As a professional patient, I spend a lot of time getting medical testing done; it’s part of the job. Most of the poking and prodding is OK but there is one test that makes me recoil in horror when it appears on my lab slip. It will consume my thoughts, contribute to my nightmares, and send my anxiety through the roof. It is the ultimate humiliation. It is: ‘The 24 hour urine collection.’
Apparently there is wisdom to be found in a whole day’s worth of pee. One such fascination is catecholamine levels. Catecholamines are hormones made by the adrenal glands, which are located on top of the kidneys. The adrenal glands send catecholamines into the blood in response to physical or emotional stress.
Unusually high levels may indicate the presence of rare adrenal tumors known as Pheochromocytoma and Paraganglioma. This is the important part for me so listen up! Because I have the genetic condition Neurofibromatosis 1(NF1) my risk for adrenal tumors is slightly higher than that of the average human. That’s why. (NF1 and pheos info)
Every Drop You Make
How does someone go about collecting a day’s worth of bodily fluids? Glad you asked! (If you really don’t want to know, stop reading now. If your morbid curiosity has gotten the best of you; please proceed.)
First step is gathering the necessary equipment, AKA, a day-trip to the laboratory. There you will receive a flimsy plastic “hat” that fits awkwardly under your toilet seat and a specimen container. Every time you use the bathroom, pee in the hat; carefully pour contents of said hat into the obscenely narrow opening of the specimen container. Repeat this process for the next 24 hours collecting every drop. Exactly 24 hours after you began the test, top off the container with one last go. Label and return the container to the laboratory as soon as possible! Easy-peasy (pun intended, sorry.)
My First-World Problems
While a 24 hour urine collection test is not physically invasive, I find it to be a detriment to my jet setter life-style as it puts me under house arrest.
Selecting the day requires finesse. It has to be a day when I have no other obligations, when I can be home alone. The down-stairs powder room will become my command center.
I dare not chance a quick ‘pop-out’ to a store least I get stuck somewhere and can’t make it home in time! My bladder is kind of spazzy; the urge to go can hit me like a bolt out of the blue.
I get nervous thinking I’ll fill the container before time is up, run out of room, and ruin the test.
I try not to drink too much but being homebound, piddling around doing random tasks, I get bored. And one of my default responses to boredom is? You guessed it, to drink water.
Bedtime is most traumatic. I worry myself to sleep hoping I don’t wake to use the toilet and forget to go in the hat. Such an event would be catastrophic; I would have to start the test over (gasp!)
One more tidbit, the specimen container needs to be refrigerated for the duration of the test. So there’s that.
Finding Gratitude and Appreciation
When I catch myself crabbing about something, that's my signal to pause and remember, “Could be worse, and could be better. But all in all, it’s not so bad.”
It’s just one day. I can use the time for reading, writing, or cleaning a closet. I could pretend I’m a spy and spend the day shredding secret documents.
It gives my doctor another piece of information about my health, so why not? I’m grateful to have a proactive doctor who’s hip to the complications of NF1.
I’m sure the lab technicians have seen worse things; I’m forever in debt to anyone willing to be on the front-line of healthcare.
And the solution to the drinking too much scenario? Thankfully, I learned many years ago to ask the lab tech for two containers!