Thursday, May 28, 2009
Still achy, but happy to be home anyway! Well, not precisely at home just yet. After having a bit of trouble "re-adjusting" last year, my eldest brother took me in for a few days this time. He's taking care of me until I feel comfortable being on my own. I SHOULD have been smart enough to do that last year, and it's probably an over-reaction this time. We did our safety measures backward! However, it's nice to have a small cushion, and spend some time with family after being away for a month. And I won't lie -- he's also cooking for me, which totally rocks.
Meanwhile, miss DaVonne busily finished her butterfly and family frames before going head-down! So we have some new pictures in the Art Gallery.
She'll be adjusting this week, so everyone please send Miss D some good vibes! I know what it's like to be at -6 degrees, and the first week is definitely the roughest. But after she adjusts and gets into a good routine, she can take the reins and do the next television appearance! ;)
Thanks to everyone for following along! I've really enjoyed all the comments and emails, though please forgive me for going so slowly. I really try to answer everyone, it just takes some time! I'll continue blogging about interesting simulation studies and perhaps share my next road trip. We'll also be featuring space history, more space trivia... and there are more celebrations all around the NASA sites for the Apollo program this year.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
This list was much shorter of course, being only about a month, with 6 days in bed to "kill time." Still, it represents one of the best parts of doing these studies. You screen to see if you can make it, you check in to see if you can do it -- but it doesn't hurt to have lots of time to "catch up" on stacks of books or rental DVDs :)
So here is how I spent my downtime when I wasn't blogging or net surfing:
The Japanese Mind by Roger Davies & Osamu Ikeno
Good Omens by Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett
Failure Is Not An Option by Gene Kranz
All We Did Was Go To The Moon by Richard Lattimer
A Beautiful Mind
The Last Samurai
Chronicles of Narnia: Lion, Witch, Wardrobe
Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
Star Trek: Nemesis
Fire Over England
Millennium (TV series, Season One)
I'd always recommend Kranz's book -- read that one twice now. Lattimer's recap of our moon jaunts was also interesting, and I expect to see a whole lot about that in the news this summer as the 40th Anniversay of Apollo 11 draws near.
If you appreciate an irreverent sense of humor or even mild flippancy, treat yourself to "Good Omens." My best friend, Karin, recommended it to me the last time I was on the ward, and I purchased it online from Amazon just in time to evacuate. So, I saved it in the hopes I would return. And hey, I finally got to read it. Awesome book, and extremely funny in a Monty-Python-Meets-The-Antichrist kinda way.
After a couple days of moving around slowly, however, actual pain sets in. All the muscles you didn't use for those days come alive and start singing!
Brent, the exercise physiologist (also featured on some of our rehab photographs from last year) took me for some "laps" around the facility; we walked through some tunnels to the ER, where I could look out the windows at the water. We also went to one of the glass walkways which crosses over the street. Normally it leads through wide doors into the Shriner's Burn Hospital, but that has sadly not re-opened since Hurricane Ike.
We then went into the weights room, where I did some pull-ups, push-ups and specific stretches for the muscles around the spine and shoulders. Otherwise those tend to "hunch up." Of course, the next day all it accomplishes is making your arms hurt as much as your legs, LOL! But after the "influenza" feeling in the muscles fades, you can start to rebuild them.
Morning time is the hardest. Everything stiffens up overnight... but stretching still stings, and even a hot shower does only so much. Toward the middle of the day, I feel better and more alert -- but then when it gets late, walking becomes a slower affair once again. My feet start feeling sore. Again, still nothing compared to last time, and entirely bearable. It's just hard to "take things slow" when I want to break into a run!
Major upside? Daily massages :)
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Nemo is a bit camera-shy, and of course my blog stories are entirely voluntary -- I would never insist on photos. So instead I'll show you the great gift he brought me... a page from National Geographic detailing a NASA undewater habitat study from the 1970s, autographed by one of the original AquaNauts!
The NASA Tektite underwater habitat was inspired by Skylab, and sought to test the possibilites of scientists working under extremely isolated living conditions, such as the moon, spacecrafts, or ocean floor. In 1969, the first team of four AquaNauts spent 58 days conducting marine studies off the coast of the Virgin Islands, the requiring nearly 20 hours of decompression to return to the surface.
In 1970, Tektite II housed 10 missions, each with four scientists an an engineer to pioneer the first in-depth ecological studies. One of these included the first all-female AquaNaut team: Dr. Sylvia Mead, Dr. Renata True (then working at Tulane), and young graduate students from the Scripps Institute of Oceanography. The conducted medical research to determine blood changes, human research to gauge psychological fitness, and set records for saturation diving.
Dr. Renata True, Ph.D. has degrees in natural history, marine biology and oceanography, and now teaches physiology/anatomy at the College of the Mainland in nearby Texas City. Capt. Nemo took one of True's classes recently, and had the opportunity to discuss the NASA projects with her -- mentioning in passing that he followed the blog of a current test subject also getting a taste of confinement... though nowhere near the confinement of an underwater habitat. That is some serious dedication. I'm so thrilled to have this keepsake from her, and the admiration is all mine!
Jay is one of the mathematician chefs, who must take our daily weight and nutritional requirements, then calculate what precise foods make it onto our plates. We were introduced last year, and upon being re-aquainted, he brought me a surprise! ... the Star Trek Glasses now being sold with Burger King meals.
Also, pals John and Chris, affectionately known to our circle as "the marketing guys," helped me pass some lunar tilt time, and brought me a fantastic collectible die-cast of the USS Enterprise. SWEET. There are 6 ships in the series, this one being the NCC-1701 refit. They get all the credit for our fun media spots in newspapers, radio and TV. It's been great working with them to "get the word out." Here's hoping recent press encouraged some people to apply for the amazing projects at the NASA ward!
