your head disappears with a wind buffeting panel that pops up to decrease wind noise and cabin air movement.  Or just press one button and instant open roof commences.  I fell in love with the KIA Sorento.  I found a cross-roads of luxury and practicality in this techno-wizard SUV.

What did I like and not like?
Techno-wizardry of the steering mode selection and virtual Speedometer display
Full set of gauges including tachometer, engine temp, and fuel level
Strong acceleration for a 5200 lb. vehicle
Agile and confident handling
Safety features including blind spot monitoring and multiple airbags earning top honors

Not Likes:
3rd row seating was tight
Sound system a little week for the size of the cabin
Drive train is sometimes clunky until engine drive train fully warms up

Thanks STI - The Driving Experience People for the opportunity to drive the 2014 KIA Sorento!

Learn more about the 2014 KIA Sorento with the links below:
KIA Sorento on facebook
KIA Motors

Scott R. Mayorga A.A.S. BS MT(ASCP)H CLS

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Santa's Reindeers Really Do Fly?

As far back as I can remember, I sat in the lap of Santa Claus December after December as a child and had my picture taken with the Jolly St. Nick.  I remember vividly visiting Santa at A&S Department Store within a magical display of Christmas Trees, Decorations, and a big beautiful throne of which Santa sat. 
Me with Santa

That was a special time each year.  Of course December 25th has greater meaning than that of the all giving Santa, in fact December 25th is the Birth date of Jesus.  Jesus was conceived on March 25th and was deceased on that same day. Prophets were conceived and died the same day of the year.  Nine months from March 25th is December 25th; when Mary gave birth to the miracle of Jesus. Don't let the Ney-Sayers try to con you otherwise into thinking Christmas is a Pagan Holiday.  That is hog-wash.  Pagan beliefs were just that, beliefs conceived some hundreds of years after the death of Jesus-period.  Might I digress...

This past weekend my Grandson visited Santa, sat on Santa' lap, and asked for a "Yellow Remote Control Cool Car".  It was magical.  It was sweet.  This was one of the best looking Santa's by far.  Grandson was feeling really special.  He believed.  He smiled at the big guy in the Red Suit.  Close by, in a fenced in pen, Santa's reindeer were on display.  These were stocky little animals, big antlers, fur on their legs, gentle, and really cool looking.  But, as folklore has it - Santa's Reindeer fly.  They really fly!  How else would Santa get around the world delivering goodies and packages to all good girls and boys on Christmas Eve?  Why of course with a sleigh pulled by his reindeer!  But can reindeer really fly?  Come-on?  Four legged terrestrial animals, with stocky bodies, hoofed feet, furry legs, and big noses.  Hardly what I would call aerodynamically conducive to cutting through the cold night air in the upper atmosphere.  So how do reindeer fly?  I will attempt to scientifically explain how reindeer fly while pulling a sleigh weighing hundreds if not thousands of pounds up into the sky at great speed.

Reindeer are terrestrial animals (mammals) that are equipped for thriving in very cold environments.  They are mild tempered gentle animals with anatomy similar to a cow with multiple stomachs, large teeth for chewing grass, and no tail.  No Tail?  If a reindeer can fly would one think a tail was necessary for flight like a rudder on an airplane?  Not so - not necessary for reindeer.  Reindeer have large antlers on their heads.  Special antlers that have multiple purposes.  With those antlers reindeer can monitor temperature, atmospheric pressure, wind speed, and direction.  All the measurements necessary for flight of a large airliner in the sky.  Reindeer also have large eyes and excellent vision.  As the story goes the lead reindeer on Santa's sleigh is named Rudolph and has a red nose that glows.  However, with magical antlers and large eyes reindeer have no trouble seeing and navigating through weather good or bad, rain or snow, wind or sleet. Rudolph's red nose is just an anomaly of reindeer anatomy whereby extra blood pools in his nose and glows in the bright light of the winter moon.  When eight or so reindeer are tethered together their collective strength is more than enough to pull Santa, the sleigh, toys and goodies, into the air up up and away into the night sky.

It is like magic.  Reindeer really do fly.  Just ask any child.  With a kick of their hoofs, a twinkle in Santa's eye, navigational antlers and flight is just moments away.  Magical spirit in the mind of all God's children is the catalyst and all that is needed for reindeer and sleigh to leave the ground up up and away.

Reindeer are special animals with or without folklore and stories.  It is no wonder Santa  has a flock of them to guide his sleigh.

Merry Christmas Everyone
Happy Hanukkah
Joyous Kwanzaa
Best Wishes and may your holiday be safe, warm, and healthy.
Have a good one Santa!

To see Santa's Reindeer and learn about these fascinating animals click here>>>reindeercam

Scott R. Mayorga  A.A.S., BS MT(ASCP)H

Monday, November 18, 2013

Biometric Scanning On Your i-Phone But Not at Your Local Hospital

So - you got a nice new i-Phone 5 equipped with that neat biometric scanner!  You can scan your finger tips, your nose, your toes, even your nipple will work to identify you to your new cell phone.  That is really cool.  You can even have your i-Phone open up to your spouse or significant other by scanning their appendages too.  Isn't it great how science betters our lives?

Why don't hospitals employ this now commonly available method for human identification in Emergency rooms and admitting offices?  I sure don't know why?  With the risks of health care fraud so great in today's dangerous world why would a hospital not employ this method to identify visiting patients? Let's explore the science of biometric scanning, how it works, and why this technology should be mainstream but is not.

My first exposure to biometric scanning was at the GA DDS - Dept.of Driver Services office when I applied for a drivers license in GA.  My finger was scanned at the office then I was issued my drivers license.  My next encounter with a biometric scanner was with my wife' Leslie of Leslie Loves Veggies new i-Phone 5.  Now it is all the rage on that new Apple device.  No more remembering a pass code to open your phone.  Just swipe your finger, her finger, or my finger!  But, biometric scanning is not new.  The use of biometric scanning has been employed to identify humans and our pets for many years although identifying pets requires a chip implanted under the skin.  That is a big no-no for civilized humans.  However, humans have excellent physical traits that are perfect for biometric scanning such as finger print, vein recognition, eye recognition, palm scanning, on and on.  You name a part and it can identify quickly and noninvasively.  Biometric scanners for the finger or palm read the patterns in the skin and/or veins then archive the image in a database tied to your identity.  This method of identification is used all over the globe to open doors for employees, open safes for the rich, identify the sick at the hospital and the not so nice folks at the jail.

There is one country across the globe that uses biometric scanning practices to identify its population; India.  As of 2013 nearly 600 million people in that huge country have been identified in the largest database of its kind.  Countries such as Australia, Brazil, and Germany all use biometric scanning to identify its population to some degree.  So what is biometric scanning for the identification purpose?  It is the use of a scanning device capable of capturing distinctive attributes or traits selectively identifying a human being, storing those captured attributes in a database, with capability of matching scanned attributes to match identities.  Biometric scanning can use finger print, palm print, vein recognition, facial recognition, or iris scan.  The first time identity is established with biometric scanning methods is called "enrollment".  Identity is confirmed thereafter with verification which matches a scan against database knowledge to confirm identity.  Simple right?  Well not exactly.  Finger prints wear out, iris characteristics change, faces change and that can produce false reads or naive reads. With the development of more sophisticated multi modal systems false read rates can be eliminated.

