Monday, June 26, 2017

Schrödinger's Unchecked Lab

He is a 57 year old man. Husband. Father. A bit over weight, nothing too extreme. He likes to play basketball. He drinks bourbon, an occasional scotch; he rarely over indulges. The more I learn about him, the more familiar he is. He looks like any one of my friends. He only found his way to my office after his family practice doctor got frustrated trying to control his blood pressure. Maybe it's sleep apnea or too much salt in the diet. Sometimes I find a rare salt-retaining hormone abnormality.

On the first visit I did a routine urinalysis. It showed a hint of protein. When he came back, delighted with his improved blood pressures, I delved a little deeper and discovered the hint of protein was a lot more significant, with a strange ratio of albumin to protein. This is the pattern we see in myeloma. All of a sudden, the hemoglobin that looked like routine anemia yesterday is now the car crash I can't turn away from. The arthritis he mentioned transforms in my mind into myeloma bone pain. 
I tell him what I'm thinking and the casual, good natured clinical encounters become heavier. I order the myeloma tests I learned about in medical school, the PEP brothers, SPEP and UPEP. I add on the plasma free light chains that the myeloma specialists perseverate on. 
A few days later I see the electronics flag indicating unviewed lab results.
Like Schrödinger's cat in the box, at that moment he has myeloma and doesn't have myeloma. 
Time for the ambiguity to end. Time to open up the box and look inside...

This bit of medical fiction was me trying to express why I'm raising money for multiple myeloma.

I am raising money for the Multiple Myeloma Foundation as part of their Moving Mountains for Myeloma program. The peak of this endeavor will be a trip to Mount Everest Basecamp. My role is to bring awareness of myeloma, I hope this helps give an impression of one small aspect of this devastating but increasingly treatable disease. Help myeloma research.

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