Heather: We had to do this in 3 hours instead of 3 days. However, knowing that we were outrunning a possibly fatal storm, adrenaline took over! We each had our beds put level (no more -6 degree slant), but didn't feel much different. About fifteen minutes later, the beds were put an upward incline so our heads came forward. Everyone's blood pressure started to climb at this point, so we just stayed that way for awhile until we each felt like coming fully upright. I had immediate symptoms of disorientation when I turned to dangle my feet over the edge of the bed. They were all tingly! Deron and Kjell visited... they were already making laps around the ward at that point and seemed to be fine. The next blood pressure check was a horrifying number... never seen my BP that high! So I sat back awhile before trying to stand. Then Devin walked by the door.
Getting out of bed...
Devin: Heather was so mesmerized by my good looks that she then had to run and buy me a bottle of Coca-Cola!
Heather: That's just what I said to get $1.50 out of you for the vending machine.
Devin: You lie. So we had a good sugar buzz going. We put on our NASA shirts, and despite being wobbly, we did a "50-year" photo shoot. It was hugs all around until Deron and Kjell had to leave for the airport, and the majority of the staff departed.
Heather: We sure hope Deron and Kjell are able to return and start again, though unfortunately, we who had been head-down longer are de-conditioned, so the study is over for us. We may have follow-up testing, but cannot begin the campaign again in our current state. We look totally drunk tottering around barely able to balance!
Devin: The skeleton crew fed and watered us over the next few hours, as we reminisced over our time in the study. We swapped war stories, and even in what many might consider a moment of tragedy, I, Sarcasmo, rallied the troops and kept everyone's morale high with my comedic humor. Truly, many Hallmark moments. Especially when Heather collapsed in the cafeteria when we went for sandwiches.
Heather: Yes, ironic that I was the first to hit the floor, considering Marcus asked for a wheelchair first! We were told that sort of thing was normal, but I underestimated how incredibly FAST it can happen. One moment everything felt fine, the next, my legs wouldn't lock. You just have to rest in between limping about. We were finally called down to the lobby to get in "line" -- or rather, join the masses of beds, people, IV poles and oh my lord! I've been in fire drills, but never seen anything like this. You would not believe what it takes to evacuate an entire hospital campus, much less a whole island.
Devin: Organized chaos! Buses and emergency vehicles as far as the eye could see, down every street... I kept thinking of the movie "Convoy." 56,000 were being displaced in a fairly short period, and we found out later, more than 200,000 in Houston and across the Gulf Coast zip codes. We saw water pumps and sand bags coming in, and thus began the Three Amigos Ambulance Adventure!
We got on the road in a fleet of ten ambulances headed north to various hospitals. We give a big shout out to Ashley and Jodi, our EMTs from St. Louis Emergency Services, deployed by FEMA. They're driving up and down Texas, sleeping in the back of their rig, making sure invalids like us make it to safety. It took 6 hours to reach the capital, and we checked in around 2:00am for some much-needed sleep. Way past our 10:00pm bedtime!
Heather: So that was yesterday. Today can be summed up in one word: PAIN. Our muscles are springing to life again, and like most people, we are glued to the news, watching Hurricane Ike. The route our ambulance took less than 24 hours ago is now under water! So although we are sorry to see our project end, we think they made the right decision and we are pretty darned glad not to be on Galveston! And we are very concerned for all the folks who had to evacuate their homes... we now know first-hand how alarming this upheaval can be.
Devin: Absolutely... our deepest sympathies to our extended UTMB family, many of whom had to pack and leave very quickly, and we hope they don't suffer any damages or losses! Everyone is in our thoughts and prayers.