So why if this technology is widely available, easy to use, and is non-invasive do so many health care facilities not use biometric scanning to identify patients?  Health care can be administered safely and accurately if we properly identified patients?  EHR or Electronic Health Record is so important to keep accurate but is so easy to become compromised, stolen, or abused.  Your EHR is worth hundreds of thousands dollars to the criminal element. Defrauding a hospital Emergency Room is not hard.  Hijacking your medical record and financial health information is not that much more difficult.  The only way to stop medical fraud is by positively identifying the patient.  So here is an example.  You have health insurance but your brother does not and he needs some acute treatment, maybe some stitches for a laceration or he needs antibiotics for a festering skin lesion right?  So he goes to the hospital that you have gone before recently.  He walks in with no ID but says he is Mr. SO&So Smith.  He arms his memory with his brothers SS# and some other background info such as his employment, address, telephone number.  Bingo! He looks like his brother, almost the same age, ba-da-bing he now is the brother.  Wam-Bam out the door discharged with treatment covered by his brothers insurance or worse Medicaid/Medicare. Don't think it happens?  I have a bridge at the western tip of Long Island for sale.  It is a steal at One Million Dollars - yeah that's the ticket....

Anyway, that is just one way how hospitals, doctors offices, clinics, and pharmacies are defrauded by health record hijacking and identity abuse.  The only way to stop it is by positively identifying the patient.  Estimates are as high as 28$ million per hour for health care fraud and abuse in the United States.  The FBI is in charge of investigating Health Care Fraud and has tips on prevention .  Their investigations in 2010 totaled up to $80 billion dollars in health care fraud.  The FBI has a long mugshot list [Mug Shots]of individuals wanted for Conspiracy to Commit Health Care Fraud.  With government health care spending poised to balloon into $Trillions per year the criminal element is just salivating at the chance to hijack your health record and set up criminal operations like none seen before.

Here is an example of how you can be a victim of Medical Identity Error resulting in financial harm. Suppose you are sick and go to the hospital for treatment.  You have been there before and you trust the care you will get.  The patient registration person gathers your identification and then finds you in the hospital database.  Your name is Jim or Jane Smith.  You know how many J. Smiths are in any given hospital database?  Well, your visit at the ER is matched up to J Smith alright, except he is James Smith, who is HIV +  and owes the hospital thousands of dollars in bad debt and unpaid bills.  Bingo, you now own James Smith' medical bills and a disease that is mandated to be reported.

Up till now I have just been talking about the financial risks associated with health care fraud deliberately perpetrated by criminals for financial gain or by error.  What about the "Medical Errors" that occur across this country on a daily basis?  Errors you say?  There are errors in health care?  Why yes. According to the American Association For Justice preventable deaths from medical errors average 98,000 deaths per year.  An error starting with patient identification can be deadly!
 Here is another example; Suppose your wife is ill and you take her to the ER.  She has been there before, they have a record of her because she is diabetic, and also highly allergic to certain preparations of insulin. The staff identify her and but register her under a medical record one number off of her true medical record number because of a data entry typo error on the keyboard.  In the ER she gets real bad and goes into Diabetic coma.  The doctor gives insulin but now your wife goes into anaphylactic shock because it is the wrong insulin. A few short minutes go by and your wife is in ICU, nearly dead, clinging onto life.  Hours go by and you think she is ok for the night so you go home for some rest.  Your awakened by hospital staff in the early hours to come to the hospital without any further explanation...

These are just a  few scenarios that could happen because of patient mis-identification.  Hospitals have a process whereby duplicate medical records are reconciled into one.  Sometimes when you visit a hospital ER the computer system is down for some reason so all patients are registered on paper record which is then entered into the computer database systems later.  You will be given a temporary medical record number until your visit can be reconciled to you historical records. This is called "MRN Merging". Not so bad if you truly do have a duplicate EHR and the two are merged together.  But what if the merge is incorrect?  Catastrophic consequences can be produced in some cases.  Your blood type can be changed, you can suddenly acquire a disease you never had before, or you can unexpectedly own debt that is not yours or your insurance company' responsibility.

So why do health care facilities not want to positively identify their patients?  There are less than 300 hospital facilities in the United States that employ biometric scanning to correctly identify their patients?  They may have the most expensive and sophisticated equipment on hand but will ask you who you are to identify yourself.  If you have picture ID use it but some people show up at the ER without ID.  The reasons why health care facilities do not use biometric scanning are:
  • $$$Expense - Biometric scanning Systems and the database management tools used to identify patients and relate this data to EHR is expensive.  Probably the most common reason this technology has not been adopted to main-stream health care practices.
  • Abuse of such databases has great financial enticement - the sale of such biometric identification data is a lucrative proposition for those who will have access.  However, the penalties for sharing PHI - Protected Health Information are steep and can include jail time for those found guilty of Health Care Fraud Conspiracy.
  • Civil Rights activists and privacy proponents hate anything that positively identify the population and store such identification in databases.

Well then, it is a two way street.  Maintain privacy but then risk acquiring the medical record of someone else.  Raise the level of health care safety at the expense of losing anonymity?

I would much rather be positively identified when it comes to serious medical treatment like surgery, pharmaceuticals, or transfusions than be mis-identified or have my medical record abused for financial gain by someone else.

What can you do to protect yourself..
  1. When you visit your doctor or most importantly a hospital make note of your MRN.  Next time you go back compare that number to any new registrations or visits to make sure the registration process identifies you properly.
  2. Carefully monitor EOB- Explanation of Benefits that you receive in the mail.  Report any inconsistencies to the hospital , insurance company, medicare (CMS), or your doctor.
  3. Carefully monitor your bank statements and credit card statements for any suspicious  or unknown healthcare charges and take action immediately if anything suspicious shows on a statement.
  4. Never give any personal information about yourself over the phone.  A "scammer" might get a hold of your name and phone number to call you asking about your last visit to a health care facility as a Customer Service Survey.  Hoping to gain additional information; you may be asked for this information directly on the call or purposely asked to verify incorrect info so that you can "Correct the Records".
  5. If you have a choice of hospitals to go to and one uses biometric scanning and one does not, go to the one with biometric scanning.  Tell the staff you came because they can positively identify you.
  6. Call your local hospital and request they start using biometric scanning for identification and that would make you more confident making a visit.

Good luck my friends.  Its a dangerous Health Care World out there.

