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Work Placement

Today was my first day of Work Placement. I went to the Research School of Biological Sciences, at the ANU.


I had to get up at 6am, which my fibro-riddled body was not amused about, but I was real excited by the time I got there. Though it was COLD today. Shouldn't it be getting warmer about now? Anyway...

First thing I got to do was clean out the rabbit room. We (the staff, myself and my friend Asako) had to completely scrub the cage of each fat bunnykin, which included taking out each removeable piece and giving that a good wash. The floors had to be swept, vacuumed and hosed down. Food and water needed changing and the sawdust, of course. There were eight little baby bunnies just fluffy and with eyes open! So cute!

The rabbits are mostly being used in an oncology study. They've been injected with tumour cells. One was starting to grow a tumour and I recognised the feel of it right away from my old lumpy. The experiment is eventually going to involve testing different radioactive isotopes on liver cancer, but they have to wait for the rabbits to grow tumours first. It's a bit sad when I think that those cute baby bun-buns I saw are going to be given cancer on purpose and maybe die from it. But I know that it's important to try and detach myself from that. And I AM in favour of a cure for cancer and I guess right now the best we have is to test it out on animals.

I've learned a lot at school about Ethics Committees and getting animal-based research approved. There's a lot of rules and compromises researchers have to make. So, I choose to trust in the Ethics Committee system. Otherwise I'd be too sad.

After lunch (bunnies took 4 hours), I went to see some wallabies. The pouch young (smaller than my thumb) had been removed from the mamas to be looked at (because they're not fully developed, pouch young can tell us a lot about the developmental process). I got to see them reattach the young to the mother's teat. They won't latch on themselves, so they have to be helped. The mother is anaesthetised just enough to make her limp and sleepy. Then one holds open the pouch, one holds the baby's mouth open with tiny little tweezers and a third person uses a tiny wooden implement to guide the teeth into the mouth. If you can hear the baby sucking, it's latched on properly. It was AMAZING, especially seeing those tiny little pouch young.

Then the rest of the day was just cleaning mouse cages. Bang out the old bedding, scrape off the sticky poop. And so on for about fifty of them. Things had to go in the dishwasher and the rather little autoclave, since that building is a PC2 facility.

The area near the mice, where we cleaned up is called the Insectary. I like the name, it makes me feel like the place is "insectery". There are fruit flies there, being used for some study that I can't remember. I'll find out next time.

Maybe cleaning up a whole bunch of poo sounds boring, but I really loved it. I hope I feel well enough to go again tomorrow.

Which brings me to the sucky part. I had to explain about the fibro and how I get sore (though I always carry my painkillers) and tired easily. And they let me sit down and take a break when I needed to and everything. But I hate that I need too!

I just can't help worrying about what people think of me. Especially strangers, but even friends. Are they thinking I'm a lazy, slacking bitch? Probably. And I'm not.

Well, I am lazy, but not with stuff like this. I said I'd do work placement, so I'm committed to doing it. I follow through and I actually really like it. I don't hate scrubbing out rabbit cages and would be happy to do that all day if it wasn't painful for me. I like physical jobs. And I'm REALLY committed to this course, it's really important to me. So, it's not laziness.

I worry so much that people are judging me and forming opinions about who I am, based on what my body can do. I don't fall asleep at lunch because I'm rude. My brain just can't take being awake any more. I don't sit down because I'm too lazy to clean another cage. I'm in so much pain that I can't stand up any more. But does anyone believe that?

I am reminded of Elliot in Scrubs when Turk is complaining about his diabetes:
"If you want sympathy, get a disease people can SEE!"

So, of course, I push myself a little further than I probably should and I come home aching. Past experience tells me I could wake up paraplegic after a day like today.

But I hope not, cos I really want to know what work there is tomorrow.

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August 2011