Monday, April 29, 2013


My time at St. Francis Hospital in Port Washington New York was limited to just about a year.   Anyone who knows me knows that I like to stay with the same employer as long as possible, until something really good comes along, or until I escape.   Wow, some of the "Death Camps" I found myself in!  Some jobs are like quick sand.   You get pulled down gradually, slowly until your in up to your throat.  You wake up, smell the Sanka, and say I gotta get the hell out of dodge.  Well that's it for the cliches.

 Working night shift at St. Francis was what I did there.  Some nights I was a one man band others I had a partner, "Sam" was his name.   He was a good guy.   Just like me he was a good guy in the wrong place at the wrong time.   I could have worked there for a decade if it wasn't for the actions of shall I say... "Mr. Crank-Yanker".  St. Francis was a full function hospital lab with Microbiology, Toxicology/TDM, usual Hematology, Chemistry, Serology, Special Chemistry, and an awfully busy BloodBank.  St. Francis was and is the premier Cardiac Care hospital on the North Shore of Nassau County New York.  The lab was stocked full of high tech analyzers which were fairly new with a couple "State of the Art" pieces.    Mr. Crank-Yanker was the Chemistry Supervisor smug, powerful because his buddy was the Lab Manager, he often acted like he was Teflon-Don, King Turd on Crap Mountain, Capt'n Luggey on the SS Kleenex, I could go on....He was a charming chap as long as your lips were sore if you get my drift.

 Anyway, the shift for me ended sometime around whenever I was done answering questions from the day shift techs, preparing the days chemistry reagents, checking in one last time in bloodbank and whatever else around 8:00 AM.   I would leave the building passing by the rows of Ferrari, Porsche, Mercedes Benz, & Beemers, it made you sick to look at making just barely enough to live and payback student loans.   On the hour long drive home in my 1982 5spd Celica, I would often think about the shift, the patients I collected blood from,  and the workload. Some patients were very dear and thanked you for taking their blood even though it was painful or it was the 2nd or 3rd stick in less than 24 hours.   Other patients complained incessantly but that was their right.   They were sick or just had open heart surgery.   A needle stick was the least of their troubles but it was a big deal to them.  Healthcare is terribly rewarding in more ways than money.  Compassion for fellow man, doing the right thing, Safety, and customer service even though we did not call it customer service back then;  it was just providing the best care we could with what we had.  Without computers everything was on paper, log books and tickets with lab results which were sent to nursing stations for charting.   The biggest reward of healthcare is getting people or animals (for the vet lab folks) back to health. No tips, no presents, once in a while a thank you.  The absolute best is when the patients leave out the front door in a wheel chair to a waiting family instead of a gurney out the back to a waiting blacked out station waggon.

 Oh Well, the reason for my escaping this death camp for the next was simple.   Harassment.  You see I was just married in 1984 to my beautiful bride Leslie.  We were newlyweds, both working night shift at different facilities of the Catholic Archdiocese of New York. Leslie was a RN working in Neonatal ICU.   We had lots of stories to share with each other.  Although her patient contact was more intense and deep leading to either really positive outcomes or terrible despair.   My beautiful bride would also come to hate Mr. Crank-Yanker as much as I did.

