T H E   N A S A   S T U D Y   -  P A R T   S I X :   L A S T    A M B U L A T O R Y    M O R N I N G 
MONDAY, NOVEMBER 16, 2009     10:08 am
Maybe I’ll never get used to waking up to music playing over a hospital PA system, but is it really any worse than waking up to an alarm every day?  The blood draw was fine.  Dana had her little blood kit on the nightstand, wrapped in foil, and I thought to myself, "She packed me a lunch!"  Officially, I’m at BR-2, meaning bedrest minus two days… it’s like Saving Private Ryan: D-Day+5 or something like that.  I expressed to her my reservations about having to ask for help all the time once bedrest begins but she said that’s what the subject monitors are there for.

This weekend, I haven’t really had anyone monitoring me from the table by the door, like usual.  Most likely, my monitor has been sitting at the nurse's station instead where he/she can view the feed from the camera above my bed.  I’ll assume there’s a reason for that… I’d hate to think they’re avoiding sitting outside my room for fear I might talk to them.  I don’t strike up conversations with all of them, but I am also cognizant of how bored they must be at times.  I’m the guy who sees a chauffeur standing next to the limo and wonders, "Is he bored? Should I get him a book to read?"

Breakfast was a burrito (I lived), cereal, bowl of fruit, OJ, and milk.  Both Kennisha and Mona asked if I'd like to play Taboo. I’ve never played the game before so it should be interesting… hell, before coming here, the last game I played was Dirty Minds with two girls (a couple) from improv class.  In this game, I get a perfectly mundane word or phrase like “waffle iron” and I have to read off clues so the other players can guess the word -- the catch is that the hints are the dirtiest innuendos and puns imaginable.  I even refused to read one.  Beth came in to check my breathing, then she extended two fingers from each hand and asked me to squeeze.  I was a little too hard.  "You don’t know your own strength," she said… I don’t indeed.

I had a "Func. Neuro." test on the schedule today ... that's the balance test.  Once again, Julie (assisted by a woman whose name I never got) hooked me up to electrodes and a harness and put me through my paces.  They had a little trouble getting my heartbeat and at one point, one of the electrodes malfunctioned.
  I didn’t do as well with the head-nodding this time around but I did do better with the moving floor. 

I just shaved, possibly for the last time this year… I haven’t decided whether or not I’m going to shave after bedrest, before I fly back home. I think my parents greeting me at the airport, with my somewhat longer hair and scruffy face, is a fitting image.

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MONDAY, NOVEMBER 16, 2009     09:10 pm
The lunch cycle is now back at the beginning… lunch today was a cheeseburger (with half a bun), corn, greens, fruit, and a glass of lemonade.  I ate it in the common area while playing Taboo with Thomas, Brian, Todd, and a few of the monitors, including Amber, Mona, and Kennisha… it was fun!  For those that have never played it, you get a card with a word on it, followed by five other words; you have to explain what the word is without using any of the five.  The object is for your team to guess as many as they can before the timer runs out… it was subjects against monitors and we won!  We then started playing every man for himself, and I don’t know who won… it might’ve been a seven-way tie or something.  

I finished Dream On, so now I’ll have to find some other show to occupy my time… dinner was the same as it was on the first day: some fish cake thing with rice, broccoli, some yellow tomato-like vegetable with punch and vanilla ice cream.  Thankfully, lunch was several hours ago so, unlike the first time, I didn’t have trouble finishing it on time.

I called Sanjurjo, asking him for his opinion on something.  He saw Robert Zemeckis’ A Christmas Carol and said it was a disappointment.  We both agreed that Zemeckis is probably more in love with the technology than the storytelling… I hope the man decides to go back to live-action one of these days.  I also called home for an update.  In September, I had sent my aunt and uncle an e-mail asking if I could stay with them temporarily after I move out of my parents' house.  It would be a place where I could stay during the job search, before moving into an apartment with roommates… per my mom, who e-mailed my aunt for an update in my absence, my aunt said I could stay as long as I need to!

