Four years ago this week, I started my research job. And over the course of those four years I’ve been in hundreds of patient homes and done everything from asking simple questionnaires to performing ultrasounds of patient’s ankles. I’ve driven tens of thousands of miles from Muncie to Terre Haute and from Lafayette to North Vernon. And along those many miles I’ve witnessed every kind of wildlife: deer, coyotes, turkey and squirrels. I’ve also experienced every kind of weather: Everything from blizzards to blazing hot days. I’ve driven in thunderstorms and wind storms. I’ve watched the sun rise over the Hoosier horizon and enjoyed more than my fair share of fantastic sunsets.
In addition I’ve met every imaginable family pet and in the process I’ve been sniffed and humped by dogs as well as rubbed and bitten by cats.
Along with hours of driving, I suspect that I’ve eaten nearly 300 lbs of french fries, drank 50 gallons of diet coke and eaten the equivalent of two heifers. All of this happened in my car as I travel from one house to the next.
But my job is not just about driving and eating and viewing wildlife. It is about much more. In fact, occasionally we actually conduct research.
Over the course of the past few years, I’ve conducted more than 200 sleep studies in patient homes, nursing homes and hospitals. A primary aim of our research is to learn how many stroke patients have Obstructive Sleep Apnea. To that end, we perform in-home sleep studies on the research subjects.
A typical study begins when I arrive late in the evening, lay out my equipment and hook the subject up to wires, belts, sensors and probes. After two hours of pain-staking gluing and taping, each participant in our study looks like the backside of my 1979 home-made stereo system; wires sticking out in every direction!
Even though it is my favorite part of the job, it is also the part that I’m most anxious to end. I’m just a little tired of sleep studies (no pun intended). I’m not tired of hooking up the equipment, visiting the patients in their homes, or even the meals on the road. For me, the hardest part of the job is the odd hours I have to keep in order to complete the studies.
For instance, I have two sleep studies scheduled this week. The first is tonight and the second is on Thursday. Tonight’s study will begin at 7:30 pm. I’ll be done and out the patient’s door around 9:30. Tack on another 1/2 hour for driving and I’m done with my work day at 10:00 pm. But I’ll be back at the patient’s home tomorrow morning at 7:30 to pick up the equipment, upload the study to the scoring center and then cleaning the equipment to prepare for Thursday night.
And I do that twice this week.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I love my job. I enjoy the freedom of getting out of the office from time to time. On warm spring days I crank up the jams on my car stereo and cruise with the windows down as I drive the highways and byways of this beautiful state. I even enjoy a good cheeseburger from time to time. But if I’m honest, I’m looking forward to the day when the end of my shift on Tuesday isn’t so close to the start of my shift on Wednesday.
I suppose it will all end soon enough. By my calculations I have only 11 more months and another 60 studies until I’m done. That’s nothing. Right?