T H E   N A S A   S T U D Y   -   P A R T   O N E :   S O   F A R . . . 
 
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 5, 2009     01:40 pm
The ride to Galveston was uneventful… The driver, like me, is 26-years old... but, unlike me, is married with two kids... seems like a good guy and has been one of the constants throughout this whole adventure, transporting me to and from the airport, saving me 30 bucks in cab fare. 

Anyway, it’s been five months since I first read about the “bedrest study.” I saw it on TV last year and my first thought as I sat with mom at the dinner table was, “Dammit, I missed my chance!” CUT TO: June 3rd and Gizmodo, a gadget and tech blog, had a story about the study with a link to a Popular Science article on the subject. “Hmmm…” I thought to myself…  

I called the 800 number and a left a voicemail... the next morning, there was an e-mail waiting for me that detailed the basic information (names, dates, money) as well as attachments: background check, medical history, etc. I read it out loud to the folks after work and the phrase “bedrest study” was greeted with laughter, followed by a collective groan as I read the requirements, which included “no back pain!” I filled out the medical history form with mom’s help, since much of it was either unknown (family history) or ancient history by now (my hernia). They received my paperwork and scheduled me for a blood test at Quest Diagnostics. 

I had to go to Quest three times for blood tests. My results came back the first two times with a high C-reactive protein level, whatever that meant. I asked Wanda, the nurse who was first to contact me about the study, what it meant and she said a high CRP level is most likely the result of some kind of inflammation: anything from a headache, a hangover, or even some spicy food I might’ve eaten the day before the test (hint: I didn’t). 

Everyone here seems nice... I’m pretty low-maintenance anyway, so I’m not used to asking for such simple favors as “Please get that shirt for me out of the drawer.” The TV gets most cable stations so, when in doubt, I can always tune into USA for the inevitable NCIS marathon. Right now, the only shows I watch are all on Thursday: NBC’s comedy lineup and Fringe… the folks will have to record Curb Your Enthusiasm and Bored to Death for me to watch later. 

I have something called “Cycle Ergometrics” in about an hour, and after that, the second half of my meal, then dinner an hour later. Hopefully things get off on the right foot… right now, the gals in the other room are probably thinking, “Man, how long can one guy sit in front of a computer?”  I’m saving the other stuff (music, games, movies, etc.) for the bedrest portion of the study.

 
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THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 5, 2009     04:06 pm
If only H.R. Giger could paint what I just went through: riding a stationary bike for ten minutes to get my aerobic capacity, but I had electrodes and sensors attached to my body, I wore some kind of breathing apparatus, nose plugs, and I was even given an echocardiogram… the two guys running the study were Sue, Mark and Kirk… nice people all around and we were joined by Dr. Anderson.  I had to ride three minutes at 75 rpm, then three minutes with additional resistance, then three more minutes with even more resistance… I was able to ride seven minutes… the extra resistance was too much for me… I have to do this again once before the bedrest and then twice again after so hopefully I’ll improve. 

Right now, they’re simply getting a baseline, then after the bedrest portion, they’ll be able to figure out how laying in bed affected my capacity (the astronauts go through physiological changes during missions). I must’ve looked ridiculous… I had wires coming out of me, plus a sensor pasted to my left calf (with a cable plugged into it that “cost more than a house”), along with the aforementioned apparatus that I had to inhale and exhale through which somewhat resembled some kind of deep-diving gear. I also met Rene, a nice fellow who’s heading up this whole operation… I also met Sonja and Kinnisha who will be watching over me and I’m sure they’re both bored right now since I’m giving them absolutely nothing to do, except stare at me while I stare at this laptop.

A couple people are out in the common area watching the new Pelham 1-2-3 flick, but I had the cycle business to do so I couldn’t just start the movie and not catch the end of it.  Michelle, the Activities Coordinator, said she’d lend me the DVD for later… they have a Netflix account so I can request whatever I want.  I’m still pretty shy… yes, I’m crazy enough to take part in this study but I still feel uncomfortable meeting new people, especially in this kind of environment… I don’t know why and I wish I were less shy… but when I’m nervous, I get cocky and no one likes cocky…

 
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THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 5, 2009     08:15 pm
I was served dinner at 6:15pm –- some fish cake thing with rice, broccoli, some yellow tomato-like vegetable with punch and vanilla ice cream. Cheryl the nurse had to take it back after I admitted I couldn’t finish it so soon after the hamburger… she said she’d return at 7:30 with whatever I had left to eat.  You only get thirty minutes to eat and, let me tell you, it goes by fast… I had worked on this meal for 14 minutes so I only had 16 minutes left to finish.

I slogged my way through it a few minutes ago.  The night nurse took my vitals and checked my feet for sores and other abnormalities.  She took my socks off and kindly put them back on, which she really didn’t have to do. I think reality is starting to set in now… maybe it was the hamburger with cheese but for the first time, I’m not sure how I’m gonna make it… forget the bedrest and the bedpans… it’s the food that’ll kill me!
 
