Archive for July, 2006

Monkey Business

Posted: July 15, 2006 in Research

The asphalt radiated heat as I walked down the dusty road to my office on what seemed one of the cooler Georgian summer days. I was dripping with sweat. I could not wait to get to my cool air-conditioned cubicle. This was going to be one of my hardest days. For the first time ever, I was going to scan four anaesthetised monkeys. The vet and the technicians were all ready to start while I changed into the most uncomfortable dress with an equally discomforting name: Personal Protective Equipment – PPE for short. The gloves make my hands sweat in the coolest of places and the procedure mask causes my protection screen to cloud each time I speak. I remembered the day I was asked how I felt about working with monkeys. ‘That will not be a problem. Research has to be done and if monkeys are needed, they should be used’ – I had firmly replied to the lady in the HR office. Now I was hoping she does not see me today. My hands shook as I adjusted the rectal thermometer and then positioned the oxygen tube. I tried to immobilise the poor animal with the ear bars. The vet snatched the bars from me and pushed them right into the monkey’s ear. ‘Do not worry, you will not hurt him. Just push them fully in and tighten’, he said and smiled. Gently, I pushed the patient table into the scanner and got ready for a peek into the sedated brain. Within an hour, we were done with the ten year old rhesus. What I did in that hour, I do not remember. It was time for the second one. This setup was no better than the first one. After almost eight faint hours, I heaved a sigh of relief as we packed up for the day. Even after handling 14 monkeys now and with many more to go, I find it difficult to make this duty, ‘just another task’ on my to-do list.