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What is the force that binds the stars, I wore this mask to hide my scars

April 8th, 2010

In Which Kristina Becomes Acquainted with Mus musculus and Rattus norwegicus. @ 10:23 pm

I spend four days away from work (and little to no school), total bliss.  The three days that follow are chock block full of stuff - 12 hour days, late nights, early mornings, the whole kit.  Argh.

So earlier this week I had my Animal Care days - during the semester, each first year clinical student gets assigned three animal care days - two rodent (mice/rats) days, back to back, and one rabbit day.  To sum it up, you're basically the cleaning person du jour - whether it's as complcated as cage wash (having to load all the mice/rat boxes onto carts and put them through a washer) or as simple as checking the animals and  sweeping & mopping, the majority of the "shift" requires cleaning, and lots of it.  Every surface needs to be cleaned, because when the IACUC (Institutional Animal Care and Usage Committee) comes in to inspect, they check. every. square. fucking. inch.  They run their hands over the tops of door frames.  Look in the corners.  Check the pipes under the sink.  No surface is left unchecked.  To be fair, after two days of cleaning these surfaces, I realized the minimal lines of the room worked in my favor (shelter chic, if you will), and appreciated the absolute absence of dust anywhere - when I did find dirt in hard-to-reach areas, I felt a bizarre giddy surge, knowing I caught something someone had clearly missed for at least a week.

My first day was rather uneventful, but I was terrified.  "What if I fuck up?" "What if I miss a step?" "What if I do something to harm the animals??" (inadvertently, of course, but tiny animals are fragile!)  I rode the bus there, and felt butterflies in my stomach, like I was heading to a first date. 

A date, people.  I WAS CLEANING UP MOUSE POOP.  Got there at 7.30, ate my breakfast, went into the lab clutching my SOPs for dear life, ducked past the second years (who were already hard at work with the dogs and cats) and stood around in the rodent room for a few minutes, looking everyone over.  Here I was, terrified, and they barely even knew/cared I was there - most of them were sleeping, or curled up inside their little hutches cleaning each other.  It took me forever and a day to get into a groove and figure out how to go down the line of the SOPs - first you have to complete the "All Animal" SOPs (SOP = Standard Operating Procedures, it's basically just a manual that outlines EVERY LITTLE STEP SO YOU DON'T PAINFULLY FUCK IT UP), then complete the "Rodent" SOPs.  After awhile I realized two important things : 1. Doing all the things in the "All Animals" SOP, then moving back to "Rodents" wastes alot time, and 2. a bunch of things in the "All Animals" SOP are actually done by the second year students (e.g. flushing the water system, mopping outside floors, etc).  Womp womp.  Good for me, actually, but tough on the second years.  As one girl (second year of course) said, "You only have the rodents room to worry about."  Thank god.

So i left around 10.15 - overall, it took me about 2 and a half hours to complete my animal care.  "Not bad", I thought, "but it'll take me even less time tomorrow, since I've got everything in place now.  Hell, I'll get there earlier, around 7, and that way I'll be done by 9 at the latest."

That would've worked, except Tuesday, according to "Rodents" SOP, is water bottle/sipper tube/enrichment devices cleaning day.  Every last one of these items being used had to be removed, scrubbed, and replaced in the cages.  I don't know if you've ever had the pleasure of opening 50+ rodent water bottles, but if you haven't, let me save you the trouble of obtaining 50+ water bottles to try it out on - IT HURTS.  These aren't your regular pet store screw cap water bottles.  These are rubber-stopper-whose-edges-have-been-chewed-slantways-so-it's-gonna-be-a-pain-in-the-ass-to-remove-and-give-you-blisters-on-your-fingertips kinds of bottles.  Fifty of them, people.  Ugh.  I wanted to kill someone.  I had to become resourceful, and learned that a regular ballpoint pen works marvelously at easing up the edges.  Especially the narrow, thin rubber stoppers (which look nicer, especially in glass bottles, but are a mother and a half to remove compared to the short squat ones).

