22 Nights and 23 Days:
Diary of #1J, Drug Study Subject

A Guinea Pig Zero Web Exclusive!

Monday, August 28, 2006
I call THE LAB to find out if they have any study openings. I talk to a nice woman who tells me about a 23-day/22-night study paying $3300. There aren't too many blood draws, and there are no water or food restrictions. The drugs to be studied are FDA approved and already on the market. The purpose of the study is to determine how the two drugs act and interact and react when taken together.

It all sounds good, except that the drugs in question (Lexapro and Abilify) are mind altering, not really in a fun way, but in that Lexapro is given to folks dealing with depression and Abilify is given to folks dealing with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. It seems a little scary, but I get on the Internet and do a lot of research on the two drugs. After several hours of soul-searching, I decide to do the study. I remind myself (as I always do) that I will be able to quit the study any time I feel uncomfortable.

I call THE LAB again, and set up a screening appointment for two days later.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006
My screening is at 8am. Mr. T drives me to THE LAB. We are there in plenty of time. I fill out my medical history, read and sign the house rules, and spend a lot of time reading the study protocol very carefully. It is freezing in the waiting area, and I haven't worn a jacket. At least I am wearing jeans and not shorts.

After reading, initialing, and signing what seems like a hundred pages, I give a urine sample, have my vitals (blood pressure and temperature) measured, and lie down for an ECG (electrocardiogram). (ECGs and EKGs are the same thing: a record or display of a person's heartbeat produced by using electrodes placed on the skin of the limbs and chest. EKG is the abbreviation for the German term. Apparently, the technology was developed in Germany.) The blood draw goes fine–one clean, nearly painless stick. Sometimes the workers at THE LAB have trouble getting my blood, so this easy blood draw is a relief.

I had to fast for 10 hours before the screening, so I am pretty hungry by this time. I am relieved when I am moved to the part of the process that involves eating a blueberry muffin and drinking a small bottle of apple juice. It seems to take forever to get to see the doctor, but finally I go through that examination with my favorite doc. After that I am good to go, and Mr. T and I head home. I am pretty sure I'll hear something by Friday or Tuesday at the latest. (Monday is Labor Day.)

Friday, September 1, 2006
No word from THE LAB.

Tuesday, September 5, 2006
I call THE LAB. There is no decision on whether or not I can check in for the study. I am assured that I will be called when a decision is made.

Wednesday, September 6, 2006
After getting a whole lot of THE LAB'S automated message system, I get through to a real live person. There is still no decision on whether or not I can check -in for the study. I am again assured that I will be called when a decision is made.

Thursday, September 7, 2006
The same thing that happened yesterday happens today.

Friday, September 8, 2006
I am getting a bit panicky. I still don't know if I am in the study or not. If I am in, check-in day is this coming Monday. If I'm in, I need to do some shopping and pack and stop eating chocolate and other products with caffeine. Not knowing makes me feel out of control.

I call THE LAB repeatedly, getting the automated message system again and again and again. Finally, finally I talk to a live human person who puts me on hold so she can speak with the study director. When she comes back on the line, she says that a decision has still not been made, but the study director promises to call me back in 30 to 40 minutes.

The study director (Sara) calls me. I have been accepted to check-in on Monday. Now I go into o verdrive, packing, making sure that I have enough pairs of socks and underwear to last me 23 days, picking out books to read.

Day 1 of 23, Monday, September 11, 2006 Check-in Day
I have to be at THE LAB at 7am for check-in. Mr. T drives, and I arrive early. We have fun on the drive over, finding actual music on morning radio, singing along, and discussing the merits of The Beatles vs. Elvis. (We both agree that The Beatles win.)

Being accepted to check in to the study doesn't mean that I'm in the study. I have to go through all the same procedures and tests that I went through during screening, in order to make sure I am still healthy and qualified to participate.

After being weighed, giving urine and blood samples, having my vital signs measured, having an ECG done, eating a muffin, and being examined by the doctor, I am shuffled into the mini-dorm. For quite a while, I think I am the only woman in the study, but a worker assures me that there are two other women checking in.

One woman of the women, who seems to be a few years older than I am and who is the sister of a worker at THE LAB, is soon sent home because she took a Tylenol recently. These studies tend to be very picky about even over-the-counter drug use.

The other woman is in the bed next to me. She seems to have a combative attitude. Every question she asks the staff seems to be a challenge. Later in the afternoon, we are told that I am in the study and she is the backup. YES! I am one step closer to completing this study and collecting my payment.

I am assigned #1J.

Day 2 of 23 Tuesday, September 12, 2006
I dose today, and the woman in the next bed is released, as they did not need her as a backup. She does not seem pleased.

I take the Lexapro at 8:45 this morning. I read and write letters all morning, then eat lunch. After lunch, I am soooooo sleepy. I decide to take a nap. I sleep deeply, and have a difficult time dragging myself fully awake after I come to a little and decide that if I sleep all day, I may not be able to sleep through the night. Mr. T and I have a joke about the “Sleep Monkey.” Whenever we have a difficult time waking from a deep sleep, we talk about the Sleep Monkey sitting on our chest. This afternoon it feels like the Sleep Monkey brought along his friend the Sleep Cinder Block, plopped that down on my chest and sat on top.

