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3.13. Memorabilia

Mr Simeon Ratnadurai
former Laboratory Technician 1994

The building was inadequate to house the laboratory. The rooms were meant for some other purposes. For e.g., there was a huge grinding stone in one room, which happened to be a kitchen. This was so heavy it could not be shifted! So we chose to dig a pit, bury this grinding stone and re-lay the floor! We had to plan for the cold room, incubation room, sterilisation room and many other rooms to cater to special facilities. Equipment came from all over. With Dr K Padmanabha Rao, Mr Cobbold and Dr Nassau in the lead, we re-ordered the rooms, unpacked, installed the equipment. In March 1961, after eight months of grinding work, our laboratory became fully operational, except for the cold room. In place of the cold room, we used four huge Philco refrigerators.

We had to innovate as we went along. For e.g., the inspissator, which is used for cooking the media, was not available. We also used a type of water bath so as to obtain a determined texture of the media. We needed racks to array and keep literally hundreds of McCartney bottles, so that reading, fetching, etc., would be easy. We put our heads together, designed and got them done locally. We had to devise sputum boxes, which are used to transport tightly packed and ice protected sputum specimen from field to the distant laboratory, fully protected from jerks and jolts of a bumpy ride. We had other problems. We found the contamination rates very high. We checked every step of the procedure and finally identified that few water drops trapped in between the metal undersurface and rubber lining of the McCartney bottle caps. It was obvious that in this place, the sterilisation process was somehow incomplete. So we separated the rubber lining from the metal cap, washed, dried and sterilised them separately, then refitted them into the caps and sent them for sterilisation again. With this we were able to check avoidable contamination. Such operations finally led us to standardise many procedures in the laboratory, which we now adopt as a matter of course.

Previously the concept was to collect 24 hour sputum specimen. We found that the results were good enough if the specimen collection was made on the spot. However, the sputum collector has a special responsibility. The patient’s posture while standing must be that he should place his arms on his hips while coughing to bring out the sputum. The collection must be done in shade and the sputum collector must have wind blowing away from him. I feel that the work done in the NTI laboratory is of high quality. For e.g., to prepare media, we do not buy eggs from the local market. A vehicle will go to Hesaraghatta, 26 miles away, where only fresh eggs are procured and brought for use in the media. The facilities are very good, as befitting a national laboratory.

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