A Boy-man in the Lab

A buffoon, a boy-man, an ass works in our lab and has caused the destruction of biopsies. I say he is a buffoon and an ass because he uses distractions and poor lab practices to disrupt the rest of us who have to work with him. He is a boy in a man’s body, interested in avoiding work rather than doing his job right and that his how he hurt over 600 patients in one day.

His job is to change processors, order stock, put stock away, and remove waste from the lab. He is an ass because he drops boxes with loud bangs so we all jump in surprise. He whistles while he works but not in a seven dwarves way. He whistles to get tunes stuck in people’s heads. He wants to annoy his coworkers and he does this with noise, running carts into our chairs, leaving things in our paths, and discussing his weekend while we try to move around him.

Boy-man once asked me if it mattered whether he put 95% alcohol in the 100% alcohol chamber on our tissue processors. It shocked me that he didn’t know. Who had trained him? “Yes!” I answered. “It matters!” He had worked there for two years. After that long he should have understood the consequences of such a substitution, the disruption of health care for every patient! Boy-man confided with a laugh that he had forgotten to order the 100% alcohol and figured the 95% would do. “It’s close right?”

“No!” I started to explain the consequences of that action, how patient biopsies would be ruined. The water in 95%-

He turned his back and walked away. “I don’t need to know,” he snapped and was out the door.

I hoped he didn’t make the substitution. The supervisor wasn’t around. She wasn’t much of a supervisor anyway. She was quitting. I knew she wouldn’t do anything. I hoped my answer was enough. I would know if it was. When I saw the tissue the next day, after it went through the processor, I would see if it was improperly processed.

Boy-man did not make the substitution that day. He didn’t change the processors either. He ordered the 100% alcohol and did his job right a day late. It made my job harder but the tissue wasn’t completely ruined. It was just harder to cut.

That was five years ago.

Two years ago he did substitute 95% for 100%.

Over 600 patients had their biopsies ruined that day. We tried to fix them. We tried to reprocess but the cells were warped and brittle. Our pathologists tried to diagnose from the ruined tissue. They had to guess. They agonized to diagnose skin cancers, bowel cancers, and worst of all brain tumors.

The fool should have lost his job but he didn’t. He expected he would but our new supervisor didn’t know he was clueless and unwilling to learn. She didn’t know his work practices. She didn’t want to hear what errors he had made when the previous supervisor was in charge either. There was animosity there.

After his mistake, the fool became a model employee for a while. Oh yes he did. He convinced the new supervisor he could do his job. He changed processors as fast as he could and did everything to help remedy his error on the day he caused the devastation. On that day I knew what had happened while the supervisor still wondered if the processors had malfunctioned somehow.

She called in the company that makes the processors to check them. She worried it would happen again. I knew better. I know what tissue looks like when it is put in hot wax with water in it, when it hasn’t been dehydrated with 100% alcohol. I knew he had made the substitution but had he done it on purpose?

The consultant from the company confirmed what I knew. Two weeks passed before the supervisor announced what had happened. I don’t know if boy-man was reprimanded or talked to or if the dismay he claimed to feel was the punishment he received. His work improved. I know that because my job has been so much easier. He acted like a man for eighteen months. The processors were changed as they should be. They were clean for once. The biopsies had never been so well preserved and so easy to prepare for diagnosis. He did his job right for eighteen months without standing in our way or bumping our chairs or dropping boxes. That time is up. I have watched his better work fall off and his laziness return. What will be his next mistake?

Over 600 people suffered because of him. I doubt they are aware of his error. Patients are commonly told a ‘specimen is inadequate’ or the ‘tumor is undefined’. All of those biopsies were compromised. All of those patients received an uncertain diagnosis. Did they know it was in question? Where they told what had happened? The health of over 600 patients was compromised and boy-man continues to work in our lab, disrupting techs, slamming boxes down, and changing the processors.

It is said what we don’t know can’t hurt us? It can. Now you know.

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