From an email sent to potential visiting friends:
Here I am at The Lab. I have already read two books and read five magazines pretty thoroughly.

So far I am doing well. We got chicken strips for dinner last night, which made me really, really, really happy. Oh, yes, those chicken strips are good.

I am the only woman in this study. There are 9 guys in the same study, but I'm the only female.

This week is going to be really easy. Today through Sunday I wake up in the morning, take a drug at 8:45, then sit around like an animal in the zoo and wait for someone to bring me my meals. Next Monday (September 18), things pick up substantially. On the 19th, I start taking both drugs. Lots of blood draws on September 18 and 19th and October 2 (and staying in bed for six hours at a time and using a bed pan on the 19, 22, 26).

Day 3 of 23 Wednesday, September 13, 2006
I have already gotten into a routine of getting out of bed between 6:30 and 7:30, awakened by the noisy workers as they arrive for their day through the entrance on the other side of the wall from my bed. I get up and use the restroom, deal with my email, and make it back into my bed in plenty of time for my 8:45 dosing. After dosing I have to stay in bed for half an hour, and breakfast is delivered during that time. All I have to do the rest of the day is wait for folks to deliver my meals. It's quite the easy study so far.

Day 4 of 23 Thursday, September 14, 2006
There's another woman in the mini-dorm with me. Her bed is several feet down from mine, and she talks loudly on her cell phone rather often. She reminds me of Popeye's lady friend Olive Oyl. She has no chin and her voice is loud and high-pitched, and grates upon my last nerve.

She is on a study that I almost participated in, one that stipulates water restriction. I decided not to do any study that restricted my water intake. It is sometimes hard enough for the staff at THE LAB to get my blood without me being dehydrated.

Today Olive Oyl loudly screams into her cell phone a really awful story about accidentally stepping on a kitten. Unfortunately I had to listen to the story too. Don't people on cell phones know that other people really don't want to know all their business?

Day 5 of 23 Friday, September 15, 2006
Dose, eat breakfast, nap, eat lunch, nap, read, write, eat dinner, shower, read, eat snack, go to bed.

Olive Oyl checks out today and I am alone in the mini-dorm. It's kind of lonely, but also very peaceful. I am relieved to not have to overhear her side of ridiculous conversations.

Day 6 of 23 Saturday, September 16, 2006
From an email that I sent to my sister:
Dear Sis,
I am hungry. I am bored.
I am in need of urinating.
I am wondering what you are doing today.
I am wondering if my last email…made you laugh.
That's my poetry for you.

How much reading and sleeping can I do? I don't want to sleep all day for fear that I won't be able to sleep at night.

Reading is ok. I have a lot to read, but reading makes me sleepy. I think [right now] I am really sleepy because I am hungry.

I am hoping for something vaguely "Mexican" for dinner tonight, because those tend to be big meals: taco salad is good and big, and fajitas and tacos tend to come with beans and (not very good) rice. Good and filling. Pizza would be good too. The pizza doesn't tend to be very delicious, but it is edible, not nasty, and it's pretty big, personal pan pizza size.

Last night was lasagna, which I like, even though it has meat (which I just try not to think much about), but it was this little tiny piece. It came with a piece of garlic toast (a slice of bread with garlic flavor and some green stuff sprinkled on it), a "salad" of iceberg lettuce (AKA chemical crunch) and purple cabbage, and a strawberry shortcake type dessert (which was yum yum yum). I ate everything.

Lunch has been mostly of the "hunk of meat, with a veggie and starch” variety. One day was a pork chop, which I tried a couple of bites of, but was so dry and tough that I couldn't even begin to eat. One day it was meatloaf. That's not my favorite, but I was hungry so I ate it. Today was a different variety of meatloaf. The first time it was meatloaf with tomato sauce (ketchup?) on top and today it was a small loaf with nothing red on top. I couldn't make myself eat it all today. Too chewy. The meat here is very chewy. Ground meat should not be chewy. Ground meat should be like the nice happy cow meat we buy at the Merc: no chewy rubber bands, just nice soft melting in my mouth meat.

Sorry to be so preoccupied with food. I am hungry like a MOFO. Dinner will be served in about an hour and a half. I can't wait.

Tomorrow I will get visitors. Monday the big stuff starts. I am trying to enjoy myself before I am living the life of blood-draws and bedpans.

Day 7 of 23 Sunday, September 17, 2006
The workers forget to bring my lunch today. I have to go to the nurse's station and ask if I am going to get fed. Super Nurse is very apologetic and finds my lunch for me. The woman who was supposed to deliver it just forgot that I am all by myself in the mini-dorm.