Scott R. Mayorga A.A.S., BS MT(ASCP)H CLS

For more information on health care fraud  and biometric scanning click the links below.
Stop Medicare Fraud
Report Fraud-Get Reward
HC Fraud Examples via IRS
What is health care fraud?
Medical Biometric Scanning
Biometric Scanning Technology

Sunday, November 10, 2013

United Pet Group Spreads the Love to Cichlidae Lagoon III

 United Pet Group is a wonderful company who cares about my Cichlids

As an addition to the story of my fish tank Cichlidae Lagoon, which leaked terribly on Labor Day weekend 2013, I am happy to say that United Pet Group offered to send me some MarineLand and Tetra fish care products to help in my situation.  I couldn't be more thrilled and thankful to United Pet Group.  I originally contacted United Pet Group which is the parent company of the fish tank manufacturer Labor Day weekend 2013 via customer service email.  Later the next week I was contacted via email from United Pet Group.   They were very interested in learning my story of near tragedy for my fish.  I originally followed advice from United Pet Group to work with the retailer Petco to get a replacement fish tank.  I did go to the Petco store where I purchased the fish tank and as I told in my original post the store manger and employees bent over backwards to help me.  Since then I have been in contact with United Pet Group customer service via phone and emails.  I am happy to proclaim that United Pet Group has compensated me with  a great amount of fish tank maintenance items to make up for the trouble I experienced as a result of the fish tank failure that was named Cichlidae Lagoon.

In September 2013, I did get store credit from Petco to purchase a new fish tank with which I did obtain a 29 gallon tank  I named Cichlidae Lagoon II.  I picked this smaller tank because it fit the stand I already had and it was the biggest tank that Petco had in stock that would fit the stand.  As it turned out, that tank was too small for the Cichlids.  In October 2013, I  purchased a big 60 gallon
MarineLand tank with matching stand to replace the 29 gallon tank.  The Cichlids are much happier in the larger tank which is now  Cichlidae Lagoon III. 

Now with all the supplies that United Pet Group sent me this last week I can take care of the Cichlids to keep them healthy and happy.  Just look at all the items United Pet Group sent me in a big box!  What a blessing this was.

Thank you United Pet Group for your attentiveness and thoughtful gesture which will help me to take good care of the Cichlids in what is now Cichlidae Lagoon III.
Supplies sent by United Pet Group with Dexter in Cichlidae Lagoon III
Connect with United Pet Group on the web United Pet Group
Connect with MarineLand on facebook  Marineland Products
Connect with Tetra on facebook  Tetra Products

Scott Mayorga A.A.S., BS MT(ASCP)H CLS

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Two College Kids Messing Around in a Morgue - Ruh Roh!

As young adults you, me, we all did dumb stuff from time to time...

Like the time a friend and I went down steep-steep Cotton Tail Road on our skateboards with no helmets or safety gear and crashed hard resulting in many inches of road rash and near concussions.  My head bleeding, my forearms looking like chop-meat, I then proceeded to drive us both home stopping at a convenience store for a soda.  The store owner nearly called the police on us.  Ah - those were the days.

You would think that working in a clinical laboratory, safety is a main concern and for the most part that is true.  But, when the manager tells two young lab assistants to dump some old chemicals down the sink, well mayhem can and will ensue.   This is the tale of what happens when critical thinking skills are not applied to a situation and great danger can overcome the festivities.

The word "old" is just a useless adjective when attached to the word "chemicals".  Chemicals in pure form should always be handled with a clear head and proper protective equipment.  Old chemicals can diminish in reactivity but still remain quite concentrated and active enough to cause bodily harm, damage, and other dangerous risks.

And so the story begins with a request from the lab manager of his young minions; "Take these boxes of old chemicals and dump them down the morgue sink - But be careful.  See photo below taken by Photographer Brandon Merkel of the laboratory morgue some 20+ years later.  We were working part time in a mental health facility laboratory with over 100 years of history.  Some of the chemicals were real old. But, you see we were educated, college trained, young, and rather invincible in our own minds.  So this was going to be an easy work day Right?
Photograph by Brandon Merkelbrandonmerkel

Well nothing was farther from reality.  I agreed to take the first few hours and my cohort would take over after I left for the day.  I proceeded to sort jars of chemicals by my own self starting relevance by recognition.  If I recognized the name of the chemical I opened the jar and poured it into the drain followed by copious amounts of water.  For the most part I was OK.  I had gloves, lab coat, and goggles covering my eyes.  Luckily, I was only working a 4 hour shift.  One chemical at a time followed by water, I was having good luck.  I was careful not to mix the chemicals together in the drain.  On and on it went.  No incident and no drama for me. Then it was time to leave for the day to attend my evening college classes.  My cohort took over.  He thought he was invincible too.  Unfortunately, he was not.  Critical thinking was not present in his work.  Instead of dumping - rinsing - waiting - repeat; his work flow was more streamlined.  He Opened several jars randomly grabbed out of the box, poured into the sink, after a scary amount of chemical was present water was added to rinse down the drain.  Well, under such a routine it was only a matter of time before disaster was at hand.  Several chemicals mixed together producing a cloud of dangerous noxious vapors which overcame my cohorts senses and eventually his faculties.  When he fell to the floor luckily he knocked down a box of chemicals and made enough of a ruckus that other laboratory staff heard and came to investigate what happened.  They pulled my cohort to outside air, opened doors and windows to release a eye tearing, breath stealing vapor cloud from the morgue.  My poor cohort almost bought it in the most ironic of places - right next to the morgue table.  What a disaster.  My cohort was alright though a temporary leave of absence was in order for the poor kid.  He was lucky that day.  So what have we learned?  Chemicals are dangerous.  Mishandling them is deadly.

As laboratorians working with various chemicals on a daily basis we are trained how to properly handle chemicals, how to mix them, and how to dispose of them whether in pure or aged state or post use.  This is all very good to know. But what about at home? Should we be concerned about household chemicals present in our living spaces?  The answer is an emphatic YES.

Here is a brief list of do's and don'ts for chemicals around the house.

Keep chemicals in original containers.
Date opened chemicals so you can keep track of their age, use, and reactivity.
Do not mix chemicals together.
Follow "How To Use" instructions directly on the label without deviation.
Discard empty containers.  Do not use empties for storing or preparing other chemicals.
Acquire MSDS forms for the cleaning chemicals you have in your home from the manufacturer; for example SC Johnson. SC Johnson MSDS Library
If you purchase concentrated cleaners and mix with water also purchase generic non-labeled application containers or sprayer bottles for such use.  Mark the container with exactly what is contained and at what concentration.  Date the container with the date of preparation.  In the event of an accident with the chemicals, a spill, or splash in the eyes it is important to know what exactly the chemical compound is.
In the event that a child has exposure to the chemicals, it is critical to know and be able to calmly tell
poison control what chemical and at what concentration the exposure happened with.

Mix different chemicals together - Cleaning a toilet bowl then spraying the seat with a chlorine based cleaner can result in deadly vapor production.  In the enclosed confines of a small bathroom you could wind up on the floor in trouble.  Some chemical compounds are heavy and thus hover the floor so your head on the floor is a bad place to be!
Use old containers for preparing new cleaning solutions.  They are not properly labeled and the initial mix  of solutions may not work as expected or may be dangerous to handle.  An exposure at some later time may lead to erroneous information given to poison control in an emergency resulting in further harm or death to the affected individual.

Never: Mix chlorine based chemicals with ammonia based cleaners.  This is a recipe for quick
illness and death.
Never: Mix drain cleaners with anything other than water.  Use rubber gloves when handling drain cleaners, oven cleaners, or anything labeled as "Caustic".

