By Rhonnie Wilson

The lure of “easy money” and the need to see if something was too good to be true led me to fill out the online questionnaire to be part of a ten day medical study. Honestly, I didn’t give it another thought until my phone rang and I found myself being interviewed to leave my life behind for a week and a half.

Today, with it all behind me, I can say, “Yes, I’m a Human Lab Rat. Ethically and morally.”

Rhonnie Lab Rat
Recent image of me!

Before I fully agreed, I had to ask myself some questions. The study I was asked to participate in was to measure nicotine levels in alternative products such has e-cigarettes and nicotine gum. In order for these products to continue claiming that they are safer than traditional cigarettes, the FDA has demanded proof of actual nicotine levels in the bloodstream. That’s where I came in. I though, “Since I’m a smoker, why not go for it?”

I drove myself to the facility for the physical exam and almost got rejected because of an allergy to antibiotics. I argued that they weren’t giving me antibiotics, so they pushed me through. At that point, I wasn’t even sure if  I wanted to be a lab rat — I just can’t stand rejection! The thought of someone stamping REJECT on my file somewhere was less than appealing. Aside from my personal feelings on rejection, my physical was complete and I was in, pending my lab work. The call came a few weeks later and I was given my check-in date.

I would be leaving behind my life for ten whole days to be a living, breathing lab rat.

At the physical, they went over protocols (each study is different), and I watched a film about the “spa-like atmosphere” of the facility and “catered gourmet meals.” I told all my friends, got the time off work and, “Bam! Off to the study I go!”

Day one consisted of some “Private Benjamin moments” and a few major reality checks. The spa-like facility was very clinical. They had given me patient bags at the physical (two white garbage bags) to bring my stuff to the clinic. I honestly thought they were kidding. Maybe just providing them for people who didn’t have luggage. They seemed a little miffed at me at the check in when I showed up with my minimally packed overnight bag. All personal items are locked up in sealed bags. You are then given scrubs to change into. To be honest, ten days of no makeup and wearing scrubs sounded great!! I was given a shower kit and led to a room that I would share with six other women. Six women being denied caffeine and nicotine … what could possibly go wrong? Six hospital beds in one room, and six very different woman that shared one common goal: to get paid.

Orientation seemed to last forever. Twenty of us piled into a cafeteria-like room, but only 17 of us would be heading back to what they called our “suite.”

We lost three women during the orientation. One left as a result of “bad labs.” I assume she may have not passed the drug screening. One dropped when she found out you can only smoke when the tell you, and the other had an attachment issue to some stuffed animal. At this point, I was starving and done being read to. Reality check number one came when we finally were served lunch. The “catered gourmet meal” was a beef hot dog, Doritos and potato salad. I was like, “This is what they call gourmet?!”

No matter how fancy the “hot dog” is, I still don’t want to know what’s in it!

There was a game room and they had some awesome video games. I played a lot of Galaga. You could check out movies and xbox games. But the “theater room” was being used for additional bed space. You could watch movies in your room on an individual TV with headphones. Day one I found a “House” marathon that kept me interested. Would it be Lupus or Scalaraderma?

Dinner rolled around and I gave in to the fact that “catered and gourmet” had a very broad definition. Not that I expected steak and lobster, mind you, but edible was about all a person could hope for.

The first five days we were detoxing  and it was boring. We tried the different products, and I found “13 Reasons Why” on Netflix. People were dropping out of the study every day. Day two I had a caffeine tumor, so I slept a lot .

I missed caffeine, my shampoo and conditioner, and my face stuff. You are required to use their personal hygiene shower kit. It’s very scientific and structured. I would imagine it’s a little like prison minus the shanking and ass raping. You are told when to eat, when to shower, when to sleep. You do have access to your cell and laptop or iPad, so you do have contact with the outside world. Thank goodness!!

Sharing a room with six caffeine deprived and nicotine craving women is an experience . I started off keeping to myself and observing, but I made one “friend.” My bed and my new “friends” beds  were next to each other, and we spent the next 10 days taking care of each other and getting through the challenges that we faced. On the other side of my bed was “sleeps a lot.” She was in an opiate study and slept the days away. Across from ‘Friend’ was “Farts like a Clydesdale”, “Granny G”, and “Chatty Cathy” (who never stopped talking for the whole 10 days). When I chose the name “Farts like a Clydesdale” it wasn’t an exaggeration. This woman would pass gas. Not like a cheek sneak, she would raise one side and rip ass, then wave it around like it was a prize. “Friend” tried asking her politely to step outside or step to the bathroom but FLAC would just ignore and wave her flatuence around. Finally I commented after a stench that smelled like death had occurred. I said, “Rudey Poo,  go down the guys’ hall and crop dust them like a lady.” She got pissed off and said, “I’m sorry I’m not a stuck up little twat.” And stormed out of the room. A few moments later she returned and apologized, afraid I would tell on her and get her kicked out of the study. When she asked me if I was going to tell, I said, “No, only a stuck up little twat would be a tattle tale.” She ended up with a family emergency and had to leave the study early.  Karma.

By day 9 I was done and ready to go home.  I was homesick and only eight of us remained. It wasn’t easy. You are isolated from friends and family, and you are getting blood drawn up to 22 times a day. When the ports were not malfunctioning, it wasn’t that bad. I missed my bathtub and all my girly stuff.

The staff was fun. Well, most of them. We did have one person “Friend” and I called Mrs. Trunchbull, and we were sure one or both of us would land in the chokie .

I was determined to stick it out. After all, $3K was on the line.

Upon completion, paying off my credit cards was a sweet reward !

There are people that do this for a living and you can find information about studies from a website called Justanotherlabrat.com

Stepping outside my box and getting along with folks I wouldn’t normally be forced to is never a bad thing. Going with the flow and being put to the test is something I recommend we all do from time to time. I plan on participating in another study soon, but until then, back to reality and on to another adventure! Until then make it count!

 

 

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