In which I become pro-active with my health, take matters into my own hands and draw blood samples in my kitchen.

Three Pricks and Two Vials

952 words about health — 07:00 · 10th Feb 2019

It’s 13 minutes past 5 in the morning and I’ve just plunged my hand into a bucket of hot water.

“Two minutes,” I think, “Two minutes and then I can dry it and jump on the spot until my heart is racing.”

I look back at the alluring cup of coffee I’ve made moments before, “That’ll be my reward once I’m done.”

I have no one else to blame for what follows.

I’m perfectly aware that I’m inflicting this on myself.

Unwrapping the alcohol swab, I wipe the ends of my ring and little finger clean before taking one of the lancets that came in the cheerfully blue and white professionally designed box and place it on the finger, off-centre, as instructed.

Pushing the lancet into the tip of my finger I flinch but the pain is minuscule and I’m soon massaging my hand, trying to squeeze—but not too hard—enough of my grenadine gold into the two tiny vials on the kitchen counter.

Can you believe I have a phobia of needles piercing my skin?

This is the second set of vials they’ve sent.

I failed to draw enough blood the first time.

Always give 100%. Unless you’re giving blood. Bill Murray

No, I’m not sick.

And no, I’m not dying.

I’m simply taking a pro-active approach to my health and wellbeing by measuring the things I can, and should perhaps, manage.

This was always on my ouroboros-like list of things to do.

No disrespect towards doctors and nurses who do a great job, but the person who should know the most about my health and body isn’t a General practitioner (GP) I see once a year, it’s me.

So when I found Thriva, a London-startup from 2016, with the goal of building the world’s first preventative health service by offering a home finger-prick blood test, the choice seemed pretty easy.

I had been looking at getting a blood panel test through my GP since last year.

Thriva uses the largest private path lab in the UK, who in turn counts the NHS as their largest client and processes 40,000 tests per day, so I figured I’d be in competent hands.

Carlos Eriksson as a Disney character, dressed as Sherlock Holmes inspecting his own blood cells inside an artery.
Carlock Holmes and the Exceptional Erythrocyte.

Disclaimer: I’m not sponsored by Thriva to write this entry.

My second attempt goes much better than the first and two finger-pricks later I manage to get enough blood to fill the two vials needed for the Advanced subscription.

The test kit is sent out every three months but you can cancel the subscription if you just want to do it once.

Returning my samples in the bright yellow bag marked, “Biological Substance, Category B, UN3373,” I then wait.

As promised, I have my results within 48 hours.

Test results

"Hi Carlos, most of your results are normal and all but one of them look fine. Your B12 is slightly high and you should re-test this in about 3 months. This sort of result is usually due to replacement therapy. If the result remains too high, then you should discuss this with your GP. I can see, based on your health profile, that you are already doing exercise and your diet looks good. That's great!

Dr. K. von Bussmann

Out of the 19 tests done on my blood samples, only two were outside the expected range and came with little comments.

Carlos Eriksson as a Disney character, inspecting his own blood.
Total B12 result: 652.0 pmol/L. More than the expected 250-569 pmol/L range.

“The most common reason for this is because you are taking a vitamin supplement over the counter,” says the note.

Makes sense. Except I don’t take any supplements.

It continues, “Sometimes the B12 levels are high due to a recent blood transfusion.”

I haven’t had any recent blood transfusions.

Maybe I eat too much meat?

Whilst my Total B12 levels are only slightly elevated I’m going to keep an eye on them, especially since the common reasons don’t apply to me.

Carlos Eriksson as a Disney character, inspecting his own blood.
25-hydroxy Vitamin D result: 35.7 nmol/L. Less than the expected 50-100 nmol/L range.

The other noteworthy result was my Vitamin D level.

“It is not unusual to have a slightly low Vitamin D result, which does not need treatment. In fact, a healthy exposure to the sun can often rectify that,” the note reads.

Hardly surprising as the UK during the winter months isn’t known for its sunshine.

I wonder if and how much this would change as soon as spring arrives?

I’m going to monitor this one for seasonal changes and potentially boost my Vitamin D during the darker months.

Now let’s keep in mind, I’ve never measured these things before.

As interesting and useful as this is, without more data points, I really can’t be sure of anything.

Which means, until the next blood test I’m not going to do anything to change these results.

I predict my Total B12 will be roughly the same—then I’ll look into it more—and that my 25-hydroxy Vitamin D will have improved by itself because of more sunshine.

My predictions might be wrong but at least then I’ll have more data points to compare.

Until then, I’m continuing to measure and collect data on myself as this year’s journey takes shape.

Have you thought about testing your own blood at home?

You’ve just read Three Pricks and Two Vials.

In which, 4 years ago, I wrote 952 words about health and I covered topics, such as: journeys, data, quantified self, and thriva.