Numbers – no I am not going to go all biblical on you, but it does seem at times that our lives are ruled by numbers. At one time it was numbers like 19 – the number of minutes it took me to walk to the station to catch the train to London ; or 2 – the number of the bus I would catch to get into town; or 63 which was the length (in feet) of the room in which John Roysse set up a school. For the town of Esperance 400 was an interesting number – a fine unpaid for 30 years. I shall explain.
NASA’s first space station, Skylab, didn’t manage to stay in orbit in 1979 and fell to earth. No one knew exactly where it would land which caused some consternation, but in the end most of it ended up in the Indian Ocean. However some pieces rained down on the town of Esperance in Western Australia. The Shire of Esperance sent NASA a $400 fine for littering (nice one Esperance). NASA failed to pay so Esperance quickly wrote off the debt but 30 years later a local radio station in the US raised the money and paid the fine on behalf of NASA.
But back to me (and people like me). These days most significant numbers start with needle in the arm! Then perhaps half an hour later, or maybe a few days later, there will be reams of numbers. Next to my column of numbers there will be column of figures for the ‘Normal Range’. This is helpful because otherwise I might think that for everything a low number is better than a big one (or vice versa). This also means that I don’t have to worry about what units they are measured in – is a nanomole a very small underground mammal? or perhaps it should be a nanomol – just as long as my figures and the normal range are in the same units. There may even be a green or red marker so that it is easier to spot those numbers which are outside the normal range.
The big number (actually I want it to be a small number) these days is the PSA figure but there are a myriad (well a few, but I like the word myriad) of other numbers that have to be monitored such as neutrophils and white blood cells while undergoing chemotherapy. Then there are the usually unnoticed numbers that pootle along at a reasonable level well within the normal range then suddenly spike or take a nosedive. I had one of those a week ago with my thrombocytes. Still trying to figure it out – the number recovered over a few days and then stayed the same. The consultant had to check that other numbers from the same test were different to be sure she was seeing a new test and not the old results repeated. Let’s see what it does over the next week. In the meantime my veins seem to be getting a bit more resistant to being poked with a sharp pointy thing. Ho hum.