The most dangerous chemical compounds you can purchase without special permits is by far caustic drain cleaners and concrete scrubbers (Acids). Absolutely, Do Not mix these together and it is against the law to use these products in a way deviated from intended use as per the product labels.

Don't be stupid my friends - use your critical thinking skills.  Chemistry is wonderful when used properly.
Please click through links below to important information concerning the safe handling of chemicals in the home...
Chemical Safety Improvement Act
American Assoc of Poison Control Centers
National Capitol Poison Center
US Chem Safety Board
Guide to Chemical Hazards

Brandon Merkel is a photographer on Long Island NY.  Permission was granted by Mr. Merkel to use the morgue picture above.  The picture was taken some 20+ years after this story took place in
Sept. 1981.  The morgue autopsy table is shown slightly out of original position and plumbing fixtures are missing in the photograph.  The 16 square doors oriented floor to ceiling are the morgue refrigerator.  I observed an autopsy in this morgue room.  This room was located in Building 23, Pilgrim Psychiatric Center, Brentwood, NY.  The predominance of the ground floor was clinical laboratory which I worked as lab assistant for 6 months until Jan. 1982. There are multiple pictures to be found on the internet taken in this morgue but show the condition of the refrigerator in various stages of disarray and destruction.

Scott R. Mayorga A.A.S., BS MT(ASCP)H CLS

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Clinical Laboratory Licensing and Certification; What is the difference?

Laboratory Certification - Laboratory Licensing - What does it all mean?

 With over 239,000 clinical laboratory facilities registered in the US under CLIA - Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments; the public can get quite confused about regulations, certification, and licensing of these facilities.  Under CLIA, there are 29 different categories of Clinical Laboratories.  These can range from a mobile facility on wheels, health fares, hospital labs, and the mega reference labs performing millions of tests per year.  Various States operate licensing or permit programs of clinical labs.  The employees working the lab bench performing the testing of specimens are regulated by certification agencies and State level licensing via each locale.  So what is Laboratory certification?  What is the difference between certification and licensing?  Can a laboratory be certified but not licensed?  Can labs be licensed but not certified?  Can labs lose either certification or licensing and continue to operate?  I will try to answer these questions and explain concepts which can be confusing to laboratory consumers.  What is a Laboratory Consumer?  A lab consumer is you, me, the patient in general.  The doctor orders blood testing for us.  We go to a laboratory to submit specimens for testing, or the Doctor collects  specimens in the office and labs pick them up, or hospital staff come to your bed side to collect specimens.  Your specimens are received in a lab facility and tested.  Laboratory results are then delivered to the doctor who ordered your tests.  We are all consumers of lab testing facilities.  You do have a choice of who, what, where your specimens go for analysis.  What about that lab data?  What is a lab result?  What is lab data?  Laboratory data is the data produced within the laboratory from analysis of specimens; Unconfirmed data.  Clinical Laboratory Scientists test specimens by various methods and instrumentation.  Until that data is confirmed it is just that - data.  Once the data is verified as accurate and under control then the data is confirmed as laboratory results.  Lab results are then conveyed to the doctor for his or her evaluation.  This is a crucial concept to understand.  Lab data is subject to all sorts of regulations, guidelines, control, and evaluation before the data is declared laboratory results.  Just because a lab instrument issues numerical data does not mean that data is ready to be used to evaluate your medical condition or asses the health of an individual.  If quality control checks fail during the analysis of my specimen then the analysis is flawed and must be repeated and evaluated.  If my specimen does not meet guidelines for analysis then a new specimen must be obtained for testing.  Lab results are reported to our doctors.  Lab data is the unverified numbers or raw data issued by the testing method.  You nor I want lab data reported to the doctor.  We want verified lab results being perused by the doctor.

Laboratory licensing is sometimes synonymous with the Lab Permit.  Laboratories are a business.  Labs pay taxes to cities, states, and the federal government.  Various fees, registration fees, rent for building space, etc.  are paid by clinical labs.  A lab must have a permit to operate and test specimens.  Depending on the location of the lab facility a state permit is required and issued by the state department of health to the laboratory on an annual, bi-annual, or some other time period basis.  Renewal is required.  Some states also require inspection of the laboratory facility to maintain license or a lab operator permit.  To complicate the licensing issue, some specimens are collected from patients and transported across state lines or across the country to a central testing facility.  In those cases, the state where the specimens originate have jurisdiction over the performing laboratory no matter where the lab is located.  I personally know of a clinical laboratory that holds national certification but lost a state license due to revocation.  Even though this is a laboratory with quality processes, this facility is analyzing specimens without proper license from a state where samples are collected and jurisdiction is owned.  These lab results reported to physicians are reliable however there is great liability and risk if this facility where to be embroiled in a litigious process.  Basically, in absence of proper licensing laboratories are a risk to public health - especially when there is revocation involved.

Certification is the process a clinical laboratory under takes to gain prestige amongst other clinical laboratories and other competing laboratories; competing for our business.  Is certification of a clinical laboratory required?  No.  However, certification can be a supporting factor in the permit or licensing procedure of a laboratory.  Just depends on the licensing body of that facility.  Various organizations can certify clinical laboratories; the most notable is CAP - College of American Pathologists.   CAP certification is optional is some states or locales; however, that is a tricky road to embark on if you are a lab owner.  CAP certification is often inter-twined in the licensing procedure.  Just depends where the lab is physically located.  Hospitals can also be monitored/certified by JCAHO - Joint Commission on Accreditation of Health care Organizations.

CLIA Certification is different than lab certification described above.  CLIA certification is the permit or license if you will issued by the federal government so that a clinical laboratory can receive payment from CMS - Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.  A lab must be CLIA Certified to receive payments for testing specimens of patients enrolled in medicare or medicaid.

So, now that we know about laboratory certification and licensing what now?  Is this important?  Should a patient be concerned about these concepts when they visit their doctor for a check up?  The answers are yes, yes.  There are labs out there that either are not certified, not licensed, or have lost license or certification, or otherwise there is a lapse of one, both , or the other.  If there is a loss of either license or certification the big question is why?  Did the loss occur because of quality issues, performance issues, or some sort of regulatory infraction?  Either way, would you want your specimens used to screen your health analyzed by a laboratory that has lost certification or license?  I think not.  Do you feel comfortable bringing your car to Joe Smoe shade tree mechanic or your next door neighbor to fix your transmission?  No you don't and you would not do that.  You want someone who knows what they are doing and can prove it. The same with a clinical laboratory.  You want your specimens analyzed at a fully licensed, boastfully certified laboratory that can prove it 24/7/365.

But does a patient really have a choice where their specimens wind up to be tested?  Well sort of.  That depends on their doctor.  Some doctors have business relationships with clinical laboratories.  There is much federal regulation about this area of health care involving the prevention of kick-backs by labs to referring doctors.  The relationship is a loose agreement that the lab will pick up specimens and deliver medical reports to the doctor and may also provide supplies to collect specimens.  Anything more than that basic arrangement between doctor and laboratory and someone is going to jail.  There has been recent re-occurrence of kick-back payments by labs to doctors whereby thousands of dollars are passed to the doctor each year for the lab business from the doctor.  Prosecution of these cases has resulted in doctors going to jail for a long time.

