Monday, November 21, 2005

Haven't you wanted to be a member?

Day whatever: If I keep working like I am now I will not be fired. So I'm still going to worry about it but not obsess. This should keep me sharp and insure that it is the mouse on the chopping block, and not the research tech.

Speaking of mice: There is one mouse in particular who died in the second most gruesome manner that I have ever seen. I will tell you the story of his sad and all too short life.

The Hot Blooded of the low cut shirt and stolen pipetter and I had taken it upon ourselves to create our own ICV mice. These are mice, I think I've explained before, who wear a kind of hat on their heads. Except, unlike a hat that most of us would wear, it can never be taken off since it is attached to the skull with glue and sometimes metal screws. The hat also allowed us to inject substances into their brains with relative ease. For a project my companion was engaged in, she would need 8 ICV mice, and for padding she ordered 10 normal mice for us to operate on. Our survival rate in the end was about 3.

There were a number of problems, of which an even half were my responsibility. For the first mouse we operated on I assured Boss Lady and my compatriot that yes yes I'd done this before with rats and once one got the mouse into the apparatus (which holds the skull perfectly still and centered for undisturbed work) the drilling was pretty straightforward. I then took the Dremel tool in both hands and immediately plunged the rapidly spinning bit into the mouse's brain matter. A mouse skull is about 1/3 as thick as a rat's it turns out. Fortunately by that point he was already deceased from something unrelated, so we all practiced drilling on it before tossing it in the fridge for eventual incineration.

The mouse in question met its end a few days later when it was just the inimitable Puerto Rican and I in the operating room. We had figured out what killed our first three mice and had operated successfully on four of them yesterday. Today was going poorly and one had already died from excessive bleeding. We had tried adjusting the anesthetic but it was difficult going.

I'll admit now that I've forgotten some of the exact details but I will say this: There was a lot of bleeding after we drilled in, and we only just managed to stop it. There was a parental an artery very near our target site and this was probably being nicked in our surgery. Nonetheless we pressed on determined to give this a mouse a hat. That was our error. I applied superglue around the edge of the cannula and positioned it above the hole we had created. Carefully we lowered it millimeter by millimeter until it was just above the surface of the skull. Labmate and I exchanged a nervous glance and I turned the knob to lower it in.

A moment of calm.

And then what I can only describe as a tiny red volcano. Spewing up from the surface of the skull and also 1 millimeter higher from the top of the canula. In shocked horror we saw it freeze in mid splatter as it mixed with the glue and solidified. Our mouse-still breathing and close to awake at this point-now had a crown of blood perched on its head.

That's also when we noticed that we were being watched. A local high school student, a bottle washer in a near by lab, rapped on the window. Her eyes were shielded from the horror by my coworker as I frantically moved to overdose the creature while avoiding any contact with it's head. By the time I had it in a tiny plastic bag to be sent to the freezer and then reimagined in my nightmares the student was distracted by our one surviving mouse who was delighted to crawl up and around her arm.

We decided to leave cannulations to professionals after that.


In other news I haven't called the number yet, and my mothers quiche for the lab thanksgiving was 20 minutes undercooked. Coincidentally, 2/3 of the people who ate it are sick today.

1 comment:

Sam said...

Im Sending this to Jess!