Flunking the Urine Test

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To: Community Relations Director, County Medical Center
Regarding: Flunking the Urine Test
From: Thea Heying
I can’t blame the County Medical Center Laboratory staff for my failure to pass the test. Your people were professional, friendly, and easy to deal with, but I waived their offer to go over the details. I believed I was not only familiar with the procedure, but thoroughly competent to perform it. After all, if I could deliver a clean sample in a Dixie Cup a few years back, which I had, why bother with directions now? I took the package they handed me and marched into the unisex restroom.

I cannot imagine I am the only female who has struggled with the obstacles I am about to describe. Here is where our shared culpability begins.

As I closed the door a handwritten notice warned me to check the lock to make sure it was working. I immediately pictured possible scenes if I skipped this step. I searched for a place to put my magazine and handbag in order to try the lock. The sink appeared my only option. Was it okay to stash my stuff on the sink? Could anything get contaminated by a magazine? What about my handbag? I was pretty sure the handbag was loaded with germs, but I balanced handbag and magazine on opposite edges of the sink and tested the lock. It appeared to be functioning.

I recalled from previous experience the next step involved a thorough hand washing.  As I soaped up my hands I bumped the magazine and it fell onto the floor. I rinsed my hands, replaced the magazine and began again. 

What follows is highly personal, so please bear with me. I adjusted my clothing, sat on the toilet, and opened the kit with the empty vial that had my name typed on its label. The vial was topped by a rectangular shaped funnel and accompanied by directions along with three packages of wrapped wipes. At that moment I spotted another set of directions printed at eye level on the wall opposite me. I followed the wall directions. 

Questions came up: Do I open all three foil wipes before I start and if I do where do I stash the open ones as I proceed?  If I open then sequentially, where should I throw the wrappers? The garbage can was sink-side, beyond an arm’s length away. Do I get up to throw away the used ones or do I flush them? How do I get across the room to the waste basket in my current state of undress? It was then I noticed a narrow shelf on the wall alongside the toilet at shoulder height. I could temporarily place the wrappers holding all three clean wipes on it. As I did this one of the clean opened wipes dropped onto the floor. I’ll get it to the garbage can later, I thought, and proceeded with the other two.

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I began to urinate, positioned the funnel, and quickly filled the vial to overflowing. It splashed onto my sleeve. Then I noticed the directions on the wall said to fill it to only half or two thirds. I dumped the excess, splashing again.  I held it up to measure, dripping but perfect!

I tried to cap the vial with the funnel attached. No luck. I tried to pull the funnel off and splashed the floor and my jeans. I discovered the funnel unscrewed. I rested the vial, now minus its funnel on the shelf along with the wipe wrappers, adjusted my clothing, and absorbed what moisture I could from the floor with a paper towel. I used a fresh paper towel on the ring formed by the bottom of the vial on the shelf. I capped the specimen, dumped my garbage into the can, washed my hands, retrieved my handbag and magazine, opened the door and placed the golden liquid in a small niche in the wall labeled for the purpose, just outside the restroom door.

As I left the building the thought occurred to me the Dixie-Cup had been a better system. It had catered to my skill level and there had been no problem with a “clean catch” as I remembered some of the tests had been labeled. I may have been right because a couple of days later I received notice that I had failed the urine test and needed to retake it. 

Yesterday I produced a new, and I hope improved, urine sample to replace the one they recalled. I took the test in a different restroom. I read the directions on the wall which were the same as in the room I used previously. This time I read the directions enclosed in the packet too.  They didn’t exactly match those on the wall because the ones on the wall didn’t refer to the funnel.  

I hope I passed the test this time around.  I was paying more attention, but I still struggled with juggling wipes, garbage, the container, and my clothing. It’s Michigan; we need extra layers of clothing here to keep warm and extra hooks and shelves to park it on when we undress. The two hooks behind the door didn’t do it for me. On a more positive note, the niche to hold the sample, discreetly located on the inside of the second room, was a good idea.

I suggest in the future a female OT be consulted on the placement of fixtures, signage, and moveable objects in both restrooms. A few modifications could improve sanitation, reduce patient frustration, and save money obtaining clean specimens the first time. 

Respectfully but Humorously Yours,

Thea Heying


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