I get visitors today. Mr. T and A-WOW and The SnailHerder visit me. Mr. T and A-WOW and I play a couple hands of UNO, and they update me on all that I have been missing. A-WOW sees a drug study subject guy in the lobby getting a visit, and thinks he's really cute and tells me that I should talk to him. The SnailHerder tells ridiculous and hilarious stories that bring tears to our eyes, as well as bringing us to the brink of peeing in our pants. The man can tell a story.

Mr. T tells me that he checks in at the drug study facility across the street on the same day I that I will be discharged from THE LAB. This news means that I will have to find another way home. A-WOW says she can do it if no one else can, but she can't come to get me until after noon. I will be discharged around 9:30am. I am going to try to figure something else out.

Mr. T brings my mail, and I receive two letters from my honey Big C, who has been moved to a new prison. Oh, how I miss him.

From email to A-WOW:
Thanks for visiting. It was really good to see you. I know you are super busy, so I really appreciate you taking the few hours it took to drive out here and sit around shooting the shit and then to drive back home.

The SnailHerder is a strange and hilarious man. Well, we all knew that, but now everyone in THE LAB'S visiting room knows it too. Oh my gosh, seeing the looks on your face and Mr. T's (and knowing mine probably looked similar) was almost as funny as the hilarity coming out of The SnailHerder's mouth.

Day 8 of 23 Monday, September 18, 2006
Today is my first heavy blood-draw day. Between this morning at 8:35 and tomorrow morning at 8:35, I have 14 blood draws. One is at 12:45 in the middle of the night, and another is at 4:45 in the morning. Sigh.

I get four sticks with the big catheter needle before we get one that works. That needle hurts going in—I call it the ice pick—but in the long run, it's better to get an ouchy stick (or 4!) than to get fourteen sticks. I spend almost all of the day in bed with a heating pad on my catheter, drinking water. It pays off, because the catheter works through the 8:45pm blood draw. (I've had them give out at 2pm, which is super annoying). However, it gives out at the 10:45 blood draw (after I take a shower), and I have to get stuck three or four more times before they get the blood they need. They even stick me in my hand, which doesn't even work. Finally they get what they need and leave me alone…until 12:45…until 4:45…

Two new women check in today and are moved to the mini-dorm this afternoon. They already know each other and talk a lot and loudly, especially the younger woman. Their names are Ms. V and Slinky S.

Day 9 of 23 Tuesday, September 19, 2006
Today everyone in my study doses with Abilify, in addition to Lexapro. (I think “Abilify” sounds like a word George W. Bush would make up, as in, “The U.S. will abilify the Iraqi people to vote for democracy.”) After dosing, we all have to stay in bed for six hours, which I knew, but at the last minute, the study nurse says we have to remain lying down, either on our backs or on our sides, for the entire six hours. When I am shocked, she gets snippy with me, and says that I knew about this requirement, but in reality, I didn't.

I had hoped to sleep for most of the six hours, once I found out that I would have to lie down and wouldn't be able to write to Big C. However, the roommates gab for several hours and thwart my napping plans. Finally, they leave the room (thanks Ms. V!), and I get about an hour of sleep in.

You'd think that lying in bed for six hours would be simple, but since I can't sleep and am not feeling sick, it is a challenge. It is difficult to get comfortable, and difficult to hold a book in a position that makes it possible to read. We even had to lie on our sides while eating lunch! By the end of the six hours (at around 5½ hours), I feel like I am going to lose it. I just remind myself that I can handle whatever comes my way, especially for limited periods of time.

I use the bedpan, which is quite the experience. It is about what I expected, a pain in the neck, but not so terrible or exciting. It would be easier if I could squat over the dumb thing or if I had a penis. The only time I get penis envy is when it comes to peeing.

When workers arrive to take my standing vitals, I find out what's been happening to the guys across the hall. One of them stood up and puked, than two or three others followed suit. Sounds like it was pretty awful over there. I am glad I am in my own little curtained off corner where I don't have to smell or see vomit.

When I stand up, I'm fine, although it's disconcerting to look over and see at least six medical professionals standing in the doorway gazing at me. “I feel like I'm in the zoo,” I stage whisper the woman checking my blood pressure. My blood pressure is fine, both lying flat and standing, so they tell me I am free to leave my bed. What I really want to do is use the restroom so I don't have to deal with that stupid bedpan again.

After using the restroom, I decide to check my email. Once I am writing a message to Mr. T, I feel. . . strange, and write to him, I don't feel right. I gotta go. I feel really hot and fuzzy headed, not exactly light headed, but not like me, not right. I go to the nurse's station and knock. When folks look up at me, I say, “I don't feel right.” That makes everyone in there snap to attention! Nurse J says, “Let's get you to bed!” and people start talking about basins incase I puke. I tell them that I don't feel like I need to puke, but they are worried about barf on the floor after the activity in the men's dorm. They measure my blood pressure, which is fine, and one of the docs comes in and asks me some questions about how I am feeling and writes an A/E (an adverse effects report). Within less than 15 minutes, I am back to normal, not hot and less fuzzy headed, but I take it easy the rest of the day.