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FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 6, 2009     09:22 am
What a long night! I slept pretty well, all things considered.  Lights out at 10, and I had to use the sleep mask to block out the ambient light... I actually had a few dreams but I also remember being up at various points as well… I refused to look over at my watch to see what time it was, thinking maybe if I don’t know what time it is, the time’ll go by slower and I’ll get some more sleep – totally ridiculous, I know. 

I was weighed, which involved me laying in a hammock-like harness and having a machine lift me.  I also had blood drawn from my right arm and a prick in the finger.  The technology has improved lately – it’s more like your being stapled than anything else.  Now the urine collection begins where I have to pee in a bottle and have it collected every time.

Breakfast was toast, hard-boiled eggs, a bowl of fruit, a glass of OJ and oatmeal.  At least, I think it was oatmeal… it was bland-tasting and looked like something I vomited back up… but I finished in 29 minutes with just one minute to spare. I also took a shower and brushed… the shower is nice but a bit small and there is only one small shelf for my stuff… no big deal… I should probably enjoy a regular shower while I can.

 
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FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 6, 2009     08:04 pm
I finished my first isokinetic test.  Brent and Jamie hooked me up into a few harnesses to measure my torque (or words to that effect). I had to flex my ankle, knee, and waist… they would find my minimum and maximum range, then have me flex as hard as I could in both directions… I’d flex my leg up and down, flex my ankle back and forth, then flex at the waist, basically leaning down 90 degrees against the machine, then lean back up.

Jamie said I’d have to fight the machine and I replied with “Aren’t we all?”… they both laughed. I sat in a chair, tied down at the leg and foot (all done on the right side)… for the ankle, I had to lie face down, strapped across the back with my head on a towel… then they had me stand up and tied at the waste… interesting stuff… I expressed my amazement to Jamie: “Who builds this stuff?!”

I’m back in my room ready to finish last night’s Fringe on Hulu.  It’s dark out and I’ve just finished dinner: turkey with gravy, mashed potatoes, greens, corn, carrots, and the same apple thing from before with grape juice to drink… it was the first meal I’ve had here that I didn’t have some kind of problem with… I put on YouTube and watched the Brian Blessed-hosted episode of Have I Got News For You which was probably a bad idea since I couldn’t help but laugh at a few moments which cost me valuable eating time…

I watched the new G.I. Joe movie and, truth be told, it was much better than it should’ve been… it was entertaining but not pretentious or bloated (ahem, Pirates). I had the common area to myself… the other guys watched the movie earlier. I hope they don’t think I’m ignoring them.  I met another nurse, this one named Tierra with a Texas twang… very nice lady… she took my vitals and looked at my feet… I took the liberty of removing my own socks this time…

 
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SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 7, 2009     07:58 am
I didn't sleep as well last night as I did the night before… I don’t know why… I got up around 11 to pee and since the call button for the nurse emits a loud series of beeps, I had to position my TV in front of the camera… the TV has a sign affixed to the back, saying “Nurse Needed.”  I got up and went to the bathroom and by the time I was done, Tierra the nurse was waiting quietly outside the door… pretty efficient system.  Once the bedrest portion begins, I’ll have to have the nurse close the curtain so I can go into the bottle while still in bed… I was weighed again which was pretty cool and I met another subject monitor.

This might’ve been the biggest non-restaurant and non-Jewish breakfast I've ever had… raisin bran with nuts, yogurt, fruit (apple slices, melon, and strawberries), a dab of peanut butter, a glass of OJ, and a glass of milk, which I had to slog through at the very end.  A normal person would’ve smeared the peanut butter on the apples and poured the milk into the bowl of cereal but not me.  I just took a shower… the towel I plucked from the pile was definitely a wash cloth and not a full-size towel and in any other situation, that would probably be pretty funny… my weight this morning was unchanged from yesterday but I don’t know what that means just yet, if anything.
 
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SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 7, 2009     04:16 am
Well, that was fun!... I played Risk and Trivial Pursuit with Michelle and Brian (from Missouri).  Risk was a new version and only the Oakley man had played before and even the new version was too convoluted for him, so we played by old rules and I’m still not sure if we did it correctly or not.  I lost and Jonathan won… we didn’t use all the pieces and Brian felt this was a mistake since if you only have one piece left in a country, you can’t do anything (read: attack) with it… I started out pretty well but lost most of America in the end.  

As for Trivial Pursuit, now I realize why I never play it… they had the old version in the blue box (which my parents have had for years) and a new version which I thought would be easier since, presumably, it would have current questions… I was wrong!  Surprisingly, I took a few lucky guesses and I knew some things the others were surprised to know.

Lunch was a surprisingly good turkey sandwich along with corn chowder (?), a small bowl of trail mix, and a glass of punch… all in all, not a bad way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

I also went through my “functional fitness” test for my glutes, hamstrings, and quads… I was able to leg-press 165.5 pounds, not including the 80 pound machine itself… I had to do modified sit-ups (arms at my side and I didn’t have to lift myself all the way) and modified pull-ups (I had to reach up for the bar while keeping my body straight).

 
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Continue on to Scott's Journal : Part Two

 

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