As I’m writing this on a Thursday, I thought I’d do a little throwback post! My boyfriend did the ultimate 350 euro side hustle a few years back; (spoilers) it involved surgery!
As it’s quite an unusual and unique experience, I managed to convince him to write his experience down for you. Hope you enjoy it!
The Frugal Frenchie
I was a Guinea pig!
There are plenty of ways to earn money but I took part in a more controversial side hustle. I was a guinea pig for a science experiment. This might sound kind of weird, but it was relatively easy and I earned a good amount of money, for a student anyway.
What was the experiment?
Quickly summarised, I got a cast on one of my legs for a few days to keep it immobilised and I had to keep a track of what I was eating and my activity in a provided Activity and Nutrition log.
It really was that easy and that’s all I had to do. It was the people carrying out the experiment who were the busy ones… I’ll explain why in a moment.
The experiment was to research “Reducing Early Atrophy with Leucine during Immobilisation of Skeletal Muscle” or REALISM for short. They did this by having me drink some “heavy water” (just some water with added chemicals, nothing hazardous of course) once a day, and some powdered supplements 3 times a day with meals.
I spent a total of about 15-16 hours in the hospital over the course of a week, but I was more than happy to keep myself entertained.
A daily rundown of the experiment
On the first day, I gave a blood sample, took a CT and a DEXA scan, had saliva samples taken and drank the heavy water mentioned earlier. It was easy and I didn’t have to do anything. They sent me home with more water and a standardised meal that was just comprised of chicken and vegetables. Pretty tasty too I must add, definitely not what I would’ve considered “hospital food.” Then the rule of no eating after 8 pm, and filling out the forms.
Day two was the “immobilisation day.” A pretty short day, with another blood test and saliva samples. Then, a muscle biopsy!
In my opinion, this was the scariest part, the only part I was worried about. A muscle biopsy is basically a small surgical procedure where they remove part of the muscle in your upper leg, thigh region with a tiny, tiny incision (not even 1cm long). They obviously apply local anaesthetic beforehand, which is the only painful part of the whole procedure, and even then it’s just a few seconds, not even that!
After that, you just lay back and just wait really. Of course, it felt a bit funny, there’s someone poking around your leg, what do you expect, but the most you will feel is a slight tug and maybe a little twinge, but nothing sore.
After that you are placed in a cast on one leg, in my case, it was my left, and was sent home with, yeah you guessed it, the supplement, heavy water and small cotton swabs for saliva samples I was to collect every day.
The 3 days of immobilisation was also very easy. Just don’t put weight on it. Simple. They, of course, provided crutches so I could at least get around a little bit, but my girlfriend was also there to help me thankfully. I highly doubt I would have been able to do this experiment without her help, or it would have been very difficult and tiring to do anything. Going to the bathroom, showering, all that was made awkward, but it wasn’t a big hassle, and was worth it in the end. So in this period, all I did was took my supplements with meals and drank the heavy water. Easy (even easier by the fact that my girlfriend got them for me)!
After this period (the cast was on from Tuesday to Friday), I was back in the hospital on Friday morning, to get the cast removed, which I was SO happy about, finally getting the itchy cast off my leg. My leg could breathe again! Although I still couldn’t put any weight on it, I was so happy to finally scratch it, honestly, you can’t imagine my relief. After my good scratch, however, came the longest day of the experiment.
I was taken back for another CT scan on my legs, then back to the bed where I was hooked up to a catheter in my hand and my arm. One for easy blood draws throughout the day and the one in my arm for amino acid infusion. It sounds scary, but after the initial insertion, there were no more needles, which just made the day a whole lot easier. I was like that for about 4-5 hours.
The last hour was the busiest. It consisted of another 6 muscle biopsies, 3 from each leg. But again, they’re done so fast and painless, it isn’t a problem. At the same time, blood was being taken from my hand roughly every hour, then in the final hour, about every 10 minutes. Again, no more needles so that was no problem. It was a bit hectic, but not for me, so that’s no problem! I was able to listen to my YouTube video while everyone worked around me.
Finally, when the muscle biopsies were done, the catheter was taken out, and after being fasted for since 8 pm the previous evening, I was given food: bread and cheese had never tasted so good. It was quite weird after being in one room for so long, then never going back to it ever again, but make no mistake I was happy to be able to walk freely and eat what I wanted again.
How I felt about it!
As my final judgement, I’d have to say that overall it was a great experience, I got to contribute to future scientific discoveries and got 350€ for my troubles! The guys who did the experiment were very helpful and very nice; made me feel welcome. It was not only a great way to earn some money, but help out with science too. Would recommend if you don’t mind needles, can fit it in with your schedule (luckily I hadn’t started working yet) and have support at home!
Would you ever consider something similar? Let me know in the comments below!