However, you do have a choice where your specimens go.  When the doctor orders testing the order can be written on paper, or script.  You can take that script and go to any lab of your choosing.  You can do your own research and verify the certification and or licensing of labs and go to the one you are satisfied with.  Otherwise, you can let your doctor choose where the specimens go.

Be wise about your health care and be an informed consumer of health services.  Not all labs hold the proper license and certification to perform testing of your laboratory specimens.

To find a CAP Accredited Laboratory near you anywhere in the world click this link:
CAP Certified Laboratories
To find Laboratories that hold License with New York State DOH click this link:
NY State Clinical Laboratory Permit Holders
To find a licensed laboratory in Florida click this link;
Florida Laboratories
For more info about Laboratory Certification and certification of Clinical Laboratory Scientists
click this link; ASCP

Scott R. Mayorga
Straight Talk From The Hematech

Friday, November 1, 2013

Taste of Atlanta 2013 - Grand Daddy of Atlanta Foodie Festivals

2013 turned out to be a banner year for Taste of Atlanta!
Sun, fall weather, warm temperature, great food, and fun people all got together for a celebration.  A celebration of Atlanta's heritage of food and the proprietors there of.

As per Federal Trade Commission Regulation,  16 CFR, Part 255; Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising - - See more at:
As per FTC Regulation, 16 CFR, part 255; Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising - Taste of Atlanta provided me with a Media Pass for the Sunday Taste of Atlanta event in downtown Atlanta, Tech Square.  The reviews of the products I encountered at the festival are my own and are not provided by any one or any entity.

Taste of Atlanta ran for its 12th year October 25-27 2013.  This 10 city block festival was a three day celebration of the food, restaurants, and people of Atlanta.  What a celebration it was.  The food was excellent with many different offerings, some entertainment mixed in, learning opportunities for the aspiring chef in all of us, and the wonderful people of Atlanta. All enjoying themselves in the spirit of cultural diversity by the mouthful.  Atlanta is the southern cultural Mega-Center featuring a melting pot of diverse people and cultures represented by its citizens.  The menu was full of various offerings from Atlanta brand name restaurants and manufacturers with some large chains such as Waffle-House present to bring the Atlanta hometown experience to an abundance.  Some food prep in the tent kitchens was conducted by students of Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Institute. This was a real nice experience to see the students working along side veteran chefs learning and gaining experience. Bravo Le Cordon Bleu!  This festival was a taste-bud tingling experience of epic proportions.  If you have not attended Taste of Atlanta yet - What are you waiting for!  There are many reasons why you should attend; a litany of adventures can be had in the weekend experience that is Taste of Atlanta.
Scenes from Taste of Atlanta 2013 * SweetHeart with Micah the Photographer

Taste of Atlanta was founded 12 years ago with the first foodie festival for downtown Atlanta.  Every year attendance gets larger, the food and drink offerings grow, and the festival gets better organized.  2013 was my first year attending the event and as such I visited with a Media Pass for Sunday the last day of the festival.  Although, I have no prior experience attending the festival I was very pleased with the event, the organizers, the support folks, and the festival proprietors. The representation by the fine dining establishments of Atlanta was immense.  The success of the event is simple.  Paid admission, food tickets, and a smart recycling effort help pay for the event and most importantly, revenue sharing of the food tickets with the vendors help them [vendors] defray some of the costs of setting up shop for the three day event.  What about those vendors?  These are the proprietors - owners if you will - of local restaurants in Atlanta that logistically plan the expert preparation of food offerings curbside at the festival for three days straight.  The infrastructure required to be a success at the festival is phenomenal.  These curbside kitchens were running like pit crews at Atlanta Motor Speedway.  Tight areas to work in, high demand for product, efficiency, speed, and expert food prep all came together in each tent kitchen orchestrated by the owner, an executive chef, or both.  The culinary offerings were amazing.  The variety was grand.  Many a palette was satisfied.  The gastronomic cavities of all attendees left full with good cheer.  I did purchase extra food tickets and I was very glad I did.  I ate from 11 am to 5 pm.  The only downside was tired feet. Last but not least, the one perfect ending of the festival was a large barrel of ice cold Diet Coke cans handed out by the Coca-Cola Corporation to all leaving event participants.  What could be better than that?  Nothing. Thanks Coca-Cola!

So what did I sample and what was really good?  Pretty much everything I ate was good to very good and some offerings were excellent.  There was only one offering I did not care for and basically I don't like smoked salmon so the dish I had with smoked salmon was not on my favorite list.

Here is my list of favorites from 2013 Taste of Atlanta in the order passing through my alimentary canal. Ha-ha!

Sweetwater Growers - Infused Crushed Red Pepper Olive Oil; (Free Tasting)   Delightfully light excellent tasting olive oil infused with red pepper to a slight heat level.  Very fine starter for what was to come.  A local grower, Sweetwater Growers has a wide variety of infused table oils that were just smashing!
Sweetwater Infused Oils

Grilldabeast -  Smoked Fried Chicken Wing; A zesty complex preparation with a crispy sauce, slight tang, slight heat, and oh so good.  This was excellent food truck fare by a well known, well established Atlanta presence - Grilldabeast!
Me - This is Darn Good!

Figo Pasta - Rice Ball Marinara; A saucy Italian style vegetarian rice ball of fine mozzarella cheese and rice, deep fried to crispy perfection, topped with a fresh tomato sauce and Parmesan sprinkle.
Figo Specialty
This was outragiously good.  Probably one of the best offerings in taste, preparation, and portion size.

Shout - Steak Kabob; Freshly grilled steak on a skewer with veggies and pineapple garnish.  Absolutely simple but absolutely scrumptious.

Shout - Fresh Chicken salad on sliced bread;  A sweet offering of light chicken salad garnished with fresh grapes on a crispy round of bread.  Yummy.

High Road Craft Ice Cream and Sorbet - Vanilla bean ice cream with hot peach cobbler;  This was ice cream nirvana.  A scoop of luscious vanilla ice cream topped with hot peach cobbler.  Smooth and creamy fresh made ice cream with a deep vanilla tone topped with fresh peach and crunchy cobbler.  All I can say is WOW!
High Road Ice Cream

Yogli-Mogli - Frozen yogurt; (Free Tasting) A nice respite on the culinary hunt.  Chocolate plain and simple.  Might I digress...

Sugar Shack - Rich chocolate brownie; A delectable massive offering of chocolate perfection; two large brownie wedges of rich dark chocolate origin.  Bittersweet but not overly sweet.  Volume wise, this was a huge plate of brownie desert of high quality master culinary art . I finished both wedges with a cup of joe.  Where's my insulin shot?
Sugar Shack Brownie

Community Coffee - Black coffee; (Free Tasting) A fine offering from the southern family owned coffee roasting company.
A nice, hot, flavorful, and full bodied caffeine fix.