Day 10 of 23 Wednesday, September 20, 2006
Everyone in my study has to be escorted any time we get out of bed. I get to pull the emergency cord and see a worker hurry in three or four times between 8:45 and 2:45, when we are allowed to move about alone.

I had another deep-sleep nap this afternoon. I feel like I want to sleep all the time, especially if I am sitting in my bed. If I sit in the bed, I am out, even if I try to read or write letters. I feel as if I could sleep all day. At first I thought that if I slept during the day I wouldn't be able to sleep at night, but that doesn't seem to be a problem. I have been sleeping well, both day and night. It's not bored sleep either; it's deep pass-out sleep. I am chalking it up to the medication. I decide that if I am ever prescribed psychotropic drugs, I will take them at night so I am not drowsy all day.

I try to get out of bed and sit in the common area as much as I can. I like to see the sky even if I can't be outside, and it's a good change from sitting in the bed all the time. If I don't get out of the mini-dorm, my stay here is going to seem much longer and more difficult.

From email to A-WOW:
I tried to read it yesterday, with limited success. I had to spend 6 hours lying in my bed, which was a surprise to me. I knew I'd have to BE in bed all that time, but it hadn't been explained to me that I'd have to be lying down. I was not prepared for that. It was a pain in the ass.

On Tuesday two more women were moved into the mini-dorm with me. They are loud. Oh my gosh, they are loud. They already know each other, so they hoot and holler a lot. One of them is 18 and she is super LOUD and just silly. She just yells whenever the mood strikes her. The other woman is 36 and tries to rein in the younger one, with only limited success. They are on the phone a LOT and let me tell you, they don't whisper. I know way more of their business than I ever cared to know, and I am rather nosey.

I am hungry. Breakfast is in about an hour and a half. I can't wait. I hope it's something good. Pancakes would make me happy.

I haven't talked to the cute boy. I only get to talk to guys if we end up on the patio at the same time, and that guy hasn't been on the patio. He may not even be here anymore. Typically guys are in the men's dorm and they have their own common area with computers, games, etc. So there's not much mingling. When I checked in, there were some guys in the "women's" area, because their study required them to have private rooms, so they were alone in the "women's" double rooms.

Day 11 of 23, Thursday, September 21, 2006
I find out that we did not, in fact, have to lie down for 6 hours on Tuesday. When Sara, the study director, comes into my room, I ask her about lying down for the entire 6 hours that we are required to stay in bed. She says, oh, no, we don't have to lie down the whole time. We only have to lie down if we feel sick. I told her that the study nurse said on Tuesday that we had to lie either on our backs or our sides for the entire 6 hours, and that we even had to eat lying on our sides. Sara apologizes and says she will talk to the nurses and other staff and make sure they know we only have to lie down if we are feeling sick.

The point becomes moot later in the day when one of the docs tells me that they are not increasing the dosage of the Abilify, as originally planned, from 10mg to 15mg and then from 15mg to 20mg. Because of the adverse effects, we will all continue to take the Lexapro with only 10mg of Abilify. That sounds good to me. The lower the dosage I take, the less likely I am to get sick or suffer from negative long-term effects.

Day 12 of 23, Friday, September 22, 2006
As of today, I am halfway done with this study. Yippee!! I can make it!

As I am walking past the nurse's station, I see A-WOW's cute guy standing in the doorway. I keep walking, but he calls me over and asks me if I am “a Lawrence Kid.” At first I think one of the other guys in the study has told him that I had been asking about a ride to Lawrence earlier in the day on the patio. When I say yes and ask him how he knows, he says he recognized my visitors as folks from Lawrence. He says he recognized A-WOW, and later I wonder if he recognized The SnailHerder too.

I ask him if I can get a ride with him to Lawrence, and he says he doesn't see why not, but will have to talk to his girlfriend who will be picking him up. This is good news and quite a relief.

From a message I sent to A-WOW:
You are going to be floored by what just happened.

Earlier today when I was outside with some of the guys from my study, I asked if anyone was going to Lawrence when we got out, in hopes of getting a ride. None of them were going that way.

So a little bit ago, the guy you think is cute with the plugs in his ear(s) and the Lowell style hat was walking through the nurses' station at the same time I was going by the door he was coming out of, and he said to me, "Are you a Lawrence kid?" I thought some of the other guys had told him that I was looking for a ride to Lawrence, but it turns out that he was overhearing parts of our conversation (like you being involved with the Jackpot) and recognized you. (Maybe he recognized The SnailHerder too, but was too polite to say "I recognized your crazy blind friend with socks on his hands...”) He said he recognized you but didn't know your name and says he has heard my name before. Small world, huh?

The even better news is that it looks pretty good that I can get a ride back to Lawrence with him. His girlfriend is picking him up on the 3rd of October, and he's going to talk to her about me tagging along for the ride. I hope it works out.

From another email to A-WOW:
The roomies are loud. The eighteen year old is REALLY LOUD. Part of the problem is that they haven't dosed yet, so they haven't had anything to do but eat. (And it sucks for them because they are supposed to eat ALL of their food AND they are on water restriction!) I think once they are full of their drug, they will calm down. I actually am rather friendly with the 36 year old, who can also be loud, but not so randomly. Mr. T would lose his shit if he were locked up with these two.