Just finished playing Uno with Jerry.  On YouTube, I made an interesting discovery: someone posted clips from The Ren & Stimpy Show featuring some of that wonderful, vintage music they used… I only wish it was available on CD.  Wikipedia has a link to a blog that features some of this material available for download, but I’d prefer a more legal version.
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TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 2009     10:55 pm
I slept a good sleep last night… I’m starting to wake up around 5:30 in anticipation of the 6:00 musical wake-up call.  It doesn’t help that, by then, I can hear the staff greeting each other, doors slamming, etc.  I was weighed and I went up a pound… not surprising and I’m sure they’ll adjust my diet accordingly.  They keep telling me I’m in great health, which surprises me since I eat terribly back home and, other than a two-mile walk on mom’s treadmill every day, I don’t really exercise all that much.

I was informed I’ll be taking another SmartPill tomorrow… joy.  At about 10:00 tomorrow morning, they will tilt the bed down six degrees and that'll be me for thirty days.

Had another T-reflex test with Liz and Keena… same as before. I hope they’re not sick of my non-stop babbling.  They try to keep up the conversation since they don’t want the subject to fall asleep during the test (while you’re laying on your stomach)… we talked about high school and college this time, and where I’m moving after the study.

Right now, I’m running out of material.  All of the tests are repeats.  Once bedrest begins, I’ll be able to talk about some of the odd routines (taking a shower while in a horizontal position, for example) but other than that, I don’t know.  Let’s see… Nintendo released a new Mario game for the Wii and I want it!  My interest in videogames begins and ends in the Mushroom Kingdom but I can easily see myself purchasing a Wii in the future.  I own a PS3 but only to play Blu-Ray discs… I don’t own any videogames (I’ll probably buy a used copy of Ghostbusters one day).

Dr. Seton paid me a visit… we talked for almost half an hour.  I enjoy talking to her and she is a comforting presence.  She said the Tilt Test isn’t anyone’s favorite, and laughed when I described to her how I profanely articulated my thoughts during the test.
  I told her about this journal-slash-blog-slash-whatever and she seemed impressed… she asked me if I’d like a mention in my hometown paper?  I told her I’d love one… she isn’t going to make that happen, but I can always snoop around the Sun-Sentinel’s website for the appropriate e-mail address. I’d love nothing more than for one of my old teachers to open up the local section and read the headline: "Lazy boy makes good" or something to that effect.  "He always was a space cadet," they’ll say.  Dr. Seton took my e-mail address and said she’d forward it to their marketing guys… I don’t expect anything but I might follow up next week to see if he wants me to do (or say, or write) anything.

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TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 2009     06:51 pm
I watched Star Trek and was joined by Brian and Thomas in their beds and Michelle who sat across the table from me… everyone seemed to enjoy the movie but, as the only fan in the room (building?), there were definitely references and gags that went over their heads.  It’s a good movie but not the best Trek movie (that honor still belongs to Khan). I still think a single line of dialogue might’ve made the ending a little more palatable (Kirk gets promoted to captain in one shot), but I can understand why they ended the movie the way they did, with the “Magnificent 7” on the bridge at their posts.  Karl Urban steals the show!  Safe to say, when the film came out, I didn’t think I’d be watching it on DVD at a hospital as part of a NASA study.  I’ll probably order the Blu-Ray from Amazon so it’ll be waiting for me when I get home… and if I order that, I’ll probably order the new Galaxy Quest Blu-Ray release, the latest volume of Three Stooges shorts, and the new Art of Star Trek book which covers the new film.

Lunch was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with pretzels, cookies, and a glass of milk… there was something oddly comforting about sitting there, eating lunch (the same thing I ate everyday in elementary school) and watching Star Trek. After the film, Thomas was rolled back to his room and I played Uno Attack! with Michelle and Brian.  Michelle installed the batteries in the new electronic version and we got to work… it’s more or less like regular Uno but, instead of picking cards from the stack, you push a button and the dispenser spits out a card, or two, or three, or none.  Then we played a long game of Scrabble, which I won.

Later played Uno (both versions) with Jerry and Leilani… then Patricia (the woman on the other side of the ward who recently started walking after a long bedrest) got her highest ever score on Pac-Man, and Jerry felt the need to beat her score (I don’t think he was successful).  Leilani and I played two more Uno games, which I won… now I’m back in my room and I see on the board that I’m going head down (or HEAD DOWN, as the girl wrote it) at 11:00 in the morning.

