It’s a 30-minute trip from the door of my apartment, in North Royalton, to the Cleveland Clinic, and I have made this trip about 20 times since I first came into consideration for this study. It’s about seven minutes down Royalton Road to I-71, which takes me north through the west side of the city. When I am on time, I get off at the highway with seven minutes to spare and Carnegie is smooth sailing. The drive is always exciting, and I usually have to put on the cruise control to avoid speeding.
The screening process for this study was long and involved. I answered an introductory health questionnaire via cell phone while I drove from Cleveland to Bowling Green in April. Later that month, the first day of on-site screening found me at the Clinic sitting in a conference room with two other hopefuls, one of which would later be eliminated. We had blood work done, we met with the nursing staff, and we took the Minnesota Multi-Phasic Personality Inventory. Based on our answers, this determined whether we had the mental capacity and ability to keep our composure through 12 weeks of confinement. DXA (dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry), MRI, and CAT scans were done to ensure that our bodies could stand to give up the bone and muscle that one loses during lengthened periods of inactivity. We met with psychiatrists and physicians. We were stripped half-naked and told to run on treadmills and ride stationary bicycles while hooked up to machines that whirred and beeped.
Once we were deemed adequate test subjects, we were ushered into the pre-bed-rest phase. All the tests that have been done in this period will be done again after the bed-rest period, to see what we have lost and what we have kept. I have been randomly chosen to be in the exercise group. The control-group subjects are taken from their beds every weekday and brought down to the lab, where they are suspended from cords—weightless—for 20 minutes. Since I am in the exercise group, I will be suspended from the same setup, but I will be running on a treadmill that’s mounted on the wall. This, hopefully, means that I will suffer minimal bone loss and muscle atrophy. Coupled with the metabolic diet that will be prepared for me, the exercise could actually turn some fat into muscle, and I might come out a little slimmer on the other end.
So, if I were to add up all the money that has gone into the gas tank, or the money I could have made during all the time I’ve spent on my way to the Clinic, at the Clinic, on my way home from the Clinic, or preparing for the actual bed rest, it would be more than I have in my checking and savings accounts right now. But I haven’t added it up. And I won’t, not only because both NASA and the Cleveland Clinic are spending an exponentially larger amount but also because I’m going to make this study a positive experience across the board. Everyone involved stands to gain so much, and being a part of something like that shouldn’t be tainted with thoughts of how much it has cost.