Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Routines

Here are some things we all undergo in the usual courses of our days. Strangely, they have begun to seem normal!

Each morning after the 6am wake-up song, I flip on my bedside lights and turn on the news. I'll watch that for "one round" of story segments -- unless I hear the words "gasoline prices," or "Britney Spearsm" whereby I flip to the NASA channel to see what's there.

One nurse goes room to room with a large scale. We roll to one side while they spread a tarpaulin stretcher beside us. We roll back onto it and spread it out the rest of the way. The tarp has four metal rings, which attach to the scale, and they pull a hydraulic lever to lift us clear of the bed's surface. FUN, eh??

NASA bedrest scale
After waiting a moment for it to stop swaying, they touch a button for a digital readout of precise kilograms -- and this number is passed on to to the dieticians so they can calculate our food and water allotments for the day. The goal is to keep us at precisely the same weight, with no gain or loss.

Before 7am, another nurse rolls in a console holding a digital sphygmomanometer and oral thermometer. We each have our own size-specific wrap-around cuff attached to the bed. They take morning vitals, recording blood pressure from the arm and body temperature (in Celsius) from beneath the tongue. They also note the reading off the room thermostat, which is always kept at 70-73 degrees. This process is repeated in the late afternoon.

Breakfast is usually between 7-7:30, and after that, another nurse visits for respiratory and circulatory assessments. They run a stethoscope over our backs, listening for bronchial clarity while we take deep breaths, then on the chest for the heartbeat. They also do quick motor tests where we apply pressure to their hands, and check wrist, foot and sometimes shin pulse -- consistently asking if we have any pain, soreness or tingling in the feet. So far none! This process is repeated in the early evening.

Twice per day, we do 30-minute routines of muscle stretches (neck, back, legs, arms, abs, etc). We are rolled to the shower every other day on a padded gurney, at which time our bed linens are all changed while we're out of our room. We also get a one-hour massage every other day -- always a welcome diversion! We are wheeled around the building or outdoors in the shade twice per week, to get some fresh air... and humidity!

In the coming days, I'll describe some of the actual testing we undergo, so you can get a feel for the study itself... but please bear in mind I am not a doctor or scientist; I can describe what the tests entail in terms of actions and sequence, and my subjective opinion of the bodily effects... but frankly even I don't always know exactly what they're measuring! More to come.