Well, this is it… this is why I’m here.  "Remember your training!"… I think that was a line from Starship Troopers.  My friend Mike from high school called me… we chatted for about thirty minutes.  I had to convince him of what I was doing and why… he was quite inquisitive, saying that, in addition to money and the opportunity to get out my parents' house, there must be some other reason.  He can be quite insightful; I told him that I’d love nothing more than to look back on this experience and say, "Yes, I did that." Of course, we both agreed I could use this to pick up women.

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WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 18, 2009     12:39 am
I really don’t like how some of the monitors are referring to today as "D-Day."  Breakfast was pancakes with syrup, a bowl of fruit, some yogurt, and a glass of OJ.  I’m doing a small load of laundry so I won’t have to have a subject monitor do it for me for another week and a half.  I dreamt some really odd dreams last night and many people showed up: family, family friends, my friends.  I think at one point I was in school (I don’t know where)… then I was at work (ditto)… it was all over the place… 

I got my first finger stick (blood draw sample from my fingertip) of the day at 6:30am... I only have three more to go.  After my last vertical shower, I’m supposed to get some kind of "grabber" device which should be fun, but I haven’t seen it yet.  I  just rearranged my tables with Erica… my laptop is in the same place, but is now mounted and able to swivel in all directions.  My water is now on the table to my left, my toiletries are in a small plastic container which I’ll be taking with me to the shower, my paperwork and my shoes are in the cabinet on the other side of the room.

In addition to my vitals (signs, not organs), Karina measured my height today.  I’m still 5'8" but everything here is in the metric system so she couldn’t convert it.  Apparently, she’s bad at math (hey, me too!). Just counting the minutes now…

Diane, the project coordinator, came in and introduced herself to me… nice lady.  Michelle walked in and asked if I’d like my parents’ birthdays posted on the board outside… I politely declined.  I appreciated it but thought it was just a little weird, especially since, ya know, they’re not here!  She asked what I’m going to do and I said I’ll send them Hallmark e-cards, which has sort of become a family tradition when someone’s away during a birthday or holiday.  Michelle also showed me a stack of NASA postcards and I picked one featuring a photo of the (completed) International Space Station… so my folks will be getting a postcard and two NASA mugs for their birthdays… not bad!

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WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 18, 2009     12:39 pm
And I’m down… 

It’s nice that Karina is here today, since I could use a friendly face.  I can already feel it in by back, and I’m having a little difficulty sipping my water from the cup, even with the straw.  The TV, unfortunately, is a cheap LCD with a bad viewing angle -- I’ll have to play with it.  Well, this is it... 

I just had my second finger stick… no big deal… I have a feeling my posts are going to get a little bit shorter.  I urinated for the first time whilst laying down… it wasn’t the worst thing in the world.  The monitor simply closed the curtain, and I did my thing.  When finished, I rang the call button, the monitor opened the curtain, and Nikki picked up the urine bottle.

My first BM will be another story… gravity might be a problem.

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WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 18, 2009     03:30 pm
Lunch was spaghetti with chicken, a slice of cheesecake, garlic bread (yay!), and milk.  While eating, we’re allowed to prop ourselves up with one hand.  Most of the guys simply have the tray placed on the bed and that’s exactly what I did… though my back started killing me after a while. I also removed the bandage from my last finger stick but it was still bleeding (I only noticed it after I realized the red dot on my pillow was not spaghetti sauce), so I sheepishly had to ask for another one.

Cool!...I’m using my stomach as a mousepad.  Karina walked in and asked how I was doing… I told her my back has been better, but we were told to expect that.  Mona also stepped in and asked the same thing… I told her I was fine, then apologized for my unintentionally snarky tone.  Arby is my subject monitor for the rest of the day and I just found the first four seasons of NewsRadio on Hulu.  I have the whole series back home but I didn’t bring it with me.  This’ll be a nice diversion… I still think it’s the last great three-camera workplace comedy.

Karina came in to check up on me again.  I told her the same thing I’ve told everyone else: "I’ll get used to it."  I also told her my friends are taking bets on when I go nuts… she laughed at that.  Right now, I have a slight headache and the expected pain in my lower back.

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