The Urine Jug


No matter how routine urine tests are – and for people with diabetes they are very routine – there always seems to be some element of humiliation in holding a warm cup of your own pee.  I used to call the twenty steps from my lab’s bathroom to the place where you hand in your sample “the walk of shame”.  When I was younger I wrapped my sample container in a paper towel so that no one would see it.  Then one day I realized that no one cares to look at my urine sample, so there’s really nothing to worry about. 

As a diabetes blogger, I’ve become less embarrassed and more open about my health. I was even bold enough to write about my own stressful (but funny in hindsight) visit to the lab.  And when I read about fellow d-blogger Jacquie Paul Wojcik’s recent close encounter with her urine, I was totally smiling.  Jacquie is always eloquent and hilarious, and I’m delighted she’s sharing this story of her 24-hour urine test with us. – Jessica Apple

24-Hour Potty People

Nothing reminds you that you’re the lucky owner of a chronic condition quite like a jug of your own urine ripening in the refrigerator.

Ah, yes — it’s the 24-hour urine collection routine. One I hadn’t experienced since college, but had the good fortune to relive this past weekend.

And what a routine it is. Start in the morning, and collect every darn drop until the same time the next day. I became vigilant in my bladder awareness, afraid that I would find myself having to use the bathroom somewhere far away from that damn orange jug. What if I forgot? What if I lost it? (What?! Where would I lose it?) What if a representative from Self magazine dropped by to do one of those “What’s in your fridge?” profiles?

They’ll tell you that the purpose of the 24-hour urine test is to detect the presence of protein in your pee and, therefore, any possible kidney issues that diabetes hath wrought. I’m convinced, however, that the 24-hour urine test is an ongoing joke between prescribing doctors, lab technicians, and the manufacturers of gallon-size orange plastic jugs. Because really, what’s more entertaining than watching a bleary-eyed diabetic stumble into a hospital first thing Monday morning, carrying a jug of her own pee?

The first time I participated in this experiment, back in 1999, I was a student at Truman State University, which was a good 3-hour drive from the endocrinologist I was seeing at the time. Instead of transporting my own urine across the great state of Missouri, I was instructed to perform the test at my school-home, and then drop the specimen off at the campus health clinic.

I managed to make it through the collection process itself, which isn’t easy when you’re sharing a single bathroom and a refrigerator with two other young women (those poor girls). The real adventure came when it was time to drop the jug off. For some reason, I decided against concealing the container in any way, so I marched up to the campus clinic with a very conspicuous urine sample in hand. I must have expected the place to be empty, because I remember being quite surprised to find that it was flu shot day, and that the waiting room at the clinic was packed with fellow students, a few of whom insisted on asking me what was in the container.

I don’t even remember my response. What could I have said? Saliva? Stale beer? Unicorn tears? I just recall butting to the front of the line to drop the thing off and getting the hell out of there as quickly as possible.

This time I was a bit smarter. After spending almost all of Sunday within 100 feet of our refrigerator and the J.O.P., as my husband called it, I got up early this morning to take the goods to a nearby lab. I put the container in a Walgreens bag. Then, I put that bag in a Target bag, and tied it up. Then, I put that bag in a fashionable blue shoulder bag — perfectly sized for carrying snacks and cosmetics and gallon-size jugs of urine.

When I arrived at the lab, one of the technicians looked over my paperwork, then ducked into a room. She popped out moments later with one of those little cups, and explained that I’d need to provide a “sample.”

“Uh,” I didn’t know what to say. I’d been too successful in concealing my pee — and now I’d have to give more! “I already have some. I mean, I have a lot. In here.” I nodded toward my blue bag as if it contained a severed head or a stash of cocaine. Luckily, she understood, and whisked the whole thing away before bringing the blue bag back, empty.

And that was it. The whole exchange felt so anticlimactic, so . . . clinical. I mean, I know they’ll perform some tests and get back to me and let me know what’s going on with my kidneys, and I dearly hope that what’s going on with my kidneys is “nothing.” I guess I just expected a little more magic after all the effort I put into the process. Maybe I expected a lab technician to read the stuff like tea leaves and foretell my diabetic future. Maybe I expected to see it blessed like holy water or sprinkled ceremoniously into the St. Johns River. I don’t know. I feel like I at least should have received a badge or a medal — even a sticker — some reward for enduring the ordeal.

In exchange, I’ll appreciate the thought that I won’t have to do another marathon pee test for at least another several years. I never thought I’d be so grateful to use the bathroom like a normal person.

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10 years ago

And if you think these stories are funny and gross, try viewing it from the other side of the story.  I’m a Medical Technologist in the microbiology department of a clinical lab.  I have to deal with these prizes that people bring in to us.  The best ones are the ones that people bring in thinking they have a parasitic (worm) infection and its actually a bean or a rolled up piece of toilet paper.  I could go on and on. In all seriousness though, the collection is the most important part of the process.  The test result is only… Read more »

Dr. Margaret A. Morris
10 years ago

I can do you one better– I was supposed to do some test or another a few years ago, and the doctor told my I could pick up the container in the lab, and they would explain it to me. I go down there, and had them my paperwork, and explain that I don’t really know what I’m supposed to do. The lady, says, “Sure, no problem–” and pulls a gigantic jug from behind the counter. Gigantic– bigger than my torso, and translucent plastic. And then she proceeds to explain that I’m supposed to collect all of my fecal matter… Read more »

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