Day 13 of 23, Saturday, September 23, 2006
We take a walk today, some of the guys in the study, two workers, and me. It is a good walk. I talk a lot with Lawrence Boy. It turns out that he and his girlfriend live right down the street from where I live.

After the walk, I am soooooo tired. I end up sleeping most of the day.

This evening, I play Life with J-Money, Ms. V, and Slinky S. I think I am going to fall asleep while playing the game. I can barely keep my eyes open, and feel cranky and irritable. I think it's because I am hungry, but I don't feel much better after dinner either. I am relieved when it's time to go to bed, even though I've slept almost all day. Maybe the walk wore me out after not being physically active in several days.

Day 14 of 23, Sunday, September 24, 2006
From an email sent to Special K:
The procedures are going ok. This study doesn't really have many procedures. There are two days with 12 or 13 blood draws, but nothing but vitals signs once a day on all the other days. Mostly I take my two tiny little pills and then wait for someone to deliver my meals.

At first the two drugs were making me feel weird, but I think I have gotten used to them now and I am functioning normally (or as normally as I ever function).

Mr. T and Corazon and SnailHerder are supposed to come to visit me today, but Mr. T calls right at 2pm (when visiting hours start) and tells me very calmly that cops have basically occupied our neighborhood. The two following bits of articles (both from the Lawrence Journal-World) explain what happened.

From article “Woman Shot in Police Standoff” (Mon. Sept. 25, 2006)
“Lawrence Police shot a woman Sunday afternoon after a four-hour standoff at a mobile home park in northern Lawrence.

“The shooting happened about 1:15 p.m. at trailer No. 107 at 110 N. Mich., witnesses said. The woman shot at police at least twice during the hours long standoff at the Mobile Village trailer park, police said.

“The individual in the trailer had threatened suicide, and we'd been here negotiating for a period of hours, and there was a shooting,” Chief Ron Olin said Sunday at the scene of the shooting. Police said the woman, 36, was in surgery Sunday at a Kansas City area hospital.”

From article “Woman Courted Killing, Police Chief Olin Says” (Tues., Sept. 26, 2006)
“A Lawrence Police officer fatally shot Marsha Lynn Mace, 36, early Sunday afternoon after a roughly 4 1/2 hour standoff at trailer No. 107 at Mobile Village, 110 N. Michigan St. Police Chief Ron Olin said Mace had threatened suicide and that she fired two gunshots inside the trailer throughout the day before emerging with a small revolver about 1:23 p.m. and firing at two officers.”

Because the police line tape is strung up in front of our garage door, Mr. T can't back the car out. So I don't get visitors, but at least I wasn't killed by the Lawrence Police Department today.

After visiting hours, Lawrence Boy comes to tell me that his girlfriend, E-Woman, says there will be no problem with giving me a ride home. That is good news.

I lie in bed and watch the new episode of The Simpsons on my personal television. It's vaguely amusing. After that I watch American Dad, which is downright dumb and obviously a rip-off of Family Guy. Then Family Guy comes on, and it is not one of the funniest episodes ever. While I am watching Family Guy, I have a muscle spasm in the back of my upper right thigh. It doesn't hurt, but it is unusual, so I report it to Nurse Ratchet, who writes an A/E. She is nice to me, so I feel good about making the report.

Day 15 of 23, Monday, September 25, 2006
I feel more awake today, more like myself. Feeling like myself is a good way to feel. I don't feel so sleepy, as if I am just going to fall asleep at any moment, as if I can't keep my eyes open. I am relieved.

Today lunch, dinner, and snack are the same as yesterday, except no cookie. The missing cookie is quite a bummer. The rest is ok. None of the meals are stupendous, but none are gross either.

I go for a walk today with six or so guys in the same study that I'm in, along with two workers. As we are walking down the grassy knoll between the patio and the walking path, one of the guys slips, falls, and slides in the wet grass. He is ok, but embarrassed because his pants and jacket are wet and muddy.

While walking, we see a really big hawk sitting on the ground 20 feet of so from us. We all stop to watch it. While we are watching, it flies away. Its wingspan is quite wide, and it is beautiful. I am glad to see something wild and natural.

Before dinner I play Racko with J-Money and Ms. V; after dinner the three of us play a game of Life. J-Money wins at Racko, but I win at Life. Ms. V is right that the board games make the time pass.

While playing Life, Lawrence Boy comes over and says we will need to make a sort of out of the way stop on our way back to Lawrence. Turns out he and E-Woman make their own wine, and the place they need to go is a brew store. I am ecstatic and tell them how Mr. T and I brew beer and make hard cider. Going to this brew store means I can stock up on champagne yeast for cider making. This is good news.

