The guinea pig

I randomly got a postcard in the mail one day from a company seeking to recruit subjects for a research study about weight loss. I’m constantly on the path to lose weight, get in shape, etc., so the ad piqued my interest. What further interested me was the fact that there were no drugs nor fad diets involved.

So I logged onto the website and completed their initial survey. I get a call 2 days later from a woman who is one of the study coordinators and schedule an appointment to visit their offices.

I arrive on the top floor of an old building in downtown Manhattan. About 10 minutes later a study coordinator arrives and escorts me to one of their tables. They hand me 2 consent forms, one to participate in the study and another to draw blood for lab work. I have some background working in research so I spend a bit of extra time reading the consent forms & asking the study coordinator for some background info about the research.

The study is being conducted to measure which methods for assisting in weight loss are most effective. I’m then led into another room where I was to be randomized to one of two groups. The first was to utilize a health app that tracks meals, exercise, calories, steps taken, etc. The second group would use an established diet program. I step on the scale and of course don’t like the results of it, LOL. Then they proceed to take my blood pressure; and here’s where the shenanigans begin.

The study coordinator brings out one of those electronic blood pressure machines. I know from working in health care that those machines are notorious for inaccurate readings. But at the same time, I understand why the study coordinators are using them, they are not medically trained to take blood pressures the traditional way. As I expected, the first blood pressure reading gives a ridiculously high number that had it been real I’d be in an intensive care unit. I ask the woman if she is using an extra large cuff. Health professionals know to use larger cuffs in obese patients to get a more accurate blood pressure reading. Then the machines kept malfunctioning. Several more readings still were abnormally high but trending downwards.

I noted to the study coordinator that aside from being overweight, I don’t suffer from any chronic medical illnesses. A lot of folks would’ve been alarmed thinking they had severe hypertension, but I had just had my annual physical within the last couple months and a similar instance occurred. The medical assistant checked my blood pressure with an electronic machine and got a ridiculous reading. I’m left in the room waiting for the doctor anxious thinking I have hypertension. I mention to the doctor the abnormal reading and he dismisses it, but takes my blood pressure the traditional way to reassure me, and it’s normal.

In my head I’m thinking here’s a flaw in your study. A second study coordinator comes in to assist. A high blood pressure reading would disqualify me from the study but their machines aren’t working properly so they’re not sure how to proceed. One is texting the principal investigator for guidance. After several minutes wait, a final reading is made and it’s just above the limit for study entry. The investigator OK’s me for entry to the study but they note the machine malfunction.

I was assigned to the phone app group so the study coordinators proceed to download their app onto my phone. I use the app to record meals, exercise, steps taken, etc. I’m also given a scale to record my weight every 2 weeks. A second study coordinator escorts me from the building to a local lab facility several blocks away. During the cab ride, the driver complains about the snow being dumped onto the streets making it more difficult for drivers. I replied to the driver the streets in this area were clean compared to the Bronx where I traveled from to get to my appointment. Sidewalks there were still covered with snow and deep slush at the corners.

At the lab, my carnelian bead bracelet snapped, spreading beads all over the room. Then after flinching a little at the blood draw, the phlebotomist says that she felt scar tissue at the site where she poked my arm. Girl are you kidding me?! That might be plausible if I were a heroin addict, or someone constantly getting lab work done. Scar tissue from at most once a year blood sticks, and not always done in the same area? How about you’re not the smoothest phlebotomist.

My day was so done and I got home from work later than usual so I stopped for some Chinese food. So my weight loss journey didn’t get off to a good start, LOL. In my effort to keep it as “healthy” as possible I got chicken with broccoli, so I’d feel a little less guilty by incorporating some vegetables in the meal.

Tomorrow is my first weigh in. I don’t have to report to the study folks until next week so I still have a chance to get it together.

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Nicky
    Feb 12, 2015 @ 19:33:25

    You’re very brave to continue. With inexperience and malfunctioning machines how can they really tell what your risks are and how you should proceed.

    Good luck friend. I’m trying to lose my stomach and 20lbs so we’re in this together. 😀

    Reply

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