I began chronicling my experiences in a clinical research study on menstrual migraines here, where I talked about how making $30 a month to go to a doctor and take some medication was going to be easy money. Then I wrote here about how Dumb Nurse was making my experience not-so-good by bruising me during a blood draw and repeatedly asking me questions I’d already answered.
I figured that after getting the all-clear on my labs, we’d be back to smooth sailing. So the next time I started my period, I called for an appointment, just like I was supposed to do.
I started on a Monday, and I called that same day. The girl who answered the phone told me that she didn’t have the ability to schedule me an appointment, but she’d take a message and have someone call me back.
On Tuesday or Wednesday of that week, I got a call from a guy at the research center, whom I distinctly remember was a recruiter, to make my appointment. I thought it odd that a recruiter was making my appointment (shouldn’t he be out, oh, maybe recruiting?) But maybe he’s been cross-trained, so no problem. I told him that due to my work schedule, I’d need an appointment on a Friday. He offered me that very Friday. The Friday of the same week.
Now, I thought this was odd because the medication, which I was supposed to start taking on the first day of my period, lasts seven days, and I had been told that the appointments should be made five to seven days after the last dose was taken. So that would mean that the following Friday would make more sense, but I figured that since he worked there and was calling to make the appointment, he knew what he was doing.
On Thursday, Dumb Nurse called. I couldn’t get to my phone, so she left a voicemail. She said that she’d gotten a message that I’d started my period and that an appointment had been made for me that Friday, but that it was too early since I wouldn’t be done with the medication yet. Okay, fine. Recruiter guy messed up, no problem. But then, Dumb Nurse says, “And besides, I don’t see how you could possibly have started your period yet. Our records show that your last cycle started on (she gave the date), so I just don’t see how you could have started again already. That just doesn’t make sense. Anyway, I’m canceling the Friday appointment because it’s too soon. And please call me back to make a new appointment. And I don’t understand how you could have started again already.”
I have short cycles. I have had for as long as I can remember. When I gave the research staff all my information at the beginning of the study, I told them that my cycles were on average 23 to 26 days. I’m pretty sure that every woman has an extra short or extra long cycle every now and then. This one was extra short — only 21 days. It doesn’t happen often, but it happens. And I was pretty ticked that she had the nerve to tell me that I couldn’t possibly have started yet. Um, I’ve been menstruating for over twenty years now. I know when I’ve started, okay Dumb Nurse?
So she called me again, and this time I answered. Dumb Nurse told me again that she needed to reschedule my appointment, and said again that she just couldn’t see how I could have started already.
“I have short cycles,” I said angrily but quietly, because I was at work while I was having this conversation. “This one was just shorter than usual.”
“Oh,” she said incredulously. “Well, I guess we can schedule the appointment then. But since this is the fourth month of the study for you, we need to schedule it with the doctor. I’ll need to look at his schedule and see when he’s available. I’ll call you back.”
And I’m wondering why she hadn’t looked at the schedule before she called me back in the first place.
But… she never called me back.
And I started a new cycle.
By this time, I was done. If the staff doesn’t know when to schedule appointments and doesn’t call back to get one scheduled — and especially if they are going to imply that I don’t know when I have started my period, then I don’t need the $30 I’m getting for my effort.
A couple of weeks later, Nice Nurse called. “We were just wondering if you were going to come back to see us again?”
I said, “Well, let me tell you what happened.” And I told her the story. I could tell that she was mortified that I’d had this experience, and she apologized. She said that she understood my not wanting to come back, but the doctor really wanted to see me for one last visit, so could she schedule me?
Fine, I thought. So I let her schedule me, but I had already decided that I was going to call back and cancel the appointment.
A day or two later, the director of the research center called me. She said that Nice Nurse had told her about my experience, but she wanted to get my story first hand. So I told it again. She apologized profusely. I mean, really, over and over to the point that I was sick of her apologies. Finally, she said, “I understand that you’ve been scheduled for a final appointment.”
“Yes,” I said, “but honestly, I don’t want to come. I’m done.”
It took me a while to convince her that I didn’t need her to do anything to rectify the situation and that I wasn’t going to hold a grudge, but that I was truly, completely, utterly done. Finally, she seemed to understand.
Sadly, though, this was not the end. Keep watch for the last installment: “My Life as a Research Subject: Part Four” (or, “You Have an Incurable Disease. Oh, wait. No You Don’t.”)