The Orange Jug

During our ten years in Taiwan we resided just around the corner from a mid-sized hospital. About midway between our front door and the hospital’s there was a 7-Eleven store. (That’s no surprize, because in Taiwan, about mid-way between ANYBODY’s front door and wherever they’re headed there’s a 7-Eleven or other brand of convenience store.) We became used to seeing patients from the hospital, wheeling along their IV drip poles with bottles hanging and tubes heading to their hands shopping for this and that in the store. Other nearby stores that were focused on medical equipment might have displays of crutches, wheelchairs or toilet chairs out front. We became accustomed to the casual sight of the equipment of healing.

Last week at our retirement home in Holland, MI, a package arrived at the door containing an orange jug. It came on an order from the University hospital in Madison, Wisconsin, where I’ve entered a process to screen me as a possible kidney donor. I’d filled out a questionnaire around the first of the month, and had a telephone interview with a staff member in the transplant center. She said that I’d been cleared so far, so ordered up the jug into which I was to place a 24 hour urine sample. 

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When I read the instructions, I learned that I’d have to abstain from anything with caffeine in it for 24 hours before beginning to fill the jug, and for the entire 24 hours of sampling. That was the daunting part. The first day went well enough, but the second day was as if my head was stuffed with cotton, and at 3AM I awoke with a mild headache, glad that I had but a few more hours to go before completing the sample and downing some hot Java.

I ignored one instruction, which might mean that I’ll have to do the entire thing over. The jug was to have been kept in the refrigerator. Two things led me to eschew any such action. The first was that I had a hard enough time remembering the project when the bottle was kept atop a closed toilet seat. If I’d had to remember it in the fridge every time I felt a little tickle down below, I’d have had to start over many times, delaying the moment of the return of coffee.  The second was that the refrigerator is where we keep fresh food. If the lab tests come back “failed for failure to frigidaire”, I’ll have to do it all again, anyway. But at least I’ll have had coffee in between.

In all the medical equipment I saw out on the street in Taiwan, I can’t recall ever seeing anyone carrying an orange jug.  Had I done so, I wouldn’t’ve known what was afoot. Next time I’m in Tainan, I’ll view anyone with one sympathetically. 

David Alexander now resides in Holland, MI after 39 years in Taiwan

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