Taqueria del Sol - Brisket Taco;  A savory offering of saucy brisket cooked to tender perfection mixed with salsa garnish on a soft taco whirl.  An excellent offering hand made right in front of me.  Very tasty and complex flavor wrapped - Yummy.

Sparkling Ice - Kiwi Strawberry beverage;  (Free tasting) Light, bubbly low calorie beverage of great taste and sparkling effervescence.

YEAH! BURGER - Beef mini slider;  What more can you say, its Yeah! Burger with pickle and Yeah! sauce.  I scarfed the slider down like no tomorrow.  Savory, juicy, full of flavor yeah its YEAH! BURGER

Morelli's Gourmet Ice Cream - Ginger lavender ice cream; Gourmet is an understatement.  This ice cream was well worth waiting for at the end of the day.  A nice size scoop of tasty ice cream with delicate lavender flavor contrasting a ginger bite.  Definitely, not your grandsons ice cream.  This is an adult offering with a mature tingling of the taste buds.

Taste of Atlanta has something for everyone.  Young and old, culturally diverse, all can find a favorite at this mega smorgasbord of tasting Ecstasy.  Of course I just have to mention the offerings I just could not cram down my pie-hole like cupcakes, cheese cake, shrimp, quail eggs,Waffle House, giant 12 inch pretzels, chocolate dipped fruits, on and on and on.  Italian, Mediterranean, Vegetarian, seafood...  Yes I saw lots of food I just could not eat any more!  In between the vast rows of tent kitchens was the entertainment by local radio stations like Kiss 104.1, 97.1 the River and B 98.5 FM. Even the Hulk Hogan look alike man sat next to me on a bench while he ate a corn dog.  Non-food vendors are also present offering newspaper subscriptions, insurance, trucks, cell phones, etc.  These are the vendors that help pay the cost of running such a festival.  Last but not least were the vendors who supplied goodies to all (swag) if you will.  I only collected a few items listed below but there were many more vendors handing out samples and gifts.
Kings Hawaiian coupons
Dukes Mayo trial size
Food Should Taste Good chips
Larabar trial size
Tobasco mini's
Coca Cola Corp Diet Coke

Taste of Atlanta was a grand orchestration of celebratory revelry in the heart of downtown Atlanta focusing on the Atlanta restaurant scene.  Ambiance was full of fun and good cheer.  All attendees behaved themselves and appeared to be having a very wonderful time.  Support team members were numerous throughout the festival.  These were the folks who were constantly emptying trash bins and recycle waste bags.  These were attentive folks doing a necessary job while causing minimal interference to the celebration at hand.  I was glad to see some vendors offering food to these hard working individuals keeping the festival clean and clutter free.

Yes there is money involved and money to be made at Taste of Atlanta but that is not the most important factor driving the success of this annual festival.  It is the people, love of good food, and cultural diversity represented and celebrated in the food.  All involved with the festival seemed to be having a good time and the restaurants thoroughly enjoyed presenting tastes to the people of Atlanta.  Of course, great thanks goes to Atlanta Police Department for keeping security tight and traffic around the festival moving smoothly.

If you have not attended Taste of Atlanta yet you should.  Here is why:
The restaurants of Atlanta need your support for their existence and their employees
The festival is a marvelous day out with cool temperatures of the romantic fall season
Tickets are a really good value for the entertainment, great food, great people all wrapped up in this wonderful 3 day festival.
The APD really know how to keep traffic to and from the festival moving safely on the surrounding streets.  It was a breeze getting in and out of the festival with convenient parking very very close.

For more information connect with Taste of Atlanta via;
facebook taste of atlanta
twitter taste of atlanta
pinterest taste of atlanta
foursquare taste of atlanta
youtube taste of atlanta 

Some Photography by Micah Coletti
Scott R. Mayorga
Straight Talk From The Hematech

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Whacky Antics of a Laboratory Night Shift Staff; No Not My Lab? - Oh Yes!

 What goes on behind the door down the hall leading to "that Laboratory"

For the most part Clinical Laboratories are tight run ships, designed with aspects of quality, efficiency, and redundancy.  Staff are well trained and train new staff as needed.  Equipment is well kept, maintained meticulously, calibrated per specification, and checked with quality control systems on a daily basis.  The busiest sections of a clinical laboratory often have multiples of the same instruments to have built in redundancy in case an instrument needs maintenance or is flat out broke.  The work goes on especially in a hospital laboratory where it is 24/7/365.  Well what about those clinical laboratory scientists?  Are they calibrated, checked with QC, well maintained, with built in redundancy?  You can bet on that.  Often, the off shift staff are highly trained multi-taskers who master all sorts of tasks on all the laboratory instruments and procedures.  When one scientist goes on break another can come up right in their place and carry on the task at hand whether it be calibration procedures, quality control processes, specimen testing, or maintenance.  What about that break time?  What about when sample receipt in the lab is slow?  What do the wacky scientists do?  I will tell you what they do?  They play Bocce-Bagel! They play Poker.  They sleep.  Sometimes they sleep at the microscope-more about that later.  They take the elevator up to the roof of the building.  Most laboratory directors would say "not my staff - not my night shift, they don't do those sort of things". 

Let me tell you as one who worked many years on the off-shift in a terribly busy Level 1 trauma center; there must be some entertaining distractions or quality of the work will suffer, boredom and weariness set in.  Mostly the distractions clinical staff will employ to refresh themselves are harmless and rarely illegal.  One such distraction for our group of night shifters was what we called "Bocce-Bagel".  Day shift would often get goodies from vendors and often those goodies would consist of several large bags of bagels.  Bagels are cheap. They were plentiful.  It would tick us night shifters off when a dozen or more bagels would be left out open on a counter all day and were stale as a brick by 11 PM.  Oh yeah there would be a note on them "Enjoy", but enjoying them meant cracking your teeth down to bloody nubs! So, what do a dozen half baked scientists do with 2 dozen stale rock hard bagels?  You guessed it.  They throw them around and eventually come up with a systematic way to diffuse on the job stress - the Bocce Bagel way.  This is how you play.
Get your bagels and hand one to each player.  If they are all plain bagels name them with a lab pen.
Go down the hall; every lab has a long hallway of say 25-30 feet long ending at a wall.
Ante up with a quarter, dime, or for the money bags amongst you all, play for a dollar a toss.
One by one players toss their bagel down the hall towards the wall.
Player who comes closest to the wall wins the toss.
Repeat as necessary to relieve stress.

