|by Harold R. Chace, MT ( working part time in the main chemistry lab at Salina Regional Health Center in Salina, KS, as of late 2007; from ASCP e-letter Jan. 2008).
I arrived at St. John’s Hospital in Salina, KS, in the summer of 1962 soon after graduating from Southwestern College in Winfield, KS. I took my MT training at Wesley Hospital in Wichita. Four of us new graduates went to Salina because Wesley only offered us $1.65 per hour and St. John’s offered a whopping $1.85 per hour. At St. John’s Hospital, our lab was located on the fourth floor with patient rooms all along the hall.
Our pregnancy test was performed using male frogs shipped in from Wisconsin. The shipment would arrive packed in ice and the frogs were side by side in metal trays, 12 to a tray. The principle of the test took advantage of the fact that the male frogs will release sperm into their urine after being injected with patient urine that has a high level of HCG hormone.
To perform the test, we removed a test frog from the refrigerator and placed it into a large, clear glass jar. We then had to neutralize the patient’s urine because if it were too acidic or too basic, it would kill the critter. Next, we held the frog over a glass slide and squeezed out a drop of urine. We coverslipped it and looked under the scope to be sure the fella wasn’t already showing sperm. Next, we injected 2cc of patient specimen into each side of its lower back.
These animals were not fully thawed out at that time, making it fairly easy for us to handle them. We then waited two hours for completion of the test. It was not unusual to have four or five glass jars on the counter at a time, each with the patient name taped on the outside. After two hours, we reached in and grabbed the frog to obtain another drop of urine. The presence of sperm indicated a positive test.
The only problem was that after two hours, those males were at room temperature and had become quite lively. On several occasions, a slippery male would escape, sometimes hopping out through an open door. Once in a while we would hear a patient yelling, “There’s a frog jumping around in my room!” That was very helpful for us, and we would go try to retrieve the male to complete the test.
The state inspectors had guidelines for the disposal of the frogs, as they were not native to Kansas. We were instructed to saturate a cotton ball with formaldehyde and drop it into the glass jar with the frog. It was not pleasant to watch this procedure, but we followed those guidelines to the letter, of course.