Friday, February 27, 2009

Patience young apprentice

No news yet blog followers. I took the third drug screening on Wednesday, but I'm still waiting on a call from the flight analog team. I'm sure that they're busy since the program started again this week after a long hiatus after Hurricane Ike.

Still, patience is not my strongest virtue. I'm getting more and more excited about this program, and I'm really looking forward to going down to Galveston to meet everyone and work on setting an entry date. That's really been the biggest question (besides the bedpan issue) -- "When do you start?"

My best answer is, I don't know, but I'll let you know when I do! Meanwhile, I'm compiling a recommended book/movie list. Just comment to this posting or e-mail me. I'd really appreciate it. Hopefully I won't read through the whole list before the program starts!

For your entertainment, here's a photo of a paper mache duck that my sisters and I made a couple of years ago to hold pencils for my dad at his office.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Phase 1 - Go for launch!

Yippee! The results are in! I've passed phase 1 and my name is being submitted to the Flight Analog Team at UTMB! I'm go for launch! (aka not pregnant or crazy) Nurse Thompson says that I should hear from them within a week, probably sooner.

Next up, another trip to Houston to meet the FA Team and sign a bunch of paperwork!

More news as it becomes available!

(Follow up two hours later: I just got a call from Nurse Thompson who informed me that I'll need to go in for a THIRD drug screening tomorrow. You got to give them this, they're thorough.)

Sunday, February 22, 2009

No Tang and dehydrated chicken.

Several of you have been asking about the food served while at UTMB. It is counted, calorie by calorie, and adjusted to keep your weight exactly the same from day to day. Everything has to be eaten and drunk. Everything. That mustard pack that wasn't used with lunch - that's dessert. The salad dressing at the bottom of the tray. I hope you have some bread of some sort to wipe that up with. Every calorie counts.

Here's the rotating menu.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Houston, day 2

I'm not too crazy! In fact, they're fast tracking me into the program. (I think.) The oral psychological exam also included an observation of what I had responded in the written eval. the day prior. The doc seemed to be happy with everything she saw and heard. She also went into detail about the program. No surprises. Just a little more realism about the fact that I'm "head down" for up to 3 months. (Apparently they're reviewing whether or not 90 days is really necessary. It used to be just a 60 day bed rest program.)

I also had a DEXA screening. That's code for a bone density scan of my left hip and lower spine. It took all of 15 minutes to do. Then, I was set free and told that I'd be called in a few days.

I had a few hours to kill before meeting with a seminary friend, Jen, and so I headed downtown to the Downtown Houston Aquarium. (Photos to come later.) It was great! Not only did they have an octopus, hundreds of huge fish, snakes, and rays (that you were invited to touch), they have 4 White Bengal Tigers! They only had one in the exhibit at a time, but I stuck around and watched them switch out tigers and feed one. They were gorgeous!

I had a great night hanging with Jen, and then this morning headed to Austin. I had sushi with Emily, took a great hike near Zilker Park, and am headed off to dinner/movie at the same time at the Alamo Drafthouse!

I'll be back in Waco either late tonight or tomorrow morning. See ya later!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Houston, day 1

So I had my first day of screening today and as far as I know, I'm still in! After realizing last night over an amazing bowl of Mongolian b-b-que that I had no idea when things began tomorrow or how I was going to meet the mysterious driver or what was going to happen, I woke up at 5:30 based solely on the blog of pillownaut who wrote that she got started by meeting her driver at 6.

At 6:30 I took the risk of calling the direct number of the nurse who has contacted me in the past. She was already at work and glad to hear from me. At 7, I met the driver and another screening applicant in the lobby, and it was off we go!

By 7:05 I had a NASA temporary badge and was on my way into the facility. There, I began a battery of tests.

I had a baseline EKG, blood pressure, and temperature taken first. Then a 4 vial blood draw for HIV, hepatitis, and iron count (because it was low the first time), among other things. The doc had trouble finding a vein. He stuck the left and got air. Then he stuck the right and had to wiggle the needle after the first two vials filled. Come to find out, I had to be restuck again, but more on that later.

Next came vision and hearing. Then, it was time for a 3-D image of my heart! I got hooked back up to the EKG machine a second time for this and had to regulate my breathing for several minutes.

After this, I'm told that they need another vial from me. No problem, I think, but when a new doc comes to take blood, she can't find a vein! She checks the left, then the right, then the left again, then the right, then the hand, then the forearm. Finally she sticks me and gets it on the first shot. No prob.

Finally, they take more urine for a second drug screen and second pregnancy test (ut oh folks, the jury's out again on my pregnancy!). I also had a breathalyzer test. Strange, since I'd been fasting for 12 hours before the blood draw and had been given juice and cookies by the nurses after the blood draw. Needless to say, I passed.

Last bit was the physical with a sweet ol' doc. Third doc of the day. They're well staffed there!

