Sunday, August 17, 2008

Q & A ... Again

Thursday's Child of Kuwait asks: Besides the medical testing, do they do any psychological testing as well?
Sarcasmo answers: Yep. Massive. 7-point Psychometric personality tests… they calculate levels of ADD, neurosis, agreeableness, OCD, and other stuff… want me to post mine?? We had multiple written questionnaires, then hours of computer-based testing… like 250 True/False clicks, and over 500 value questions.
Pillownaut answers: Psyche testing continues through every phase, though not as rigorous as the initial screenings. Checklists, cognitive & memory tests, and ongoing live interviews are part of the weekly drills. I'll add the written test to the blog tomorrow, writing description now.

Hockey Chica Supermoose33 from Arlington, VA asks: Does NASA allow vegetarians to be a part of the study?
Pillownaut answers: No. The non-negotiable diet includes meat, and must be the same for everyone, just in different portions. Folks with allergies aren't eligible, and there are no trades or substitutions -- unless you qualified in every other way for the study but had a religious reason not to eat pork. (However, there have been and still are a few vegetarians in the astronaut corps.)

Stephen of Mars Hill, NC asks: Looking forward to your posts during rehabilitation. How will you react to verticalness? Certainly your body doesn't always remain exactly at -6 degrees. Do you deviate a few degrees, say during weigh-in or bathing?
Sarcasmo answers: From seeing others get up, it seems you get dizzy easily and the sense of balance needs to be reset. Moving from bed to gurney, you can deviate a hair’s length, but the gurneys themselves are also at -6. I really try to stay as compliant as possible for the research. There are also an army of people and cameras who watch us. If we deviated while moving, they’d help us find ways to move more efficiently.
Pillownaut answers: Once we stand up, I'm told that irony inflicts a delightful twist... the first thing you want is to lay back down! After day 90, we’ll first sit up, then stand, then walk with people on either side for stability. Muscle memory will then hopefully "re-learn" motor skills and equilibrium of being upright. We are "straight" in the weight scale when it rises, though the shower table is also at -6. Twice per day, we have a particular neck extensors stretch, where we pull our heads forward off the pillow twice for two 20-second holds. For meals, we must bend one arm under our heads, so we don't choke while trying to swallow. At the 60 day mark we must sit up for a 10-minute bone mineral content test on a certain machine. Those are all the deviations I can think of!

Cherie (city not named) asks: Suppose you just get a cold or a sore throat? Are you allowed to take medicine?
Pillownaut comments: Good question, and we had to go to a lifeline on this one, because frankly, we just hope it never happens and try not to think any more about it. But we asked and...
Nurse Becky says: The goal is to prevent sickness at all costs. We are in a restricted ward. No personnel may enter without specific badge clearance, and only subjects can put visitors on the “Backstage Pass” list. For staff, anyone with a fever (sign of possible viral contagion) MUST stay home. We cannot routinely administer medicines, but if it does not interfere with any blood testing, we can offer Tylenol. If any subject developed a fever, testing might be put on hold until a cause was determined, but if more symptoms developed that were not swiftly treatable, you would probably be released from the study. Definitely anything like dental work or other illness requiring antibiotics would be treated but then you would be sent home. So far, we’ve never had outbreaks of colds or flu… though we have had a few small issues like a muscle tear, ingrown toenail, and a person fell once. Those were treated and the people completed their studies.

Cindy Heitkam of Lena, IL asks: What kind of privacy do you have? Are you sharing a room with the men of the study? Do they keep video cameras on you at all times?
Pillownaut answers: Nope, women on one side of the unit, men on the other. We are in a large square, with the nurses’ stations and common rooms in the middle, so we have to be rolled around a few turns to visit one another.
Sarcasmo answers: Not much privacy. Cameras always running 24x7 except in the shower and when we use the bathroom, when we have both curtains and closed doors.

Christy (city not named) asks: Does the program supply you with a laptop? Do you pay for your entertainment or do they provide you with things?
Sarcasmo answers: Free Netflix for us! We share lots of movies and video games. We can also buy our own books or movies on the internet and have them delivered. We have an Activities Coordinator who can shop for us, mail things out, and who also puts together games and prizes, etc. I use the internet for phone calls, but everyone here is given long distance cards to use over our bedside phones.
Pillownaut answers: You can bring your own laptop, use one here, or both... say you want one on either side of you, one for PC work and one upon which to watch DVDs. Monitors, kitchen staff and nurses also bring DVDs from home for us, for variety… everything gets passed around!

Sound Man "G" asks: Was wondering what kinds of comforts of home you are allowed to bring with you. Can you bring a favorite blanket or pillow?
Sarcasmo answers: Skinny standard issue pillows only. Lots of folks put photos on the walls or TV monitors.
Pillownaut answers: They encourage you to bring a comfy blanket, since the hospital issue here are plain white and not terribly warm. We can also bring any knick-knacks, just keeping in mind you can only bring so much luggage, due to minimum storage space.

Viktor of Greenville, SC asks: In your daily routine you have stretching exercises - it's good, but seems too little... Are you allowed to do more exercises on your own in other times?
Pillownaut answers: It certainly seems like too little, compared to what we are all accustomed to! However, we aren't trying to stay in shape. The goal is to simulate weightlessness, which deconditions the body… that’s the whole idea. It is definitely difficult to have only small amounts of activity, but from what I constantly hear and read on the news these days, us doing 30 minutes worth of stretching twice per day is, sadly, already more than most people do anyway!
Sarcasmo answers: No extra exercising. And we are limited to what we can and cannot do during stretching, so as to minimize all variables and mimic what the astronauts face. I am looking forward in some ways to the “pain” of rebuilding after this experience of having the body degrade, as in trying to get from jello back to stone. You truly get to see what you’re made of. I want this new outlook on exercise, to appreciate it more when I am able to do it freely. It’s amazing how much you WANT to walk around when you can’t do it.