Last time I was here, Mrs. L sent me Captain Kirk & Yeoman Rand dolls; and Eric, another staff member, brought two Star Trek calendars. Good thing I never stay too long, or they would to have to build shelves in "my" room, LOL. Excellent presents all, thank you so much everyone! :)
Stay tuned, more to come in the Visitor Gallery...
Monday, May 25, 2009
So Tierra, how did you get into this career?
Way back when, I had 3 jobs... one at Krispy Kreme (laughs), seriously! I cleaned houses, and worked as a cashier at Walmart, but I said, enough of that, and headed to college in Radford, VA. I became an RN in 1997 and worked in Med/Surge on a unit that was also a step-down for ICU, at Roanoke Community Hospital. I also worked for the Public Health Department, but went back to Tennessee in 2003 where I worked in Home Health, Hyperbarics and Wound Care. I’ve dealt with everything from lightning strikes to brown recluse spider bites to gangrene, you name it!
Wow, definitely the seasoned veteran! What brought you to Galveston?
My husband is a native Texan. We met in Tennessee while he was working as a traveling Anesthesia tech; we fell in love and 3 years later we were married. He convinced me to move to Texas, and we’ve been here 5 years now. I came to UTMB for a job on the FARU (Flight Analog Research Unit) and I also work in the General Clinical Research Center (GCRC)… we nurses are responsible for space study protocols on the FARU; and on the GCRC, we have protocols in vaccine studies, metabolism studies, liver and muscle biopsies, breast cancer/cervical cancer, HIV, porphyria, and angioedema… to name a few.
No wonder we only see you 4 days a week on the rotation! Is there a workload difference between dealing with ill patients and healthy subjects?
Sick people are definitely more of a challenge. However, you subjects do experience a lowered immune system while on bed rest. Any seemingly minor thing can become a big deal, very quickly. Even in “healthy subjects,” we need to be constantly looking for anything that could develop into a health issue.
Do you think you could ever do this bed rest thing?
Oh, probably not. I think it takes more courage than what I have! It takes a lot of dedication. This is definitely a nursing job where you'll learn something new every day, not only about science, but about the human body and how amazing it is. With all the natural stresses subjects go through in testing, it’s incredible how the body adapts and rebounds. It’s especially interesting in the beginning and end of Bed Rest. It may seem easy on the surface – but it takes special people to carry out these studies.
Flattery will get you everywhere… and we're glad you are monitoring so closely!
(laughs) Thank you. I love my job! I really do, I enjoy coming here every day. It is great meeting people from different states, with such a variety of personalities. We get to meet people from all over the country. Coming to Texas and working for NASA was a dream come true, and I feel it’s an honor to be here. I was not a ‘typical’ little girl. I had NASA stuff all over my bedroom… space mobiles, toy spaceships, models of the Apollo rockets, satellites hanging from the ceiling… I got $2.25 a week for my allowance, and that was where all my money went! I even had this little lamp in the shape of a ball that reflected stars and constellations onto the wall. I never dreamed that someday I would have this opportunity.
That’s awesome… Have you met any astronauts?
Yes I have, Don Thomas – and I got my picture with him! He came here to talk about what it was like to be in space, and he was an excellent presenter… Interacted with all the subjects, and signed autographs. Others have come through to shake hands and talk to people, but Don really stuck out in my mind for all the time he spent. My dream now is to see a liftoff up close someday in Florida.
Definitely worth the trip!
And unlike a sudden hurricane scare, here's what happens in the usual rise-from-bedrest process!
6:00 - Blood Pressure 97/57 - Pulse 81
Just woke up, still lying down.
6:30 - BP 93/57 - Pulse 60
Bed angle changed to +30 degrees forward. Noticed a bit of ache in the lower back but nothing sharp. Immediately got the hiccups for some weird reason!
7:00 - BP 99/57 - Pulse 73
Bed angle changed to +45 degrees forward. Monitor helped me pull my laptop out of the table-springs, and I was able to put it on my lap as I sat up. Had a few moments of feeling light-headed, but still pretty relaxed.
7:15 - Breakfast
7:45 - BP 106/67 - Pulse 85
Nurse Bonnie put bed as far forward as it would go, then used a foam wedge to set my mattress to +90 degrees. Vitals clearly climbing, but no real changes in feeling.
8:00 - BP 113/67 - Pulse 75
Just checking. BP up, but pulse down. Body trying to figure out what the heck is going on, LOL...
8:15 - BP 110/67 - Pulse 91
Turned and dangled my feet over edge of bed. Can feel some toe tingles.
8:30 - BP 91/73 - Pulse 91
Kicking outward, stretching, taking deep breaths.
8:35 - BP 118/72 - Pulse 115
Felt a bit of a heart race, so they took vitals before the next time marker... quite a sudden spike! Body attempting to re-adjust to being upright.
8:45 - BP 112/70 - Pulse 100
At proper marker, equalizing a bit...
8:50 - BP 106/82 - Pulse 82
At this point, I was finally given the go-ahead to STAND UP. And it's amazing how much you appreciate standing up when you haven't been able to for awhile. There was a flash of pain in the soles of my feet, but OH, nowhere NEAR as acute as last time. Still registered in the nerves, but tame in comparison.
9:00 - BP 143/85 - Pulse 128
YOW. Major upswing, and probably the highest pressure numbers I've ever seen...but didn’t seem heart-pounding or anything. Once up, I wanted to WALK, but was advised to just stay standing still for awhile.
9:10 - BP 110/66 - Pulse 118
Regulating. The good news (and another improvement over last time) was no dizziness, no nausea... so this tilt is not as taxing on the equilibrium. Shifted weight from leg to leg, raised each off the ground to bend the knees. Balanced on one foot and then the other. A bit stiff, but no real pain in the legs. Awesome.
9:20 - BP 113/76 - Pulse 115
Took my first slow walk around the ward (one circle around our end of the facility is about 100 steps) with Bonnie & Elva on either side, and kept the BP cuff on in case I had any sudden symptoms while moving.