Oh - and then I had to clean 100+ enrichment devices.  These are any object we put in their cages to keep them occupied/make them happy/prevent them from killing each other.  In this case, each cage has one little hut (or one giant plastic box, for the rats) and a hard plastic chewing stick.  And every one has to be scrubbed and dried, then placed back in a cage.  I am SO lucky that one guy came in around 8 or so to watch me/help me out - he's doing animal care tomorrow and saturday, so he wanted to get a feel for it all.  We're allowed to have someone help us out for a little bit, so I recruited him to just help me with the basics to make the jobs go faster (place the clean water bottles as I filled them up, pull the enrichment devices out and put them in the sink as I scrubbed, and dry them off).  Even with him helping me, I still wasn't done with animal care until 11.45.  The cutoff time for animal care is 12 noon.  So basically, I got there earlier, KNEW what I was doing, and still managed to take almost 5 hours in doing it (and almost ran over my time limit).  I'm just glad it's over - rabbits isn't for another two months (June 6th), and it's the day before the end of the semester, so I'll probably be alot more experienced before it's all over and done with.

Had lab today.  I still feel like I'm lagging behind, and yet I know that I'm getting done what I need to get done - I've become a pro at IP (intra-peritoneal injection i.e. abdominal), was able to do a SQ for the first time (subcutaneous, in the neck skin), and a retro-orbital bleed (which wasn't as hard or as awful as I thought it would be, considering you're sticking a glass tube behind the mouse's eye and collecting blood by twisting the tube and breaking the capillary sinus).  Unfortunately, two mice died - one from complications due to the ketamine/xylazine (body couldnt handle it, and he basically just went to sleep and never woke up) and one mouse was from a previous lab and had fallen ill (professor said it was due to bad gavage technique, where you take a metal tube and slide it down the esophagus into the stomach, to dispense liquid).  The second mouse was euthanized humanely, and necropsy was performed, which was amazing - last time I got to really look at the internals of an animal was a cat, and that was this time last year.  While the cat is good and gives you a large area to work with, it's preserved in formalin, so it's not fresh.  This mouse necropsy was fresh fresh.  Like, she started cutting 5 minutes after it was euthanized.  It was amazing seeing everything so clean and....proper....like, the way it should look, not the way a dissection animal looks - When animals are "created" for dissection purposes, they're bled out and the veins/arteries pumped with blue/red material that solidifies to a hard putty-like consistency.  Great for quick and easy identification of say, the vena cava versus the aorta, but it makes things kinda gross, especially if the plastic "bursts" during production, which happens in random spots all over, and you don't know it until you cut in and find these bizarre plastic-y blotches everywhere.  Seeing the real deal, fresh (as it were) was phenomenal.

Quiz afterward, hard as hell considering it was only 20 points.  She gave us an HOUR, and at the end of that hour, 3/4 of the class was still working on it.  I mean, really?  It wasn't *hard*, per se, but it was three pages, one of which was all dosage calculations.  And I forgot my calculator (doh!).  Some stuff happened afterward and she ended up getting pret-ty mad and blew up at the class for not paying attention and not listening to her.  What I don't understand is that the kids in the class were stunned.  OF COURSE SHE'S GONNA BE MAD!! While she's lecturing, or going over what's going to be on a quiz, or how to do a homework, people are talking!  Not even whispering, full on TALKING!  I'd be mad too - given her personality (no nonsense, tough as nails), I'm surprised she didn't blow her top sooner.  I've been waiting the last couple of weeks for her to lose it, and today was the day.  At the end, she just said, "Ok class is over.  I'm done with you guys" (she was supposed to go over moral and ethical approaches to research technology in the last 10 minutes).  Yikes.  I just hope I don't get lumped in under the title "good for nothing students" - I keep my fool mouth shut, don't ask to borrow a calculator if I've forgotten one, and don't act like an idiot.  Hopefully that'll stick in her head.
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Date:April 13th, 2011 08:21 am (UTC)
Sorry for my bad english. Thank you so much for your good post. Your post helped me in my college assignment, If you can provide me more details please email me.

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Date:April 13th, 2011 09:46 pm (UTC)
what details do you need?
Date:April 13th, 2011 10:44 pm (UTC)
Excellent post I must say.. Simple but yet interesting and engaging.. Keep up the awesome work!

Date:November 2nd, 2011 04:04 pm (UTC)
Hmmm for some reason only half the post can be seen. I tried reloading but still same.

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Date:November 19th, 2012 04:14 pm (UTC)
Happy birthday! How have things been going?

What is the force that binds the stars, I wore this mask to hide my scars