One early morning in January, May went to the lab to undergo a three-hour glucose screening. Workers at the lab had instructed her to fast for 10-12 hours and only drink water. They told her to bring something to do because she would be at the lab building for about three and a half hours. Since the lab opened at 7:15am she stopped eating around 6:45 the previous evening. She made sure to drink lots of water, though she’d already drunk half a gallon during the day. Even though she wanted to snack throughout the night, she knew she could say no to herself.
Just after 7am, May checked into the lab the morning of her appointment. The lab assistant behind the counter verified her name, address, and insurance information. The lab person wore a Gryffindor jacket, which somehow helped her make sure the lab received the order for the screening from May’s doctor. She told May that a phlebotomist would call her name shortly, so May and Reilly sat in the waiting area.
Reilly came, aww.
At 7:15 a nice lady called May’s name and brought her back to a room where they draw all the blood and drink it as an elixir to prolong life. The phlebotomist — we’ll call her T — told May they need to take an initial draw to make sure her glucose levels weren’t already elevated. Once they determined the levels, May would then drink the stuff.
So T poked May’s vein in the crook of her right elbow and took a small tube’s worth of blood. She bandaged the tiny hole-wound and wrapped her elbow with red medical stretchy cloth tape. May then went back to the waiting area. Ten minutes later T came out and told May that she “passed” and handed a small bottle of clear liquid to her.
T then gave her instructions:
- Drink the stuff within five to eight minutes (of now).
- You can drink water throughout the three hours, but no eating.
- The stuff might give you some nausea, but that will go away.
- If you end up vomiting, you have to do the test all over again.
- Try not to vomit.
- No gum or mints.
- You can get up to use the bathroom, but don’t walk around a lot.
- Draw blood every hour for the next three hours.
- You don’t have to wait for us to come get you; you can go ahead and come back to the room when it’s time.
T then gave May a piece of paper with times for blood draws.
T was super nice and reassuring. She asked May if she had enough water and to let her know if she needed more. Then T walked back to the blood room.
May twisted the lid off the bottle of stuff. She poured some of the stuff into the small paper cup that T supplied and began drinking. She asked Reilly to take a picture during this part of the process. May did not hide her disgust.
The worker at the front desk told her that the stuff would taste a little bit like Sprite, but a lot sweeter. It did have a lemon-lime flavor, but have you ever drunk anything so sweet it tasted bitter and tacked onto the roof of your mouth? Cloying is the word that comes to mind.
Why was May even doing this? The Monday before she took a one-hour glucose screening at her doctor’s office. Similar procedure: 12-hour fast beforehand, only water during the fast, orange stuff (that made her feel woozy) instead of clear stuff, draw blood one hour later. The office called her three days later (which was later than usual because of the New Year’s Day) to tell her that glucose levels were abnormal, and that she would have to schedule the three-hour test. In the days leading to this longer test, May and Reilly read about gestational diabetes on the internet, just enough to get worked up to a moderate frenzy on the inside but managed to stay calm and cool on the outside. May also began glugging more water. She bumped up from a half gallon to three quarts each day. Why would her glucose levels be high?
So now May was sitting around in the lab building waiting area. She read, played games, talk to Reilly, and watched people struggle with the check-in kiosks. Slight nausea emerged but soon subsided. The only thing she looked forward to about the blood draws were the different colors of the stretchy cloth tape:
8:25 – purple; right arm, no problems because my right arm veins are trusty.
9:25 – blue; left arm, which had never been poked because the veins there aren’t as big as those in the right arm. But May didn’t want four holes in the same vein.
10:25 – pink; left arm. T had trouble getting the vein to shoot so she moved the needle’s tip around inside May’s arm for nearly 30 seconds until blood shot in a quick and steady stream into the tube. “Come on, vein,” she said, coaxing it. This did not hurt but was weird anyway because a needle was waving around inside May’s very own arm, and that’s just a weird thought.
Each time May went back to the blood room T asked how she felt. On one of the screens in the waiting room T’s bio appeared. It said she’s been a phlebotomist for 21 years and has drawn blood over 140,000 times. Experienced and nice. And early in the morning, when it seems easier to be nice.
The last time T drew May’s blood May said that the last hour of waiting was the longest. T sympathized. She also seemed pleased to learn that May would not be driving home. She said that she hoped May had a good lunch planned.
May asked how soon the results would come. T said she’d send the tubes to the lab right away and have the results in a few hours, but the lab would notify the doctor’s office. So if May doesn’t hear from the doctor’s office within the next day, she should call them. May thanked T for all her help then went out to a late breakfast with Reilly. French toast, eggs, sausage. Nothing overboard, but very delicious. May really enjoyed eating after not eating for 15 hours. Which is the longest she’s gone without eating since before she became pregnant. Six! months ago.
The next day May meant to call the doctor’s office at 4pm but forgot. And when she remembered the office had already closed.
The day after that May told herself that she would call in the morning. When she had been at work for about an hour, she got up to use the bathroom then talked with a coworker for about five minutes. When she got back to her workstation, she saw that she had a new voicemail message. She listened to the message from the doctor’s office and returned the call.
The results came back from the lab. Levels are normal. May does not have gestational diabetes.
May will continue to eat well and maintain drinking three quarts of water a day and go for short walks. Nothing will really have to change.
May let out a little “yippee!” on the phone and the front desk worker at the doctor’s office laughed. Sure, lots of women get gestational diabetes, and lots of those women go back to being perfectly healthy after pregnancy. May would have taken it in stride and managed just fine, but still, she and Reilly are extremely relieved.