I always see them at the hospital -- phlebotomists -- come into the room and draw samples from the patient's arm, which they place in tubes in various colors, and keep the tubes in a nice carrying basket that you could buy almost anywhere. Each tube gets a name and a bar code label, so as not to get blood samples mixed up.
But today I stopped by the lab to learn further -- they put the blood into a machine that spins and separates the components, and then into another machine that measures electrolytes, for example -- the sodium and potassium levels -- or another machine that does a CBC, a Complete Blood Count. This link to Wikipedia explains that.
I like Wikipedia for explaining medical terms. I read medical journals at the hospital's library. The articles are often very dense, but I stop to look up terms on Wikipedia and then keep going.
The blood words are some of my favorites -- erythrocytes, leukocytes, basinophils, macrophages, and the always popular hemoglobin -- that's beginner's stuff. Blood is complicated, and every single component can go wrong, and get you out of whack and very sick. That's why they do so much testing at the hospital.
The other thing about blood that is a marvel to me is its source -- red blood cells are produced in the bone marrow -- but why? You would think there might be some kind of sack near your liver that pumped out red blood cells on demand -- but why does blood come from bones?
There is some production of red blood cells in the spleen, as a back up source. The spleen weighs about five ounces and it's tucked up high and behind your stomach. Spleens don't seem to do very much for taking up all that room. You can have your spleen removed entirely and it won't kill you, although you will need some medical adjustment. You wonder why we even have a spleen.
That's as much medical news as most people want, so let's do the politics, specifically Barak Obama and his church and his pastor. I've heard so much discussion about this but nobody seems to include Mrs. Obama in the speculation.
The Obamas have a very good marriage of more than twenty years, and two young daughters. The evidence for that is that we don't know much about it -- the vigilant press corps would instantly exploit the minutest difference or disagreement between these two, but you couldn't slip a piece of paper between Michelle and Barak -- they are united in purpose and it looks like love to me. And they have kept their private life private, which is a blessing to themselves and to the American voter.
It is a faithful union. Michelle is a very good-looking woman. On top of that, she's dangerous when she's mad. For those reasons, there is no way that Barak is going to be chasing interns around the Oval Office. He will be coming home every night, because he has a very good home to come home to.
Michelle has been left out of the pastor flap. But don't you think it was her idea to join that church 20 years ago? It fits her persona, not his. Barak is not a religious man -- not like Jimmy Carter who taught Sunday school. Barak is more like many men who settle down with a good wife in a good neighborhood and go to church every Sunday because it's a good thing to do.
Rush and the right wing radio rodeo have been riding him hard on the pastor thing. But it still comes down to guilt by association, as Jack Kemp said to Sean Hannity today. If we judge Obama, let it be for his own words and his own deeds.
I just wish the Clintons would go away. I turned against the Clintons in 1996, so I have been steady on this -- nor am I recruiting people to join my animus. You all can make up your own minds.
My friend Bob says he misses John Edwards. Edwards represented a fairly standard progressive program, and a style that was combative but friendly. I think he would have been the best to represent that point of view -- with the least personal baggage, I mean. Edwards had the very big house and the $400 haircut going against him, but otherwise -- I mean, everybody has something.
The Invisible Man in this campaign season is George Bush. The Republicans NEVER mention his name, and that silence is very expressive.
I do advise all Frog Hospital readers to pace yourselves in this long campaign year. The Obamas are spending the Easter weekend in a tropical hideaway, and I hope they are not discussing politics.