So what are some of the antics we resorted to, err I mean employed to diffuse stress, refresh, and otherwise widen our eyes?  Well of course Nap.  Cat nap that is.  Some of us learned to nap in a lab chair devoid of arm rests; that is quite a feat let me tell you.  Some labs have phlebotomy chairs.  Cushy, comfy chairs with arm rests just like Grandpa used to lay in on a Sunday afternoon and "Cat-Nap".  Oh yeah!  I worked in a hospital a short time that had a cot.  A real good cot padded heavily with accompanying blankets.  Uh well I am just saying it was a nice cot in case a patient was feeling ill during phlebotomy procedures.  Other means for a quick cat nap often make you look like your are actually doing work! Imagine that.  You walk into the lab and see Charlie over their working his heart out at the microscope.  He's reading gram stains and cell counts on that spinal fluid that came down from the ER.  NOT!  Charlie is sleeping.  He looks like he is working.  His forehead is resting on the microscope oculars and he is lights out.  10 minutes, 15, 30 minutes go by...maybe someone should go wake up Charlie; he has been reading that same gram stain for the last half hour.  Nah - let him sleep.  An hour goes by.  A code is called over the public address system.  Charlie wakes up and oh yes he has the tell tale signs of "Ocular Narcosis".  Hard circles embedded so deep into the skin of his forehead they barely go away by the time the day shift starts showing up.  "Sleep is a beautiful thing", I think some mattress company once said.  Anyway.  What else did we do.
Lab Scientist Ocular Narcosis

Exploring - Yes we were like Magellan and Christopher Columbus going where we never went before.  Up the elevator, down to the basement, out the back door, we would have gone to the moon and back if we had a space ship!  One such jaunt was scary as hell.  It was winter, dead winter and January cold.  Windy, blustery, and freezing.  Let's go to the roof! Yes lets get on top of the building and look out over the land.  With only our lab coats to protect us up the elevator we went to the 19th floor.  We searched for a way out and the way out we wanted was in the vertical direction.  Yes we found it.  It looked like a broom closet door.  After we pried it open, alas there was a cat walk and narrow metal grate stairway going up.  After climbing up the the narrow stairs another door but it was unlocked this time.  We did not mean to fling the door open but it sort of pulled out of our hands.  You see the wind created a draft so strong the door flung open viciously as soon as it cleared the latch mechanism.  Oh wow.  Look at that.  You could see for a great distance up here.  It was dark, it was very windy, it was shiverrrrring cold, our teeth were chattering.  There were no safety bars, no fence, nor any other safety mechanism from keeping us on that roof and not flying away like the "Flying Nun".  Ok lets go back down now - yeah lets its cold up here!

Another pass time came from necessity.  You see at the back hallway of the laboratory was an exit door leading to the outside out to the back of the hospital.  Just outside the exit door there was the new MRI building.  MRI was new back then.  MRI was a mysterious machine housed in a closed off building.  No Metal Objects Allowed the signs all said.  Well we kept away alright.  But there were others that were brave enough to get close to that building.  Flies.  Insects of the black Fly kind.  I swear I never saw flies so big almost the size of a quarter.  They would come into the building from the back door out by the new MRI building.  Those incredibly strong magnets were growing flies so big they could take down a small dog.  Into the lab they would fly those flies.  They were hungry flies.  You know what they liked to eat?  Blood smears.  They would land on the freshly made blood smears in Hematology lab and suck up the drying blood on the glass slides.  How disgusting is that.  After their meal they would fly up to the ceiling and warm themselves around the fluorescent lights.  I had to do something about this.  That back door was used as an employee exit so it was constantly letting flies into the building.  We had patients up stairs for goodness sakes.  So here comes Hemabond to the rescue.  Hemabond was the ultimate laboratory multi-tasker.  Hemabond carried a gun - a very nasty rubber band gun.  Loaded with discarded rubber tubing from the coagulation analyzer and adeptly handled by the likes of Hemabond those flies did not have a chance.  I kept the gun inside my lab coat.  Down my sleeve it would sit at the ready.  It was big enough to stretch the rubber tubing 10 inches!  It had a real trigger mechanism.  It was a real beauty of hard wood and metal parts from a hanger used to hang slacks in my closet.  Doctors would walk into the lab and not have a clue they were talking to a super-hero of sorts, carrying a high powered rubber band gun.  Legend has it that I was on the phone calling a critical lab result, sitting in a lab chair at the front of the lab.  Another scientist walked in and pointed up at the ceiling.  I pulled out my weapon of mass fly destruction, aimed with one arm while giving report to a nurse, BLAM! Down that fly came.  Charlie was impressed! He laughed all the way back to Chemistry lab.  I even went out front of the hospital to the traffic circle, sat on the benches, concealed carrying my weapon under my lab coat.  Oh what fun!

Then there was the cafeteria.  Oh the joy of the cafeteria at 2 in the morning.  The grand eatery would open to a narcolepsy afflicted crowd.  One notorious morning, we ventured up to the cafeteria cause this was a typical laboratory down in the basement, two floors below ground, except for the exit out back by the MRI building.  We were bored almost to death.  The usual cafeteria fare was abundant like burgers, eggs any style, toast, day old wrapped sandwiches and other nutritionally challenged offerings.  Peering down into the wells in front of the "Chef"; well she had chef clothes and a chef hat  so we assumed she was a chef.  Who were we to challenge her - who cared?  One of us was bold enough to ask what the green stuff was in the smoldering stainless steel bin with green crud caked up on the sides an inch thick.  As it turns out that was "Split Pea Soup".  Your head had to be split open with a hatchet before eating that stuff.  "What you got to go with that brown gravy" was asked of the esteemed chef?  She looked at the offerings in front of her and said "nothing?".  She had gravy, brown gravy.  No mashed, no french fries, no biscuits, no roast beef.  Nothing to go with the gravy!  Such was the grand experience of the cafeteria at the big hospital at 2 AM.

What else did we do.  Let me see...  Oh yes, Cards.  We played poker in the big conference room.  We had seating for 20 or so.  Sometimes it got cut throat. I did not play much.  I hated to part with my money that way back then.  So I just watched and was glad I was not involved in the sham of it all.  I guess sitting there at the table watching was almost as bad as participating directly as far as management was concerned.  I did like Boccie-Bagel though.  And I always had the Hemabond gun in case things got out of hand.

Well you see working night shift is tough.  You constantly feel like you are sleep walking, everything is "fuzzy", your eyes are tired and blood shot, always weary.  Distractions were just a way to cope with the stresses of the job.  Coffee, lots of coffee helped.  We really did not need the cafeteria though because when we got together for holiday celebrations we really had a feast.  We had a whole turkey dinner once.  All the fixings and deserts abound.  We really lived it up on the night shift.  The work got done.  We did our jobs. We were saving lives.  Level 1 trauma lives.

Well take care my Lab friends.  Don't wake up with Ocular Narcosis.  Your reading glasses will not cover those deep circles.

Scott R. Mayorga  A.A.S., BS MT(ASCP)H CLS

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Help! My Fish Tank Is Leaking Water-Petco to the Rescue

Leaking fish tank led to the most positive customer service experience from my local PETCO store 

Recently, I had to endure what I would call a family tragedy.  If your family had its domicile destroyed and you had to move into temporary quarters until your home was replaced then you know what kind of tragedy I am talking about.  The loss of ones home can be devastating.  If you are part of a family of fish, Cichlids that is; then the loss of the family home can be treacherous and deadly.  Recently, a tragedy is what happened to my fish tank I called Cichlidae Lagoon.  A 37 gallon fresh water fish tank with a small family of Cichlids named Pancake, Dexter, Elvis, and Lilly.  One Friday evening at about 11 PM Cichlidae Lagoon started leaking water fast.  My wife heard the filter system splashing water into the tank, looked over, and said "Oh my gosh - what is wrong with the fish tank?"