 I would leave the hospital by 8-8:30 AM. Leslie would get home from her shift around 7:30-7:45.   By the time she got into bed and just about fell asleep, her slumber would be interrupted by the telephone.   There were no cell phones back then. Even Mr. Crank-Yanker, "I drive a Beemer" did not have a cell phone.   This was the land-line ringing.   She answered the phone and what she would get in her ear was "Is Scott There?"   "This is St. Francis Lab - We were wondering where specimen xyz was placed?"  The first couple of times she answered that call she gracefully said "Scott is not home yet - I will tell him you called when he gets home". By the Fifth time Leslie was woken up to be asked where a specimen is she is getting downright pissed!   Her responses went from "I'll tell him to call you when he gets home" to "Do you know it takes him an hour to get home - He just left the lab!" ...  "Why are you calling everyday at the same time, waking me up an hour before he gets home!".  Now she is getting pissed at me, she hated the jerk who is calling every day, she is losing sleep, and we are getting into a miserable state every morning.  The last straw is a quiet morning, Leslie asleep in bed, I am driving home from work and the phone rings.   It is none other than Mr. Crank-Yanker asking where specimen xyz is.  Well, she lets him have it.   He deserved it.  He owned it.  Her final words were "If you don't stop calling me I am going to report you to the police!"   From that point on the morning harassment calls stopped...for a few weeks.  By now, it was common knowledge among my co-workers on day shift that according to King Turd my wife was a nasty bitch.   My work life was becoming increasingly excruciating.   I was written up for frivolous stuff as insubordination after I wrote a complaint to HR about the harassment.  It was a losing battle. King Turds buddy was the lab manager which I had to confront both of them at the same time to discuss my complaint.  Soon thereafter the calls started again.   Any way, several key staff members had enough with Mr. Crank-Yanker as well and we all left the premises for good within a few months.

 I was off to bigger and more atrocious death camps to be chalked up in my work history as a Medical Technologist.   There was a rabble of horrible managers, crazy co-workers, and terrible conditions to bang out in the years to come.  Medical Technologist;  That's what we were called back then unless you were my Grandmother; she called me Lab-Turtle. idk?  Now we are called "Clinical Laboratory Scientists".
Good day my friends.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Standing Room Only

My 1st position as a certified Medical Technologist was on night shift at the grand St. Francis Heart Center in Port Washington NY.  

This was a famous 225 bed hospital devoted to open heart cardiac care on Long Island, NY.  Run and organized by the Catholic Archdiocese of NY, no expense was spared when it came to the pediatric wing of the hospital.  Then First Lady Nancy Reagan visited the facility to bring and introduce to America, two small children from South Korea who were undergoing open heart surgery to correct heart defect.  The operation was a success, Ms. Nancy was elated, the children went home to South Korea, everything was grand.  As grand as the doctors parking lot which was like a Starbucks on Rodeo Drive.  Ferrari, Mercedes, Jaguar, Aston Martin were all representative of the fine work the cardio-thoracic surgeons were performing everyday at St. Francis.

It was a hot summer night and one of those nights I did not look forward to at the Laboratory.  It was a solo night.  That meant after the evening shift left at 11:30 PM I was all alone until the 1st day shift techs showed up at 6:00 AM.  Yeh it was rough.  Managing workload between Hematology/Urinalysis, Chemistry, Serology, and BloodBank there was barely enough time to grab a quick bite to eat.  Upon arriving at the lab that evening I was informed that it was not a good day. The morgue was 75% filled to capacity.   You see, at St. Francis Hospital, it was a typical laboratory.

Located in the basement, down the corridor around the back of the cafeteria (Which closed at 7 PM) was the lab location.  Inside the confines of the lab was the "morgue".  The "morgue" consisted of a walk-in refrigerator that had room for 4 stretchers; 2 on one side of the door and 1 on the left side of the door, and one stright in, that's it period.  Starting out the evening with three stiffs on ice was not the usual at St. Francis.  However, the situation quickly got out of control.  Before the evening shift left for the night, "Nurse Ratchet" wheeled down stiff #4.  I signed the body into the "Morgue Book" and I informed the nurse "that was it - no more room".  "No vacancy at the Inn we are at 100%"  She said "Oh well? - my shift is done and I am on my way out - good luck".  Now this was a real nail biter.  In all my shifts, I had never before been at 100% morgue capacity.