Nurse Bonnie said fluctuations were expected, but that I was pretty stable, all things considered. Of course, we never really see any data but our own, so we have no real comparisons. I guess it’s just considered "good news" if you don’t faint dead away on the floor. Bad news would be hitting any extreme high or low.
9:30 - BP 110/66 - Pulse 111
Walked around the ward twice, resting in between, and talking to everyone. Many kindly congratulated me on completing the bedrest phase.
9:45 - BP 106/55 - Pulse 106
Walked around the ward three times, then got back onto the bed to put heating pad on my lower back, which was twinging a bit. Foot soles definitely sore by then! So, I stayed still and just watched CNN for awhile.
10:15 - BP 91/64 - Pulse 107
Vital signs returned to my normal resting range, so I got up again. Walked around ward 5 times, making an effort to go faster and take deep breaths. Got rolling at quite a swift gait... but now I'm remembering last year, and how depressing it is not to be able to RUN ;)
10:30 - BP 121/75 - Pulse 111
Post-exercise vitals check yielded good numbers. Awesome. Feeling great! I sat down again for about an hour to write and relax, because I learned [the hard way] that if you move around "too much" or "too quickly" on unused muscles, you truly pay for it the next day.
Next up... finally a hot shower where I can wash my hair properly!
Sunday, May 24, 2009
So, yeah. That took about 9 seconds to eat. An hour later, three people from Johnson Space Center's Vascular Laboratory showed up. Since I cannot move from the tilted bed to go down to the main testing room, they brought all their equipment into mine: oxygen tank, re-breather, rock cylinder, IV pole, etc. After the blood draw, they put the hoses and apparatus on my head for the plasma volume testing, which went fine... and in fact seemed shorter this time. Everything seems shorter and more "normal" the second time around, somehow. (Well, except being in a bed and having a snorkel on your face, I guess that will never feel normal.)
Upon completion, I got the second meal portion, which was actually one of my favorite dinner menus: salmon, rice & veggies.
And now I'm in the last phase of the tilt! I'm "on the moon" for about 15 more minutes, and then the bed will be lowered to a horizontal position for the last time. After sleeping and morning vitals, I'll begin the process of rising.
In far more relevant news:
Congratulations to the STS-125 Shuttle Atlantis crew, who landed safely today at Edwards Airforce Base in southern California! Another great NASA success story :)
Those are hilarious... they should issue a pair to every new check-in, LOL...
p.s. - Please please leave a name if you comment! Even if it's not your own name. Seriously, make something up. This "anonymous" stuff bums me out.
Raymond L. of Wichita, KS asks: Are the compression stockings painful?
You know, after you're worn high-heeled shoes for decades, feet get used to the abuse! My calves and shins aren't used to the constriction, but I actually think I've been quite lucky. While my back pain still comes and goes after being in the same position for a long time, I have not had the foot pain or hot spots that some others reported. I itch a bit at night where the elastic band rests around the calves, but otherwise they have not bothered me. In fact, one night, a nurse had to remind me to take the stockings off because I had forgotten all about them!
Sach in Auckland, New Zealand asks: I'm SO close to asking you for an autograph! I might just, one of these days! You plan to release any photos of you that people can buy and get autographed? ;)
And in today's episode of Not Bloody Likely... LOL, I have had a smattering of such requests and am not sure if I should find them flattering or alarming. I do have a Postcard Exchange on my NavBar, so if anyone wants to swap with me, I guess you'd get my signature by default that way... but I'm pretty sure Kato Kaelin's autograph would still go for more than mine on E-bay. ;)
Speaking of postcards, I just found a whole stack that had been mailed to me after Hurricane Ike! I'll post those soon to show all the great places folks wrote in from... and hey, I have nothing yet from New Zealand...
Christina Maxwell in Landstuhl, Germany asks: I enjoy reading about your study. Thanks again for blogging it all. One question...I know that Texas is a very warm climate. Does the study allow you to be in the air conditioning?
Thank you, glad to see you back! Texas is definitely warm, and Galveston Island is quite close to the Tropic of Cancer... lots of heat and humidity. So we definitely have air conditioning... it would be pretty stuffy in here without the building HVAC system. (Sometimes it seems a little too efficient to me though, I get icy fingers and toes.)
Brandy in Greenville, SC asks: So fun! [A news article] In your hometown! (Well, almost) After all this they should just send you to the moon base when it is built. You would go too, wouldn't you.
Negative. No hockey arenas. When the NHL opens the season at the lunar poles, that's when I'll sign up... :)
Saturday, May 23, 2009
I guess he still likes print, as I do. Of course, at the moment, I can only read the online version of the interview at Statesman.com ... but this is the subscription I read at home, so it's exciting for me! Not that it isn't fun being on the news in Houston, but I was very happy my local press was helping to spread the word.
This next piece was more of a surprise. Moon Daily, one of the five branches of the Space Media Network, ran a story on the Lunar Study, delving into great detail. However, I have no idea how they got the information. I got no calls or visits, and wouldn't have known about it, if not for an astute reader on Wyle's Psyche staff. Good catch Daphne! :)
That picture was taken last August by a FOX photographer, so mayhap unbeknownst to me (or knownst to someone at JSC), they are affiliated somehow. It's a mystery!
Friday, May 22, 2009
Easier because it's much shorter, but harder because... it's much shorter! Sounds odd, but... in the -6 tilt, I had more time to acclimate. In this short study, by the time I am completely adapted, I'll be getting up!
In overall similarities, I feel more "full" after eating again, I have to navigate drinking and washing more carefully so as not to spill water everywhere, and all the bodily functions slow down. I’ve used a heating pad both times to alleviate back-aches. They lessen after position changes... but, just like last time, it's clear the human body has evolved to be UPRIGHT and active, not recumbent! I always look forward to the two daily times I get to stretch and exercise.