Before we knew what was happening about 15 gallons of water had leaked out of a bottom seam of the fish tank onto my carpet flooring.  I had a big mess going on but worst of all my Cichlids were in serious trouble.  What to do?  What to do first?  My wife was going to grab a vase.  I remembered I had a small fish tank in storage in the basement.  She screamed "Go get it fast".  I quickly got the small tank cleaned up and netted my Cichlids into their temporary overnight accommodations.  Then began the 5 hour task of emptying Cichlidae Lagoon before it emptied onto my floor, carpet cleaning, and setting up the small tank with air, heat, and filtering.  What a disaster.  With everything stable we went to bed at about 4:30 AM...

After awakening from slumber, my four Cichlids were ok on the kitchen counter in a real small tank  but they were in trouble.  The filter was not enough, there was not enough water for them, and they were cramped.  I had to do something!  I made a call to a local Aquarium store to see if I could board the Cichlids for a few days.  No answer that Saturday morning.  They were not open yet.  I then called Petco in Buford GA.  I explained my situation to the person who answered the phone and was immediately transferred to the stare manager "Chris".  Chris listened to my issue and then said  the kindest words I could here that day.  He said, "all was going to be alright, bring your fish into the store and we will take care of them until you figure out what to do about replacing the fish tank".  I thanked him over and over again as my main concern was the health and well being of my fish.

My Cichlids are family to my wife and I 

My wife calls them by name and they come to the front of the glass.  I feed them lovingly and take care of their ecosystem of water, air bubbles, temperature control, and filtering system.  I have a sound speaker I put in a plastic bag and submerge to play music for them...The store staff at Petco in Buford, GA were caring and took care of my Cichlids expertly until I got a new tank set up and ready for them to come back home.  From that Saturday afternoon that I took the Cichlids to Petco, leaving them with Store Associate DeeDee, to the evening I picked them back up to come home the staff at Petco looked after my fish and kept them healthy.  The fish seemed to be happy at Petco in a beautiful display tank full of fresh plants with a waterfall and two little Cichlid friends they met who were already there.  It was like the Cichlids went to summer camp!  My wife and I visited them several times that week, spoke with the store staff, and answered questions about the Cichlids they were holding for us.  There were many inquiries from customers wanting to buy my Cichlids but the store staff placed a big sign on the display tank that said "Fish for observation only - Not for Sale".  When we visited, customers often said what beautiful fish they were, asked what kind of fish they were, and how much they were.  You see they are beautiful Cichlids; Pancake is about 2 years old and 5 inches; bight baby blue.  Dexter is just under 2 years old and is 6 inches; yellow and black like a bumble-bee.  Elvis is about 1.5 years old and almost 5 inches; black with blue stripes.  Lilly is about a year old and almost 3 inches; albino pink with ruby red eyes.
Pancake and Dexter going to Summer Camp

What Happened?

As it turns out I purchased the 37 gallon fish tank from the Buford GA Petco store in Jan. 2012.  Fish tanks rarely develop leaks as serious as my tank did and certainly not so soon after purchase.  Usually, fish tanks can last 10-20 years with good care placed in a stable environment.  Chris, the store manager was very concerned about the tank leaking.  I was too and I was afraid that another tank would also leak prematurely. After all one does not expect a tank to leak so badly.  Chris and several store associates all reassured me that such an occurrence is rare.  I email contacted the manufacturer that Saturday but it was Labor Day weekend and the manufacturer runs M-F, 9-5.  I waited till almost Wednesday after Labor Day before getting an email response.  Basically, I was told by email "let us know if the store does help you and what they did for you".  The email came from someone with a title indicating they worked for a company other than the manufacturer, like a customer service triage representative.  Anyway, hearing nothing else I spoke with store staff that week including managers Becky and Sean who assured me Petco would stand behind the product.  After speaking with Chris by telephone again that week, it was agreed that I should return the leaking tank to the store for store credit with which I could use to purchase a new tank for my Cichlids.  I was so thankful and grateful.  At this point I was in awe of the way I was being treated by Chris, Sean, and Becky the store managers; the rest of the staff who looked after the Cichlids while there at "Summer Camp" were also pleasant, cheerful, and concerned for the Cichlids.  Petco really came through for me and the Cichlids.  They really cared about the fish and made sure they were going back home in excellent condition.  With the store credit I was issued I was able to get a new tank, some replacement supplies, new live plants, and the two little Cichlids that spent Summer Camp together with my Cichlids.  I brought them home a week later.  When I picked up the Cichlids originally, the store staff did not want to sell me the little Cichlids because they were not tagged for sale yet.  That happened after my Cichlids went home.  So now they are all together in Cichlidae Lagoon II.

I can't say thank you enough to Becky, Sean, DeeDee and Chris at the Buford GA Petco store for turning a disaster into a positive experience but mostly for saving my fish from a stressful situation or possibly death.

Let me tell you about my Buford Petco Store. The fish tanks at are beautiful.  I have 6 Cichlids now and 5 of them were purchased from Petco.  They have a vast selection of fresh water fish, salt water fish, turtles, and other aquatic animals and plants.  Numerous aquatic supplies and decorations abound in the aisles.  See my pictures below I took during visits to the store while the Cichlids were at summer camp.  The store is well organized, CLEAN - Spotlessly clean, with open aisles and vast selections of whatever your pet needs are.  Prices are just right and Petco Pals prices are even better with a Petco Pals customer loyalty card.  Petco even has a Unique on-line information community board called PTP - Petco Talk Place.  The Talk Place has different areas for Dogs, Cats, Birds, Fish, small land animals, and even snakes.  The staff at Buford Petco are just wonderful and knowledgeable.  While there at the store visiting the Cichlids I observed customers perusing aisles, looking over the fish tanks, and selecting new family members to go home with them.  I watched as the store staff cheerfully answered questions, advised, and carefully retrieved fish from tanks for the customers.  I observed a happy cheerful environment every time I visited that week which was almost everyday for a week - I missed my little Cichlids!

I have a special place in my heart for Buford Petco and the loving staff that took care of my Cichlids.  I know that this is not normal practice for Petco but under extenuating circumstances Petco did what had to be done and did it cheerfully and professionally.  It is now several weeks later and the Cichlids are all doing well adjusting to their new home "Cichlidae Lagoon II".

See below for links to Petco, Petco (PTP) Information Community, the Petco Pals program, and  Petco Foundation -  Helping to support companion animals with $15 million per year in donations.

Thanks Petco - you saved the life of 4 little Cichlids that mean so much to my wife and I.

Scott Mayorga A.A.S., BS MT(ASCP)H CLS

United Pet Group has since contacted me and offered to reimburse for full purchase price of the leaking fish tank.  Thank you United Pet Group for stepping up and completing a postive customer service experience in full manner with concerns and well wishes for the Cichlids.

Petco web site
Petco Fish on line Community
Petco Pals Club - Customer Rewards
Petco Foundation
Petco on Pinterest
Petco on facebook
Connect with Petco on twitter; @Petco

Petco Buford - Mall of Georgia

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