Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Ongoing Q&A

Devin rolled over to my room for a visit, so we could type weekly Q&A... and brought his pet fish so he could (and I am not making this up) "take Sharkie for a walk." Time for another psyche assessment dude.

GregL of Santa Clara asks: If you have an evacuation, does that end the test? Or do they take you inland and keep going?
Pillownaut answers: I was told before I started that if we must evacuate for a hurricane, we would be wheeled on a gurney into a sizeable vehicle, and driven to a safe destination off the island. Each time a storm has come “within range,” we’ve gotten phone calls from Wyle, who ask if we wish to leave voluntarily, though no one has elected to do so.
Sarcasmo answers: NASA can make their own decision to evacuate earlier as well, and we can go with the other UTMB patients to whatever safe facility everyone was heading... say, if we couldn’t get to Houston due to flooding in between I guess.

We had to research other possible events, because I only knew the weather drill. So…
Nurse Tammy says: In the event of a localized emergency such as a fire… it would depend on where fire broke out. We can roll beds to other wards and close fireproof doors behind us. If that isn’t possible, and we cannot use the elevators, all subjects would immediately have to sit up. We have special Garaventa Evacu-Trac CD7 Evacuation Chairs inside wall units. Every subject would be fastened into one of these and "rolled" (or really, "slid") down the stairs. In both cases, the study would end. Whether wheeled out or down, subjects would ultimately be flown home to complete rehabilitation somewhere near where they live.

Cindy Heitman of Lena, IL asks: I was wondering about the meds they are injecting. Is there anything that may come back to haunt you later in life? Did you sign a waiver releasing them from responsibility if something happens to you as a result of the tests, or even if you get an infection at an IV site? I work in a hospital and know how "bugs" run rampant there.
Pillownaut answers: If we have any problems as a result of testing, they are committed to treating us. Of course, we all hope we have no long-term ‘hauntings,’ but the truth is we just don’t know. I asked the same question during screening, and we were given a written description of everything that would be injected. The medications have one or many of the following effects:
  • Constrict blood vessels
  • Enlarge or relax blood vessels
  • Treat nasal congestion or reduce inflammation
  • Raise or lower blood pressure
  • Raise or lower heartbeat rate

And yes, we definitely signed stacks of papers. It boiled down to us accepting "reasonable risk." Also, the meds are given in such tiny amounts that side effects are rare. The worst I’ve had is headaches from the meds that widen vessels, and among the group, some other subjects have described mild to severe nausea. Fingers crossed that it never gets any worse than that!
Sarcasmo answers: One of the papers we signed said that if anything happened, they would cover all the medical care… we’d be transferred into the UTMB complex as a regular patient. I suppose if it was something we didn’t disclose, like a pre-existing medical condition, it would be our own deal – but if it’s caused by the study, they take care of us before sending us home. I also got a headache from the nitro, but that’s common for everyone, even heart patients who take it by prescription for cardiac events.

DevRay of Austin, TX asks: Er, dear heart, 12 pull-ups is actually pretty good compared to some of us who can’t even do one. Are you TRYING to make us sick?
Pillownaut answers: LOL, no not in the least, and I apologize to anyone who looked at that and imagined a comparison. I only compare myself to what I used to be able to do at a younger age. Back in high school I could fire those out during the fitness tests every year, and I simply cannot anymore. That was genuinely all I meant.
Sarcasmo answers: Okay sissies, here’s what a real man can do. I did 36 of those bad-boys. FEEL THE BURN. The second try, I did 42.
Pillownaut: Okay see now we know why I felt like a wimp for doing 12. I could SO outrun you though ;)

Patrick in Connecticut asks:
1) How much space do you get for stuff?
2) Are hand weights allowed? Webcams?
3) When moved, do nurses push the beds or do you get land oars?
4) Have you considered trying to contact Mike Rowe to get him to shoot part of an episode of Dirty Jobs on the bedrest study? You may not get dirty, but I think it would fit in rather well for an episode, given how the study is at times.

Pillownaut answers: Space-wise, we each have a closet of shelves and a 3-drawer dresser. We also have a table on each side of the bed where we stack books and DVDs, but mostly those are for our laptops and meal trays. No handweights allowed, but yes on the webcams, a few folks have had those. And sorry, I had to google Mike Rowe, as I have never seen that show.
Sarcasmo answers: They requested we keep luggage to a minimum due to limited space. I drove down, so I left my suitcase in my car. Those who fly just set them behind furniture. We’re told to bring 7 days worth of clothing, and that’s really all you need. They wash our laundry weekly. We are not allowed to push ourselves with anything. Some previous study subjects could reach to the floor and move the bed along, but that is no longer allowed. The new rule is two staff per bed in terms of rolling us around… although that might just be to avoid smacking the beds into the wall! Good idea on Dirty Jobs! Not so much for the subjects, but maybe he could do the nursing job here for a day ;)

Want to see some (more interesting!) Q&A ? Click here for Astronaut Greg Chamitoff's recent written and video replies from the International Space Station! I love the part where he and Sergei Volkov give one another haircuts...