Differences in life at two different tilts? I’d say -6 is tougher on the body physiologically. The lunar gravity tilt means no blood rush to the head, no throbbing molars, and thankfully, no wild spinning sensations. Last year, just turning my head in those first few days yielded unpleasant vertigo and nausea. However, while +9.5 is "easier," is not precisely “easy.” I have short arms, and when tilted, I cannot reach things around me -- the opposite of last year's “reaching upward” problem where I had to “feel around” my tables and dresser because I couldn’t see surfaces. I also have to be careful not to let go of things while slanted. My phone, mouse, clipboard, books, etc. have all toppled to the floor in the past few days.
When I’m in the "sitting" configuration, the wall television won’t reach me. When "standing," the laptop-holder has to be re-adjusted so as not to hit me in the head. Last year, I didn’t have to worry so much about moving things to be in reach, or what-I-did-when. I was in one position 24x7. The changes mean I must adjust everything around the bed 8 times per day.
Oh you betcha. what, you didn't see the Voyager episode where Tuvoc got all bent out of shape in the Neutrino wave, or when Worf got space sick in First Contact? And you call yourself a Trekkie. LOL, just kidding ;) Star Trek tackled symptoms of pain and nausea in micro-gravity as a "rarity" in the far future, but outside the sci-fi world, they're unavoidable, regardless of training or preparation. When I first reported back pain, I was assured it was perfectly normal, was a common complaint of astronauts, and would pass. I have yet to meet someone on any project who didn't get some level of discomfort in the lower back, and sometimes the abdomen.
For many years it was assumed that "only a few astronauts" were affected; however, they later realized that's because only a few astronauts REPORT discomfort. Many are reluctant to admit the extent of their symptoms, which makes them difficult to study.
In a descriptive article on SPACE.COM, folks from MIT and the NSBRI described how many astronauts "didn't like notifying ground control that they were busy wiping their bravado off the spacecraft walls. There was paranoia that reporting less than top-notch well-being might spoil an astronaut's chance of another hop into space." It's understandable, when you're trying to uphold that hard-won image of having The Right Stuff.
Now however, I think it's casually expected… and is the reason no one ever does space walks on Day One of a mission. Re-orienting yourself is difficult, and then you go through it again when you get back to normal gravity!
Captain Nemo of Galveston, TX asks: Quite a change from your last study and my big question is are you finding it easier, more difficult or no noticeable change in your dining habits?
Definitely an adjustment again. Food intake always drops upon reaching the bed rest phase, but no matter what, I feel full all day. I remember at -6, just swallowing had a different feel. So, I chewed more! Gravity isn’t against me so much at +9.5, so I chew and swallow normally.
Meals are always served when I'm in the "standing" config, and like last time, I roll to the side and put one arm under my head to eat. I still can’t use a knife and fork to cut anything… one utensil at a time! I also rely more on my fingers.
Thursday, May 21, 2009
Alas, Sarcasmo is visiting his horse farm in Iowa, so he couldn't be here to wow us with his views on male leg-shaving. Maybe next time.
Look closely, you can see one of my Apollo 40th Anniversary shirts. Each subject gets one, and that particular one is currently on sale at The Space Store.
The print story about the lunar study (also links to the post-hurricane clip) is in the "Weird News" section of the MyFoxHouston website... LOL, well someone finally put me where I belong!
There are actually eight changes throughout the "Lunar day," surrounded by various exercises, meals and recording activities. Each day, the monitors write a schedule for every subject on whiteboards in our rooms. Here's a sample of my schedule before the lunar bed phase:
Lots of playtime! Almost too much. And here is my schedule after the lunar bed phase began:
This is the standard schedule for days 1,2,3 and 5. On day 4, there's a deviation for massage therapy... then on day 6, another deviation for a repeat of the plasma volume testing. At first glance it looks crazy, so when I first got it, I typed it out so I could review it more carefully, getting an idea of the patterns:
0600 Wake Up Call
0615 Vitals (Blood Pressure/Temperature)
0630 Weight Scale
0645 Hygiene Time + Don Compression Stockings
0720 ACTIVITY LOG BEGINS
0730 Bed Changes from Horizontal to 9.5 degrees STANDING
0800 Comfort Log #1
0805 Stretches (To prevent blood clots) #1
0840 Comfort Log #2
0845 Bed Config Change to SITTING
0930 Lower Leg Moves #1
0940 Comfort Log #3
1030 Comfort Log #4
1100 Lower Leg Moves #2
1140 Comfort Log #5
1145 Bed Config Changes to STANDING
1215 Comfort Log #6
1300 Comfort Log #7
1320 Comfort Log #8
1330 Bed Config Change to SITTING
1415 Lower Leg Moves #3
1420 Comfort Log #9
1430 Vitals (Blood Pressure/Temperature)
1500 Comfort Log #10
1545 Lower Leg Moves #4
1620 Comfort Log #11
1630 Bed Config Changes to STANDING
1700 Comfort Log #12
1800 Comfort Log #13
1815 Stretches (To prevent blood clots) #2
1850 Comfort Log #14
1900 Bed Config Changes to SITTING
1945 Lower Leg Moves #5
1950 Comfort Log #15
2015 Comfort Log #16
2030 Lower Leg Moves #6
2100 Comfort Log #17
2110 ACTIVITY LOG PICKED UP
2115 Bed Changes From 9.5 Degrees to Horizontal
2120 Comfort Log #18
2130 Remove compression stockings
2135 Respiratory + Heartbeat assessement & foot check
2200 Lights Out
Looks pretty busy in comparison to last year's schedule, even on days with multiple tests! However, many of the activities are quite brief. For instance, the bed tilting takes maybe seven minutes, filling out a comfort log (noting down any parts of the body experiencing aches or discomfort) only takes two minutes -- and then I'll have an hour to kill. I always have to stretch for thirty minutes, but the leg movements are timed at thirty seconds for each foot... and boy do those feel good after being still for so long!