Well, little did I know Mr. Cardiac Infarction was just pounding on the door to get in to the Inn.  After, about an hour of mundane lab work running the usual stat Chem7 and CBC's, checking the OR Schedule in bloodbank to make sure all was prepared, the phone rings.  It is none other than my favorite charge nurse, [Mr. Wiseass].  This charge nurse and I have had run ins before.  So, far I was 2/2 winning in the I was right - you were wrong - you are an idiot game.  Mr. Wiseass calls to tell me he has a patient that is being brought down to the morgue "as we speak".  I said "hold on there; I already have 4 bodies in a refrigerator that holds 4 stretchers - there is no room, no vacancy".  Wiseass tells me something so repugnant, so disastrous, so dysfunctional I could not believe my ears...Wiseass tells me ;"There is nothing I can do, the body is on the way down, you are going to have to double-bunk two bodies on one stretcher - maybe you can stand them all up instead?"  Well here goes 3/3..."No way - I will not allow that."  "You are going to have to call a funeral director and get them to come in and pick up a body now instead of later this morning".  Within an hour, one body was going out the back door and now there was room for Mr. Infarction at the inn.

Slight Imbalance

"Slight Imbalance"

Straight out of school 1981, sporting an A.A.S. Degree in MLT (Medical Laboratory Technology) my college program director told me that the local psychiatric facilities were hiring several part-time Lab Assistants for the clinical laboratories at various facilities on Long Island, NY.  These were scary places.  Places that have been showcased on TV as being haunted with strange apparitions.  My first location at Pilgram Psychiatric center, the cornerstone of NY State Dept of Mental Health on Long Island had a long history of caring for the demented, insane, and just plane wacky individuals of society back in a time when care was present.  Nowadays, these are the folks wandering the streets, homeless, picked up and in jails.  

After 6 months of wonderful experience I was transferred to the smaller facility in the next town, Central Islip Psychiatric Center.  This was more of a country club setting along the Sagtikos Parkway (Created by engineer Robert Moses) except, the buildings had bars, the paint was institutional shades, the door keys were large skeleton brass type that clicked loudly when used to open a gate or door, and the staff were as wacky as the residents.  The common goals were the same; mainly caring for those unfortunate soles placed there against their will.  These were truly crazy imbalanced folks; not dangerous just truly crazy. 

 One morning, arriving to work my part time shift, the lab was bustling with activity and staff as was always the norm.  One particular individual was rather bossy (she really chapped my ass) but really only had charge of herself and nothing else.  This fellow staff member I will call [Phyllis] told me "I will load the centrifuge this morning, your are too new to now how to do that". Being willing to always watch a spectacle unfold I intently watched as she placed the nearly 100 tubes of blood that were collected from patients that morning into the brass rotor of an old relic of a centrifuge;  an IEC Model on a cast iron pedestal and very heavy.  "Ok now" she said as she cranked the timer to start the high speed revolution of the centrifugal workhorse.  After a minute of wobbling which sometimes occurred when the old machine started spinning, the workhorse started to groan and walk.  Heads turned because this was apparently a familiar but rare sound to emanate from the device.  What happened next was absolutely horrific.  Groaning turned to screeching for a split second then a huge crash and what sounded like a train wreck lasted for several seconds.  Glass tubes full of blood clots, serum and rubber stoppers were ground into a gelatinous mess inside the centrifuge by the high speed spinning rotor off its center spindle, all inside a cast iron vessel...the sound was deafening.  A "Slight Imbalance" inside the centrifuge created by the staff member who told me I was too new to load the centrifuge resulted in absolute chaos and destruction of 100 blood specimens and an awful mess of blood and ground up glass inside the machine.  The most unfortunate aspect of this story is all those patients would have to be stuck with needles again the next day, this time by angry nurses and psychiatrists.  As for the poor slob who caused the mess, she spent all day cleaning out the machine which was also a rare time when she donned rubber gloves to do her work.  As for the IEC Centrifuge?  It was back in service by that afternoon freshly cleaned and ready to go.  That was a real workhorse of the lab just like the Technicon 2-channel auto-analyzer that was used to analyze blood glucose and BUN on a daily basis.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

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Monday, April 1, 2013

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