My Life as a Research Subject

***WARNING:  This post mentions girl stuff like menstruation.***

I probably didn’t need to give you that warning, but I thought I ought to.  I’d hate for you to get all excited about this post only to find out that I discuss stuff having to do with my period.  Because, well, that’s kind of… not a very nice subject.

Anyway, I’m part of a research study that a local doctor is taking part in.  I previously mentioned it here.  The study is for a new medication that’s supposed to help prevent menstrual migraines.  I’ve been to the research clinic twice now, and I thought you might like to know what it’s like to be a guinea pig.

My first appointment was for intake.  I had talked to the recruiter who got me all signed up and answered a lot of my questions, and set up the appointment.  When I arrived at the appointment, I was taken to an exam room where the recruiter asked me a bunch of questions — medical stuff, social history (such as “How many alcoholic beverages do you consume per week?”), that sort of thing.  Then she left, and three medical assistants swooped down on me.  One asked me another 40 questions or so, dealing with my cycles, my headaches, my current medications, and so on.  The second took my pulse and blood pressure, then hooked me up for an EKG.  The third took five vials of blood.

Then the doctor came in.  He asked me another 40 questions or so, including questions about where my head hurts when I get a menstrual migraine, how many headaches I get per month, and how I treat them when I get them, including what medications I take for them and whether I sleep or drink caffeine to try to get rid of them.  He did a very brief physical exam which he said was really just a formality, and then he left.

The nurse was next.  She brought me the study medication (or placebo), a headache journal, a pregnancy test, a book about migraines, and some packets of information about the study.  After I submitted a sample for a urine test, I was free to go.

Now I just had to wait for my period to start.  I was afraid it was going to happen while we were camping, but God was kind to me and delayed it until we got back.  That first day, I called the nurse, and said, “I’ve started,” and she scheduled my next appointment.  Let me tell you, it’s rather odd to call someone and tell them you’ve started your period.

Also, I had to take a pregnancy test.  And that seems silly to me because isn’t the fact that I’ve started my period a pretty good indication that I’m not pregnant? But the pharmaceutical people have to cover themselves, and they don’t know the effects of the medication on an unborn child, so even though I was positive I wasn’t pregnant, I peed on the stick anyway.  And it was negative, so I filled out an affidavit stating that the pregnancy test was negative, and that night, right before bed, I took the medication.

Each day for the first seven days of my cycle, I took the medication at bedtime and filled out my headache journal, stating that I had taken the medication, and whether I had any headaches that lasted more than 30 minutes.  I wrote down whether I took any other medication to get rid of the headache, and whether I had any other symptoms (sensitivity to light or sound, nausea, etc) with the headache.  I also listed any other symptoms I was having that were unusual for me.  (I was super-drowsy, and while I’m not positive that’s a result of the medication, I wrote it down because it might be.)

After the medication was gone, I still had to keep a headache journal.  About two weeks after I had started, I went back for my follow-up appointment.  They asked me a few questions, took a vial of blood, gave me new pages for my journal, a new pregnancy test, and another packet of medication, and sent me on my way.  I’ll see them again in about a month.

So far, I haven’t gotten any checks in the mail, but I figure they probably cut checks once a month, and it hasn’t been a month since my first appointment yet, so I’m not too worried about it.  But I will be keeping an eye on the mailbox for my check ($30 per appointment) because while it’s great to be doing something for science and all and I hope they can help people with menstrual migraines, honestly, I’m doing this for the money. And I’m not ashamed to say so!

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6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Amy
    Jul 26, 2010 @ 09:47:27

    Actually,some women do continue to have periods when pregnant, some for the whole 9 months, some only the first trimester. (Information thanks to my tenure in the paternity section of the child support office.)

  2. riTa
    Jul 26, 2010 @ 10:33:32

    Very interesting.
    Hopefully all parties concerned will benefit.

  3. Kim
    Jul 28, 2010 @ 22:27:08

    It would be great if they came out with something to help menstrual related migraines. My sister and I always get a really bad one at some point during our cycles but it’s never consistent — sometimes at the beginning, sometimes in the middle and other times at the very end. Not always, but quite often, they’re bad enough to require laying down in the dark for a while.

  4. Trackback: My Life as a Research Subject: Part Three (or, You Don’t Understand Your Own Body) « The Small Town Runner
  5. Trackback: My Life as a Research Subject: Part Four (Or, You Have an Incurable Disease. Oh, wait. No, You Don’t.) « The Small Town Runner
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