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
This time, adaptation went much more smoothly and swiftly than in the -6 tilt, as it's less taxing on the body... thought once you're in bed, you're there to stay! That can be a weird thought... naturally wanting to get up to do some normal thing, and realizing you have to manage it from a bed. The upward tilt is easier in terms of seeing the environment, but a bit tougher in terms of reaching items sometimes, depending on direction I have to stretch my arms.
I can't play Arts & Crafts with the gang anymore, but everyone comes to visit me in my room, and I'm keeping busy with the internet, books, music, DVDs, etc. "Adjusting" easily morphs into "relaxing" and I start to realize this is about as good as it gets. I'm not running up bills, I'm not doing housework, I'm not mowing the lawn, I'm not using any gasoline, I'm not even doing my own dishes or grocery shopping. Not too shabby.
In news of the real off-world:
Yesterday, human hands touched the Hubble for the last time, so hopefully it will last us at least another decade! The Shuttle Atlantis crew are enjoying a "day off" during their travel back to Earth, after having performing a whopping 37 hours worth of space walks! Thunderstorms in Florida may keep them in the sky longer than plannned, but fingers crossed for their safe return :)
Yesterday, I only had a bit of mild tingling in the legs... no numbness or "hot spots" as I've heard others report (though that doesn't mean that won't show up over more time). My back twinged many times, particularly when I tried to breathe deeply.
The same was true last year, so I expected another acclimation period. Any change in circumstances or environment takes adjustment, but when any symptoms become acute, predicting that adjustment doesn't make it any easier!
The backache didn't interfere with my normal activities yesterday... instead it waited until the middle of the night to flare into fire! I woke up just after 3:00am, unable to find a comfortable sleeping position. I tossed and turned for awhile, and you know how it is when you cannot sleep -- you start thinking how drowsy you'll be the next day, and every tiny noise seems amplified. The ticking clock in my room started to sound explosive and sinister. I became frustrated that I just couldn't close my eyes. For the first time, I called for a nurse in the middle of the night.
Luckily, responses around here are always immediate, sympathetic and geared toward swift resolution. The only problem is with ME, in terms of not asking for help sooner. Perhaps that's true for many women -- we are not used to being taken care of -- certainly not accustomed to smiling nurses waiting on us hand and foot! It's difficult to deal with the guilt of "bothering" someone until I feel desperate. Within a few minutes, I had two Tylenol in hand, along with a heating pad and earplugs... and another half-hour later, I was fast asleep.
I slept so deeply, I experienced another "first" here: I didn't even hear the wake-up music! Part of it was the foam earplugs, but I was honestly still knocked out and didn't blink into consciousness until another nurse was wrapping a blood pressure cuff around my arm for morning vitals!
Backache gone. Adaptability in action. And today, I get to do it aaaaaaall over again... going into the "standing" tilt any moment now...
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
At 6:45 this morning, I pulled on my new Jobst compression stockings. I know the in the previous study, many subjects wore thigh-high compressors... but in this new campaign, we have slightly looser ones which reach just-below-the-knee.
These stockings are used to mimic the effect of lunar gravity on the blood in the legs. They are not painful or uncomfortable -- in fact I imagine I have it easier than Candace or Kevin, who had the thigh-highs in 2008. However, sometimes my toes get tingly, and I'm betting by the end of the day they may be numb!
At 7:30am, the lower mattress was removed from the bed, creating a large space. I knew about this part, since I watched them change the bed many times when "Melissa" was here. It's a standard hospital bed, but also note the rails underneath. You can clearly see part of the lower bed is missing; the remaining portion is designed to slide back and forth.
Nurse Tammy tilted the bed to 9.5 degrees upward, at which point the upper mattress slid down partway, and caused me to plant my feet on the forceplate. This piece of hardware measures the load between my feet and the supporting surface, thus providing measurements of forces that the feet experience... and the data is communicated to a laptop in a rack attached to the side of the bed.
You can see from the pictures above, I can easily turn to the side (which is better for when I'm eating), but most of the time, I remain straight. This is what simulates the "lunar gravity" ... and is significantly easier to bear than micro-gravity! Which is to say, I've been in the tilted bed over 8 hours now, and have only had a mild backache. Last year, after 8 hours at a -6 degree tilt, I was feeling FAR more physiological changes. Makes sense! And it started me thinking: ANY amount of gravity is good! :) Certainly different from Earth gravity, but even a little force makes a difference.
After certain portions of time, the schedule calls for a bed reconfiguration. The force plate is removed, and a small stool is placed in the empty space. I slide down even more, and can "sit" on the stool until it's time to stand again. These phases are all designed to mimic lunar activites in modules, moonwalks, rover rides, and so on.
They had to make a few modifications for my stint in the bed, since at 5'1" I am the shortest person to do this study so far!
Monday, May 18, 2009
We really hit it off as soon as she checked in, and are already bummed out that we won't have much time here. But we're making the most of what we do have!
DaVonne heard about the study through a friend who travels around for research studies, and recommended NASA as a good place to contribute -- and here, she has free time to study. So when I'm blogging, she's doing homework, working toward her bachelor's degree in interior design.
We've been shushed after getting rowdy a couple times, always a good fun factor sign, but we know we better keep it down before we start annoying the nurses. Then again, Devin came back for another visit, so it may be too late for that! He and I didn't have time to paint our ceiling tiles last time, so we finally got our chance now... along with Todd R., another lunar study participant.
Todd lives in Austin, TX at the moment, but like Devin, hails from Iowa. (What is it about Iowans and NASA studies??) He's also lived in Houston, Miami and Ft. Lauderdale. Todd just completed his Doctoral Dissertation in Clinical Psychology, and will be seeking his license soon. You may also be able to tell that he is a fellow Star Trek fan...