From an email to A-WOW:
The study is going well. The only real side effect I am having is that I am sleepy a lot. If I ever take a psychotropic drug for real, I am going to take it at night so I can sleep. I talked to some of the guys in the study yesterday when we were out on the patio, and all of them are having uncomfortable side effects. Several of them have lost their appetites. Several of them can't sleep. Some of them are having muscle spasms in their backs. Many of them are jittery, can't concentrate enough to read a book, have noticed a change in their thinking patterns. Scary stuff. One guy yesterday wondered why the sponsor didn't end the study and put us out of our misery.

Day 16 of 23, Tuesday, September 26, 2006
My breakfast is almost 10 minutes late this morning. That should never happen, because everything here is timed to the minute.

I am still on 30-minute bed restriction after dosing, so I can't walk to the nurse's station to find out what is going on. I do enjoy the comedy of watching various workers stand in the doorway of my room asking if I have received my breakfast and looking absolutely perplexed when I say no.

I am told that my tray was on a cart with trays to go back to the kitchen. A kitchen worker took the cart upstairs, but the person who was to deliver my food didn't realize that. Apparently, she was standing around waiting for a kitchen worker to bring down my tray. Luckily, another worker figured out what had happened and ran up to the kitchen to get my breakfast.

I am feeling awake again today, not like I'm about to drift off to sleep. It's nice, and reassuring, to feel this way, to feel like myself.

I go to bed around 10pm and sleep like a log, probably because I didn't take a nap today.

Day 17 of 23, Wednesday, September 27, 2006
I wake up around 5 o'clock this morning from a vivid dream. I can't fall asleep again because I am trying to remember the dream. I end up sitting in bed in the dark, writing down the dream in my notebook in purple ink. This is the dream:

I dreamed that my friend Mr. T and I were running from the cops. We were in Lawrence, in a car and Mr. T was driving fast. I got the idea to rob the Holidome so we could have some money for what we needed to do. When we turned onto Michigan Street to head to 2nd Street, we saw cop cars in the distance. We turned right onto Michigan Street instead of left and headed towards downtown on 6th Street.

A green Volkswagen van turned left after us, and I was convinced that it was full of undercover cops.

Next thing I knew, we were walking in the street. Well, Mr. T was walking. I was in a stroller, and he was pushing me. For some reason, he let go of the stroller and I went careening down the hill. I jumped from the stroller, and then I was in MaMa LJ's house, walking in with a huge crowd of people who were streaming in.

Mr. T and I had become separated. I thought I was being followed, so I ducked into a corner and hid in the shadows. I saw a guy pass me by and then look around like he was confused. A-HA! I was being followed. I looked over and saw cops arresting Mr. T.

Suddenly Mom was there and she told me that Mr. T was being arrested because he and Free and others (probably me too, I thought) were accused of the terrorist activity of killing the son of Newt Gingrich. I told Mom not to talk to me (fearing that she might get arrested if she was seen doing so), and I tried to blend in with the crowd.

I went into the bathroom and locked the door with several weak and crappy hook and eye locks. Then I climbed out a window and crawled under a fence to where my uncle's hunting dogs were kept. The dogs seemed happy to see me and did not bark. I crawled into the storage shed and my sis was there. She was supposed to be my spokesperson, but she quit because she was depressed because of some kind of activism she had tried to do on behalf of a pit bull with a “doggie pen pal.” I guess the activism had not gone very well.

Uncle J appeared in the shed with me. He told me that the cops had Mr. T (which I already knew) and they were after me. They were offering me a deal, which I refused to consider. Uncle J said they had accused me of manufacturing meth and of the terrorist killing of Newt's son. I was not involved with either activity and told him so. I gave him an impassioned speech about being an anarchist and not recognizing the authority of the cops, how I would never cooperate with them or turn snitch. Uncle J told me that a big shootout to capture me would be exciting for the cops and a huge media opportunity.

I was considering turning myself in so I could avoid a dramatic capture and possibly endangering my family, but I was adamant that I would confess to nothing and would make and take no deals. I gave another impassioned speech about how I would never plead guilty or take a deal, that if I were going to be put in prison it would be because I was found guilty at trial.

Then I woke up and here I am. I have dosed for the day and now can spend the rest of my time waiting for meals. I will probably get visitors tonight, which will be great! Yippee!

I go for a walk before lunch with three workers and three guys from my study. It is almost chilly outside, crisp, windy, and overcast. I love it! It is good to be outside and breathe fresh air.

I get a small sugar cookie with lunch. Thank goodness for tiny blessings.

Slinky S. is released from the study early. The docs say her heart was doing unusual things while she was sleeping. They say she's not in any physical danger, but the incident was unusual enough to throw off the study, so they send her home. Ms. V and I think that she may have actually been sent home for not following procedures. In any case, it will be blissfully quiet around here now that she is gone.

Sweet M, who is in another study, gets really sick today. I don't know what's up with her, but THE LAB sent home everyone in her study who hadn't dosed yet. Ms. V heard that the Head Honcho Doctor would spend the night in the room next to Sweet M's.

