Sunday, April 28, 2013

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.


Anonymous said...

Was that the same person who worked at Ace?

I missed all the fun, hahah

Anonymous said...

Thanks for finally writing about >"Slight Imbalance" <Loved it!

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