I though this tile was the most original... he was the first to work in 3-D! Instead of just painting a surface, he cut and glued foam planets. Clever, eh?
To see the rest of the new ceiling tiles and our other arts & crafts projects, go to the entire Art Gallery over in my Picasa albums! Definitely our funniest collection yet...
Sunday, May 17, 2009
Turns out this same chap recorded a video message for all the subjects on the study ward, which we watched on DVD.
I have no way to format or replay the film here -- but I watched it three times, and noted a few of his wonderful comments.
"Being a physician who's interested in space medicine, I've always followed studies in flight and on the ground -- some of the most important experiments we do... are bedrest studies like the one you're in."
"You feel the same facial fullness, and over time you start to lose the muscle mass, bone mass and aerobic capacity just like we do on orbit. It's a good venue for us to try new techniques or counter-measures to fight some of these problems."
"It's difficult for us to study any one particular parameter or factor in space long-term, but you can do that in bedrest... kinda to your detriment, because it may make your diet or your exercise regime monotonous, but to us it's like gold! We can seek out each of these areas and learn more about it."
"We thank you so much... without you, we could not effectively fly in space without a lot of open questions. Thanks for making it less of a black box for us, and thanks for the sacrifice you're making."
Hey Mike, you're welcome. But I'm still jealous that you are not even on planet Earth and you still got to see Star Trek before I did :p
Saturday, May 16, 2009
Diaz links to the original article in the New York Times, and also hooks to an interesting review of the film, because of course those are hard to come by and getting rarer. HA.
I actually recognized his name from around this time last year; I had just seen bedrest study details on the Wired Science blog, and was browsing around for other mentions. Diaz posted an article entitled NASA Wants You To Get In Bed For $17,000 ... revisiting it tonight, I see there are now 50 comments.
And may I just say:
One person quipped they will pass rather than eat "astronaut food," two people did the salary math entirely wrong, still others commented about how it's appropriate for the grossly overweight or paraplegic... and I'm only mentioning some of the least offensive posts here. My favorite was the guy who said (without citing any medical journal, mind you) that studies show how "being immobilized for 30 days is worse for your body than 30 years of aging"... LOL!
How is it that people still believe Tang and paste tubes are space diet staples? That has not been the case for over three decades... but apparently, I am 98 years old now, so what would I know?
Oh wait, I'm living it as we speak, so I DO know. I've never understood why people comment brashly or with condescending certitude about topics they know nothing about. A few people in the mix asked reasonable questions or pointed out the benefits... but most of it was alarmingly off-base.
Having spent a year of my life participating in these programs and writing about them, I take some understandable umbrage. So here are some facts I've seen with my own eyes:
- If you are not healthy enough to withstand the protocols, you won't get in.
- Even if you screen and don't make it, you just got the best medical physical of your life.
- If at any point you experienced a problem, testing would cease immediately, and you are in about the best place in the world to resolve it.
- You will not age a year per day.
- We eat perfectly normal food and there is nothing secret about any of the meals... in fact, it's been posted in my blog's right-hand navigation bar for nearly a year. See the "UTMB * MENUS" link.
- Regardless of faulty wage assumptions by people not affiliated with the program and who assume NASA is attempting some kind of swindle -- you will be paid for EACH DAY you are traveling to or from Texas, screening, on the ward or in bed -- not just for the "bedrest phase" of any project. In fact, when Devin, Marcus and I evacuated last September, we were shipped to another hospital for rehab... but NASA continued to pay us until the day we got HOME. You will also be paid for 6-month and one-year check-ups.
Friday, May 15, 2009
Where do I file a complaint?? Seriously, get her out of here. Come on, I want someone who is at LEAST a snappier dresser.
They told me her name was Melissa... I keep asking her where she's from, what she does for a living, how she likes it here on Galveston Island, but it's no use. Just not the chatty sort, I guess.
"Hey, the Atlantis crew are replacing gyroscopes on the Hubble today, They're showing the camera feed from one of the astronauts' helmets... turn on channel 39!" She doesn't even bother to answer. So rude.
Switching off satire mode, just in case anyone thought that was even remotely serious. Not sure what they are testing over on the lunar bed... likely something having to do with weight or pressure. In all honesty though, this thing is kinda creepy. It startles people. I rolled my table in front of it last night so I wouldn't catch sight of it in a sleepy haze.
You can tell I have a bit more time on my hands with this project.
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Today was the lone test for the Lunar Analog Feasibility Study, the purpose being to understand the effects of lunar gravity on physiological changes in the human body while astronauts are on the moon. I haven't "gone to the moon" just yet, but this is to establish a "baseline" of my plasma volume, and it will be repeated later to determine any changes.
A nurse poked the vein in my inner left elbow, and left a catheter in my arm. Once that was inside, I just had to remain recumbent for a 20-minute period. They turned down the lights, and advised me to stay as still as possible... no crossing the legs or moving the arms. Being flat on my back through all this, sometimes it's difficult not to doze off! Chatted quietly with the two folks from the JSC Vascular Labs (low talking is acceptable).
After 20 minutes, they take an initial blood sample from the open arm vein, and are then ready to test plasma volume -- which basically means measuring the amount of blood circulating in all vessels. This is accomplished with a technique called "carbon monoxide rebreathing."
Most divers are familiar with basic rebreathers, a "closed circuit" set that contains oxygen but also recycles exhaled gases. NASA's is a bit different since it's not used for survival underwater so much as measuring what's absorbed and expelled after being directed through a cylinder of sand lime (to filter carbon dioxide).
In the first stage, a snorkel-ish mouthpiece attached to a hose was placed over my face, and I breathed 100% oxygen for two minutes. In the second stage, a tiny amount of carbon monoxide was released into the breathing apparatus... nothing dangerous (about the equivalent of two cigarettes), but the hose stays in, and I had to inhale and exhale normally for 10 minutes.
