The next day I continued my litany of baseline testing. I arrived at the hospital at 8 a.m. to be fitted with a Holter monitor, a portable EKG device that would record a 24-hour snapshot of my heart rate. An elderly nurse named Janice had me remove my shirt. She attached 5 sticky, Post-It note-like leads to my chest and neck, then clipped wires attached to the Holter to the leads. To hold the mess of wires in place, she had me put on a white mesh fishnet shirt. I looked ready for a night of angsty moping with Davey Havok. I put my regular shirt on over it and clipped the small-pager-like Holter to my belt.
That same night was my first sleepover at the hospital. I rolled in at 9 sharp and was greeted by a cute, short-haired nurse.
“Hey,” I said casually, trying to be charming.
She smiled. “Hi. Could you pee in this for me?” She held out a clear plastic container.
“No problem,” I said, trying to maintain some semblance of cool. “I’ll be right back.” I must have been dehydrated, because the liquid that flowed into the reservoir was nearly neon yellow. When Julie caught sight of my chartreuse effluence, she turned and grabbed two latex gloves before taking the sample.
She smiled again. “Thanks,” she said.
“No problem.” I made a big show of washing my hands when she returned to zip me into the tent.
The “tent” was actually a rectangular structure that took up most of the space inside a normal hospital room. The walls were clear plastic and it housed a hospital bed, a blood pressure monitor, and little else. Julie showed me how to loop the nasal canula, a plastic tube that carried the nitrogen, over my ears and into my nostrils, exactly like elderly people with portable oxygen tanks. Then she clipped the sensor of the oxygen monitor to my finger, which gave a low beep as it registered each of my heartbeats.
“You’ve got a bottle of water and a bedpan if you need them, since you can’t leave the tent during the night,” she said. “There are controls for the TV on your bedpost.” I looked up and saw that one of the tent beams obscured half the television set. “There’s also a call button if you need anything. We’re here at the nurses’ station all night. It’s the first night, so we won’t turn on the pump. We’ll just let you get used to the tubes and wires.” She zipped up the tent and turned off the lights. “We’ll wake you up at 7 tomorrow,” she said, then closed the door behind her.
The night was uneventful, though uncomfortable sleeping with the Holter still attached. The next morning, Janice showed up to remove the Holter and the damn fishnet shirt. Afterward, Julie came in and took my vital signs. “So today we’re doing some insulin testing,” she said.