Mr. T and The SnailHerder visit me tonight. It is good to see them. The SnailHerder cracks me up, as usual. I am happy to hear news from the outside, even if it's not all good, and I get another letter from Big C.

It's nighttime now, and a storm is brewing outside. I am in the common area, and I keep seeing flashes of lightning in the sky. I wish I could be outside right now. I miss being able to go outside whenever I want to.

Day 18 of 23, Thursday, September 28, 2006
Ms. V gets the scoop on Sweet M from Nurse Plumpy during Ms. V's 2am blood draw. Seems that Sweet M is having extreme difficulty breathing and has been trembling a lot. THE LAB offered to take her to the hospital, but Sweet M refused because she doesn't like hospitals. FUCK THAT SHIT! I don't like hospitals either, but if an experimental drug made breathing difficult for me, that's where I want to be! Apparently, THE LAB offered to take her to the hospital, but didn't encourage her to go to the hospital because they want to monitor what is going on with her. Ms. V was told that the study is cancelled, OVER, and the drug will not be given to any more people. I guess that settles that.

(ATTENTION: The reader may consider the following paragraph over-sharing on my part. You've been warned!)

I've noticed that my sex drive is much lower since I've been on these drugs. I've only tried to masturbate once since I've been at THE LAB, and I didn't have an orgasm. I kind of just feel like oh well instead of the I'M GOING CRAZY! that I've felt during past studies. At home, I usually masturbate at least every other day, sometimes every day, but since I've been on these drugs, I feel like I don't even miss it.

Interestingly, neither the regular docs nor the psychiatrist have asked about my sex drive. They ask about my muscles and my mood and if I feel like I can't sit still, but no questions about how I feel sexually. Should I volunteer the information? Maybe they don't care about such things and only care about symptoms that might indicate that I am dying. The sex crusader part of me feels like I should tell them, even if they feel embarrassed, but the guinea pig part of me feels like if they don't ask, they don't care, and I shouldn't rock the boat.

Sweet M is doing better. She is up and about and took a shower this morning, although Nurse J had to go into the shower room with her. It seems like she will be ok.

I go on a walk today with Nicest Nurse and two guys in my study. The sky is a beautiful blue full of white puffy clouds lined with grey, and it's downright chilly out. I had to wear my jacket. The seasons, they are a-changing. I have a nice talk with Tall J about living simply and not having to work so much to make money.

The woman who was in the bed next to me on check-in day is back (for the third time since I've been here). She is given the bed on the other side of Ms. V who says the new woman is trying to talk her ear off. The new woman is on her cell phone a lot, talking loudly, and Ms. V is complaining, which is hilarious since she talks loudly on the phone herself. Lucky for us, the new woman does not make it into her study and goes home.

I help Ms. V set up an email account today and get a bit of a headache doing it. I report the headache and a nurse writes up an A/E. I take a little nap (and am awoken from it by Nurse Biggest Loudmouth), and I am all better. Then I get the hiccups just as my second favorite doc comes into the room, so he writes an A/E on that. Thankfully the hiccups go away too.

Day 19 of 23, Friday, September 29, 2006
Today is not very exciting. I go for two walks with others in the study and talk more about home brewing with Lawrence Boy and Tall J. I get a peanut butter cookie with lunch, and take a 2-hour nap after lunch. I write several letters, which is my productive activity for the day. I am coming to the end of the study, and things are winding down, although this study does end with a bang with 13 blood draws between 8:35am on Monday and when I get out on Tuesday. I will survive and collect my dollars.

Day 20 of 23, Saturday, September 30, 2006
I have a bad dream during the night about demons and dead people and Mr. T. I wake up really scared.

Today, tomorrow Monday, and then I get out of this place. I am excited. I think I am going to get sushi when I get back to Lawrence. That will be a good welcome home treat.

Before both lunch and dinner, I go on walks with several other subjects and a couple of workers. It is fabulous to be outside in the sunshine and fresh air. I've not been able to go for so many walks in any of the other studies that I have been on, and I think getting outside and moving around so much has really helped to make this study pass quickly and without too much stress. Being cooped up inside all the time has really been difficult for me in the past. I'm glad I've been able to exercise more this time.

Wow! The study nurse gives me her card and says that I am wonderful and that she would love to have me on another one of her studies. She writes down the numbers of two upcoming studies that she will be in charge of, one in November and one in January. No one has ever done that before! What a compliment!

Sweet M and J-Money leave this morning. Games of Life won't be the same for the next two days.

I spend most of my day writing letters, and time passes quickly. Only two days until I head home.

Day 21 of 23, Sunday, October 1, 2006
I have another bad dream during the night. This one isn't like a horror movie, but was scary in its own way. It involved me trying to drive A&M's dinosaur of a 1969 Ford truck. The scary part was that I couldn't get the brakes to work. I think this dream came about because I watched Myth Busters right before going to bed, and a prominent feature of the episode was a snowplow with no brakes.

I don't remember having any dreams during the first part of my study, but I've remembered having dreams the last three nights.