At certain intervals, they asked me to breathe ALL the way out, or ALL the way in, then resume normal respiration. All my communication had to be through waves or "thumbs up" since the mouthpiece cannot be removed.
After the 10-minute cycle, a second blood sample was taken from the arm catheter for analysis. From these samples they deduce total red blood cell count, hemoglobin concentration, and the proportion of blood volume that is occupied by red blood cells... also called the hematocrit (Ht or HCT) or "packed cell volume" (PCV).
What they should do is test your brain for the capacity to memorize masses of acronyms before and after doing a NASA study. My brain is full. But anyway.
In micro-gravity and lunar gravity, plasma volume is one of the very first things to change internally, and red blood cell mass decreases in both astronauts and analogs, so that's why they will repeat it after the bedrest phase.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Pillownaut & Sarcasmo
He recently attended the Community College Aerospace Scholars (CAS), an exciting program at Johnson Space Center for design experiments. MER, or the Mars Exploration Rover project (launched Spirit & Opportunity in 2003) is seeking aerospace contractors to develop the next generation of Mars Rovers. They are encouraging mentored groups to explore aerospace careers, using the MARSUV as a field trial model.
Each group creates a fictional aerospace company, electing a CEO, design and budget managers, scientists, operations personnel, and so on. The Mars Autonomous Roving Survey Utility Vehicle (MARSUV) will be NASA's advanced technology rover that supports robotic missions on Mars. Each team builds a miniature model, then the teams test them for functionality.
Since future missions to Mars will collect samples from the Martian surface and return them to Earth, the designs had to account for surface rock and soil collection, spectrometer capabilities, "hazard avoidance" software, and surface rendezvous with both natural and man-made objects. The team photos are at the JSC Aerospace Scholars site.
Pretty fancy stuff! Our schedule today will be a bit less demanding. Maybe just some ceiling tile painting. Every study subject paints a tile before they leave, but we didn't get the opportunity to do so before Hurricane Ike rushed us out of here. We also have new supplies for general arts & crafts... so perhaps that's how we'll keep busy while we watch Atlantis attempt to capture the Hubble today.
Monday, May 11, 2009
In celebration, I have a special photo gallery, from my email-buddy... generous and hard-working Kennedy Space Center employee, Richard B.
Richard performs Quality Assurance on Orbiters and associated hardware (SRB, tank, etc.). He also travels back and forth to Dryden Flight Research Center in California for preparation of the AFTs (Abort Flight Tests) on NASA's new Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle.
Now this... THIS is the very definition of "unsung hero." Sadly, you won’t see him or his team on television or at press conferences, but Shuttles would never launch without them, that’s for sure. Their personal picture collection includes:
- 01 - QA Team with Gene Cernan (last moonwalker)
- 02 - Richard dancing in Endeavor payload bay
- 03 - Team in the midbody
- 04 - Inspection of Shuttle Discovery
- 05 - Richard poking up out of hatch
- 06 - Endeavour in vehicle assembly building
- 07 - Orbiter wing inspection
- 08 - Shuttle Atlantis heading to launch pad
- 09 - Atlantis moving to pad 39A
- 10 - Launch liftoff close-up!
The folks in the payload bay are a combination of engineering personnel and technicians from the United Space Alliance, contracted by NASA to perform maintenance on the Shuttle fleet. Richard’s job is to ensure the contract is being met and the Orbiter is safe to fly, so most of his days are spent doing GMIPs (Government Mandatory Inspection Points). He says his favorite part is being able to tell people "my office is a space ship."
Sure wish I could do something that exciting on the real hardware! (Considering that whenever I leave my hardware room at home, my office is sometimes a hospital bed, LOL...)
This mission was scrubbed last year, rescheduled a few times, but it's finally go for launch! I'm also watching the web live-feed at the NASA-TV page, which anyone could sneak-peek, even if you're at work :)
Or if you have more time and bandwidth on hand, an even better spot is the Kennedy Space Center Feeds page. The 15 different channels show crew prep, different angles of the launch complex, and also a weather feed. Web and regular television switch back and forth between many of these, but if you go directly to this page, you can control which one to watch during the live commentating.
The crew of STS-125 will be replacing and repairing the Hubble Space Telescope's many gyroscopes, computer components, and scientific instruments.
This final servicing mission should allow the telescope to operate as an "enhanced" astronomical viewer for many more years. Pretty incredible that this amazing orbiting observatory that's been scanning the universe for almost two decades!
Sunday, May 10, 2009
I find it humorous that native inhabitants of the areas around JSC don't find them eye-catching anymore. "Oh you mean you don't have 12 foot plastic astronauts on the roof at your neighborhood McDonald's in Austin??"
That would be no. Austin has bats. Bats under the bridge, big bat statue, bat festival, bat shirts, bat magnets, bat cruises on the river. It's a bat thing.
But no matter how many times I cruise around Houston when I visit, I love finding all the space agency references... click on links in the post, or the thumbnail board to see the entire photo gallery!
Saturday, May 9, 2009
Brain-candy surfing or DVDs are all I can process. Last night, I watched "A Beautiful Mind," which was excellent. I never saw it in 2001 when it was released, or in 2002 when it won Best Picture. (Apparently I'm the only gal on the planet who doesn't die-scream-faint when she sees Russell *yawn* Crowe.) Turns out it was totally worth it, despite his homely mug.
Tonight, I'm meandering through the vaaaaast networks of Star Trek sites. The nerdiverse is all abuzz with joy over the new movie (which was SUPPOSED to be released last December, don't get me started). I'm trying to enjoy the articles without stumbling over major plot spoilers -- not easy.
Then I found an actual "NEWS" item about how Trek's warp drive isn't impossible. It was on Yahoo, FOX and other hubs... but I thought the best version was the article on Space.Com -- in the "business technology" section, no less.
