Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Mile Mark

After an exhausting week, I'm pleased to say I walked a mile for the first time today! I've been building up to it, trying to move a further each day around my neighborhood. I exercise first thing when I get up, so there's no avoiding it (otherwise, I think I'd just give in to the fatigue and sleep all day!) I've also revved up into a run a few times, but stop almost immediately due to nausea.

Those first steps out of bed are still the toughest. Everything I loosen and stretch the day before just stiffens up again, and I get shooting pains through my heels and calves. I take a few moments to straighten my spine, and stomp around until it's gone, but it's frustrating how long it's hanging on. Sounds screwy, but picking up the feet and setting them down very hard actually helps. Our physical therapist actually had us jumping off steps directly onto our heels -- I guess it helps convince the body that we are using our legs again, and strengthens the bones.

Makes sense, right? But why does the body need re-convincing every day?! That pretty much sums up my first week at home: two steps forward, one step back. I'm also having depth perception problems. I keep swiping walls and door knobs in my house, because my eyes misinterpret how close I am to solid objects.

While Googling articles on gravitational effects, I found something which explains a lot about why I feel so disoriented:

ZeroG Makes Astronauts Dangerous Drivers

Some interesting excerpts:
"low gravity adversely affects ability to judge size and distance... suggesting that astronauts' perception problems are a physiological issue, not a result of adaptation to enclosed environments."

"Study of the impact of microgravity on spatial awareness and movement is going to become more important as we try to land on Mars or on the Moon after very prolonged space flights."

"NASA has long suspected something goes wrong with visual perception in space. Apollo astronauts reported difficulties judging distance while on the moon, for example: far-off rocks and features seemed closer than they really were."

I heard from Devin, and he made it to Georgia to pick up his motor home, and is now headed for Iowa to see his family! He also mentioned in the middle of the afternoons he "keeps falling asleep." LOL... glad to know I am not the only one!