At this point, I'm sent by driver to another building for the written part of the psych eval. Boy, I thought that the multiple blood work was thorough! It consisted of 3 written forms, mostly about alcohol and drug use and two computerized tests with 200+ and 300+ questions each. The first was based on a scale of 1-5 and the second was T/F.

All in all, I suppose I'm not crazy. I couldn't say that I had ever heard voices or felt like people were trying to rob me, and I don't think people think that I'm cold and vindictive. I am not afraid of dust storms and I would be interested in a park ranger's job.

Time will tell, but so far I think I'm still eligible for the study. Tomorrow's the oral exam and the bone density scan.

I'm off for now! They've got me in a suite that's nearly as big as my home! I'm enjoying myself!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Short hair

I've been wanting to go shorter with my hair for several months now, but finally decided that today was the day. Whether or not I actually get to start the NASA program, I wanted to donate my hair to Locks of Love (non-profit that makes wigs for kids). We managed to get about 12 inches off in this ponytail, then she just kept snipping away! Talk about an easy way to lose weight!

I leave tomorrow, midday, for Houston. Wednesday and Thursday, I'll be undergoing lots of testing, both physical and mental, to make sure I'm up for the adventure! More later!

Thursday, February 12, 2009


I just saw a great movie. Wall-E is an animated Pixar movie about a robot who is left on Earth when it becomes too uninhabitable. He winds up saving the day and falling in love, too. Classic story, but with a timely backdrop.

The movie definitely resonated with me. It's theme about choosing "life" over "survival" and hard freedom over sterile sameness is much the same as in 1984/Pleasantville/The Giver/etc. But more pertinent to this particular blog is that it specifically talked about bone density loss during prolonged space travel! It was definitely not scientifically accurate, but for a moment there, I really was concerned that I would wind up looking like the obese former Earthlings because of my participation in this bed rest study!

Then, I realized that woudn't happen and that I'm going to get back in better shape afterward than I am now. Plus, I'm going to do my part so that astronauts know how to deal more effectively with bone density loss and muscle loss.

The real goal, though, that everyone can be a part of is doing your part to prevent the destruction of the world we have now. Recycle! Go Green! Use public transportation! Invest in clean energy! Don't put your lives in the hands of a robot like Wall-E! Chances of him being the hero in a real life situation are a little less than Disney would have you think.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Things I take for granted

I've been thinking . . . hang on . . . I need a drink. I'll be right back . . .

Mmm juice. So, I've been thinking that getting up and going to the fridge, or the bathroom for that matter, is something I definitely take for granted. Every time I move between rooms, run out on a quick errand, run around with the great kids I get to play with through my church, etc., I've thought about the bed rest study and how I won't be able to do any of those things for 4 months, esp. when I'm on the 90 days of strict bed rest.

Then I got to thinking about all of the people I've known who have had to live with some form of mobility problems on a day to day basis. Whether it's a broken back, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, or amputation; challenges like these that require assistance, a slower lifestyle, or absolute dependence on someone else are so foreign to the vast majority of young, healthy people. We might be kind to the elderly or physically disabled around us in our little worlds. We might even have a relative who we've helped in some form or fashion, but I don't imagine that anyone really knows what life is like being bed-bound unless you've experienced it yourself or been beside a family member who needed you for the most basic human functions.

I don't pretend that the NASA study will teach me what the elderly or physically disabled go through. I don't pretend to believe that I will be able to do more than empathize with more compassion and patience in the end, but I hope that through this adventure that I am volunteering for I can expand my vision of the world around me and increase the gratitude that I have for what the human body can do. I imagine, too, that my desire to support medical research for anyone with a physically debilitating condition will grow. I hope so.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

I'm not pregnant!

Great news! I'm not pregnant! I'm drug, STD, and HIV free! NASA has received my blood work and has cleared me yet again as I pursue the job of any couch potato's dream!

Next step, eat more steak. The only negative from the blood work was my iron count. I'm back on supplements and green veggies and red meat for a little while. Also, I'm scheduled to head to Houston for my physical and psychological eval. in two weeks.

Now, I'm off to practice for my new job. (He he.) We've been digging up an asphalt driveway and prepping it for concrete for the last two days. Great exercise in the warm weather, but exhausting too!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

No news . . . good news?

NASA hasn't called back. I can't believe it's because they found anything unusual and are retesting. At least, I'm sticking to that story!

Meanwhile, I'm flipping people out by telling them that I'm waiting on pregnancy test results. I have to admit, it's fun. That's the kind of shock and awe that I'm into.

And, I've been soaking up as much sun as my white skin can handle. (Sorry Kentucky and other places that are sub-freezing.) It's been beautiful here. Upper 70s and sunny. I went out for a long bike ride on Monday, read in the sun yesterday, and today, broke a good sweat while tearing out my friend's asphalt and gravel driveway so that her son could have a real concrete driveway to play basketball on. (The son and I went to see the Harlem Globetrotters last night.)

Tomorrow's plan is to pour the concrete, then on Sunday we've got an all-church soccer game planned, sponsored by my 1,2,3rd grade Sunday School class!

Why do so many of you live in cold places again?