"The idea is that you take a chunk of space-time and move it," said Marc Millis, former head of NASA's Breakthrough Propulsion Physics Project. "The vehicle inside that bubble thinks that it's not moving at all. It's the space-time that's moving."
Still doesn't cough up a reason for how Star Trek can travel like a dorkzillion light years in any direction and trip over multi-colored upright bipeds who inexplicably speak better English than most of the starship crew. Find a way for THAT to be possible, and I'm on board :)
On the bright side, I remembered everyone's names -- though there are many new faces among all the levels of staff ... and I am easily recalling the more important processes and procedures, such as: Lights out at 10pm. Astronaut (i.e. musical) wake-up call at 6am. Vital signs and temperature taken upon waking and before sleeping. Rooms must be kept between 70-73 degrees fahrenheit. Twice per day, someone sticks a stethoscope on my back and chest, to check breath sounds and heartbeat. Occasionally, others feel for pulses in the wrists and feet.
So far, the only testing is daily urinalysis, which is continually examined in a refractometer for Specific Gravity, after which small amounts are frozen and picked up by NASA for archiving.
They weigh me in kilograms every morning, and for some silly reason I still trouble myself over the mental math, converting to pounds. Daily weight is then used to determine water-pitcher assignments for the day and caloric requirements... carefuly calculated to keep us at a percisely stable weight. Three square meals a day, and you must eat and drink everything on the tray.
All in all, this second visit has been easier in many ways, because much of the "mystery" is gone. I no longer have tons of questions swirling around in my mind, and the environment no longer feels foreign. I know where the towels are, I know where to get an extra blanket, I know that when a nurse asks, "Can I get you anything?" ... "chocolate mousse" or "a martini" are the wrong answers.
A few things have changed. We can no longer leave the ward to roam the hospital for short periods each week, due to all the construction. That's rather a freedom-restricting bummer. As long as we stayed out of direct sunlight before, we could wander around the grounds. Workmen run amok with toolbelts and ladders and whatnot, still repairing all the damage from Hurricane Ike. So, for liability reasons, we can only walk around the 6th floor.
Another recent change was citizen status. The program only used to accept US citizens, but after some suggestions and discussions (and I don't even want to know the level of paperwork, LOL...) they are now allowing non-US citizens to apply, as long as they have green cards. Hmmm, I know some out-of-work hockey players who might now be interested. Hey Chicas, y'think this could help Chelios with that tax bill? ;)
Friday, May 8, 2009
I'd hope to get some photographs of it, even though I won't be in it for many more days. I also thought I would write something pretty extensive today to describe the program, but then one of the creative folks around here sent me this great flyer with explanations:
Click to see the PDF file... I'm just assuming everyone has Adobe these days, but do some people not have this as a staple of their systems? Holler at me if you cannot read this, and I'll re-create it on a regular web page.
Since someone else did the writing for me, I ended up transferring photos today, and will upload the sights & smells of Houston next...
Thursday, May 7, 2009
However, certain things like metabolic panels, TB, Hepatitis, HIV -- those must be repeated for every incoming subject, regardless of timeline... (also, us gals have to repeat pregnancy tests). So, last week I headed down to Houston's Johnson Space Center campus to revisit the Human Test Subject Facility (HTSF).
If you apply and are invited to have needles stuck into you at JSC, it feels like you drive all over creation, but you'll mostly be in the HTSF building with The Screening Crew. I was there for about two minutes this time around when Linda (who conducted my eye and ear exams last year) happily said she still enjoyed reading my blog, LOL... So naturally, when you say that, you have to be on it!
The ladies above are RNs, and the two gents are the official chauffeurs who drive us subjects hither and yon around Houston and Galveston. They are so busy right now with new recruits, they sometimes need airport taxis to pick up the slack, but that's a good thing. Everything is back in full swing again!
Wyle's Activities Coordinator, Michelle, went on ride-alongs with us, so she could see everything the subjects go through. Some of you may remember her from posts last year -- she's the fast-moving lady who helps us shop, send and receive mail from bed, and a million other things you don't even think of until you are "head-down." She also arranges for lectures and comics and movie nights...
See the full gallery of pictures from that day at the Screening HSTF Gallery in my Picasa albums .. and yes, I know my legs are white and I need a tan.
Following the measurements, we got to have a nice quiet lunch together, and do some space souvenir shopping. Michelle knows all the good spots ;) Then it was off to Wyle for a briefing about the project, which I'll detail tomorrow... stay tuned!
It's so great to be back!
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
And if there are any new party crashers... UTMB stands for the University of Texas Medical Branch. I flew from Austin to Houston, was driven down to the island... and I am once again in a comfy room-all-to-my-cozy-little-lonesome on the 6th floor, home of the GCRC, or the Galveston Clinical Research Center. (You could suffer death-by-acroynyms around here.)
Wyle Labs Inc. is the subcontractor that screens all program applicants and recruits new volunteers for space program research, and once we check in, happy gangs of scientists at Johnson Space Center (JSC) come and go all Bones McCoy on us.
Speaking of Bones... sadly, the Lunar Study schedule means I will miss the premiere of the new Star Trek film. I'm just sort of killing time today, and tomorrow is my official "Day One" ... then the program goes for 21 days. So, hopefully it will still be in theatres when I am released! My new calendar... clicket to embiggen:
Last year, I signed on for the 115-day program for space flight simulation, which studied effects of micro-gravity on the human body (such as that experienced on the space station or shuttles in transit). This time, I will be simulating the specific gravity of the Moon. (I know most people don't capitalize Earth's satellite... which I never understood. Other sats have proper names, and in my opinion our amazing Moon shouldn't be an exception.)
But I digress.
Compared to the testing rigamarole I went through in 2008, this should be a walk in the park! In theory. I'm trying not to be smug or assume I know everything, because the bed rest portion will be in a special contraption -- very different from last year's head-down tilt. More pictures and descriptions to come day-to-day as I experience the new protocols!