It's almost time to go home. I have to get through today, which is no problem, as all I have to do is have my vitals measured, take the drugs, and eat my meals. Hopefully there will be at least one walk to help pass some time. I am going to finish writing letters (only two to go!). After all of that, the day should be nearly done.

(There ended up being three walks today, but I was only told about—and went on—one.) The Sleep Monkey makes an unexpected final appearance and I take several deep naps today.

Tomorrow is going to be a big day. I'll get a catheter first thing in the morning, then have a bazillion blood draws throughout the day. By the time the blood draws are all over on Tuesday morning, there will only be an hour until I can leave this place.

I talked to Doc-O, the psychiatrist, about getting off these meds when I go home. He says the Abilify leaves the body very slowly, so there shouldn't be any sort of problem with withdrawal. Apparently the Lexapro leaves more rapidly, but still shouldn't cause any problems. He says problems occur when people with disorders stop taking their meds cold turkey (my words, not his), which can cause the disorders to flair up. He says in healthy subjects, there should be no problems coming down (also my words, and not his). Sis will be relieved to hear that, as she has been worried about what will happen to me when I quit taking the drugs. I think I will be fine.

On a different note, all procedures at THE LAB are carefully timed. Nothing happens “around” 8:45 or whatever. Everything is timed to the minute. Dosing with the experimental drugs is timed to the second. The person administering the medicine counts down, “5, 4, 3, 2, 1, DOSE.” If one procedure (like a blood draw) happens late, it can throw off everything else that happens for the rest of the day or even for the rest of the study. Subjects are expected to be at their bedsides five minutes before a procedure starts, just to make sure that they don't slow the process by being AWOL when the time for action comes.

The unusual aspect about telling time at THE LAB is that everybody goes by military time. It's all normal from 1 am through noon, but 1 pm is 13:00 (pronounced “13 hundred”), 2pm is 14:00, 2pm is 15:00, on until midnight which is 0:00. If one were going say that something happened at 12:42 am, one would say, “zero forty-two.” Using military time eliminates the need to say “am” and “pm” and does away with any confusion about what time of the day or night an event took place. It takes some getting used to, but after nearly three weeks of it, I am pretty good at figuring out what (for example) 22:23 means.

Day 22 of 23, Monday, October 2, 2006
I don't sleep so well. I think it is because I am excited about today being my last full day here and I don't really relax and fall into a deep sleep. When Doc-O asks me how I slept and I tell him, he writes up an A/E, which I think is ridiculous. There's no doubt that I have been sleeping just fine during this study. Last night was obviously an anomaly. My favorite doc asks me if I think I will need a sleep aid tonight. I am very polite to him (he is my favorite, after all), but I feel like saying, “DUH!” If I hadn't slept for a week, maybe I'd want something, but one night doesn't mean that anything is so wrong that I need extra medication.

This day drags on, which, again, I think is because I am so ready to be out of here. I mostly lie around and read The Red Tent, which I have saved especially to read today when I knew I would be stuck in bed with a heating pad on my catheter. It is a pretty good book, easier to stick with than the last two books I read here, The Master Butchers Singing Club and Tales of Burning Love, both by Louise Erdrich.

My multiple blood draws go well. The Head Honcho Nurse gets my catheter in on the first try, and it lasts until the 4:45 pm. (That's 16:45 in THE LAB lingo.) I get eight blood draws for one stick with a needle, which isn't all that bad. The blood draws at 6:45 pm (18:45), 8:45 pm (20:45) and 12:45 am (0:45) go well: one stick and the necessary blood is withdrawn. The 4:45 am (4:45) blood draw does not go so well, and I get three sticks, including a final one in my right hand, before the sample is obtained. I'm not thrilled about being awaken in the middle of the night, and the various sticks hurt. I will sure ‘nuff be glad when this blood draw business is over.

Day 23 of 23,Tuesday, October 3, 2006 Check-out Day
Well, I've made it! I have a few procedures this morning, then I will be ready to get out of here with my honorarium (THE LAB's word for “paycheck”) in my hot little hand. I can't wait to hit a brew store or two, and then go back to Lawrence and my home. (Be it ever so leaky, there's no place like home.)

My procedures go quickly, up until the blood draw. The Head Honcho nurse pokes me in the vein they used at 4:45 this morning. Apparently the vein is so small and the blood is flowing so slowly, the four tubes fills up drop by drop. It takes forever, but after it's over, I eat a muffin and get a super quick examination from my favorite doc. I finally pick up my check, then I'm out the door to find Lawrence Boy and E-Woman.

The three of us have breakfast at IHOP (and thanks to Lawrence Boy for buying my delicious pumpkin pancakes), then off to the brew store and the killing of time in the strip mall until it opens. Finally we head home to Lawrence, and before I know it, I'm home, 23 days later and $3,300 richer.

[To reach Subject #1J write c/o Lawrence ABC P.O. Box 1483 Lawrence, KS 66044. To get a print copy of this zine send SASE with 39 cents postage or $1 or super cool trade of zines, patches, cookies, t-shirts, stickers, or whatever neat things you think #1J might enjoy.]