Wayne Derman - May 09, 2002: Doctors orders - Mark Makes Rapid Recovery from effects of Spaceflight.
As Marks period of rehabilitation and quarantine draws to a close, all signs point to the fact that he has made a rapid and complete recovery. The past few days have been spent undertaking extensive medical testing, completion of scientific experimentation and rehabilitation.
Directly after return from space, Mark presented clinically with weak skeletal muscles as a direct effect of microgravity and decreased use of the skeletal muscles in space. Mark also sustained a mild strain of the lower abdominal muscles due to unaccustomed use of these muscles during spaceflight. However, this strain has resolved following three days of rest and rehabilitation.
Mark lost a total of 2,5 kg body mass during his 10 day flight. It is estimated that his skeletal muscle loss was in the region of 1,2 kg. His thigh muscle girth decreased 4cm. However, Mark had already gained half a kilogram by day three post-flight.
A further challenge was that Mark developed the expected orthostatic intolerance in the post-flight period. This means that the body’s cardiovascular regulatory system is altered when moving from a lying to standing position and blood pressure drops substantially, leaving the cosmonaut feeling dizzy, weak and fatigued. For the initial two days post-flight, Mark wore tight fitting “space-underwear”, to effectively counteract these effects. Orthostatic testing on the third day post-flight revealed that Mark has fully regained his body’s orthostatic control.
Throughout the week Mark has also been evaluated by a team of Russian specialists in the field of cardiology, ear, nose and throat, neurology, ophthalmology and dentistry. Ultrasound investigations were performed to determine changes in the size of Mark’s heart, thyroid gland and abdominal organs. All evaluations, including extensive blood laboratory work-up indicate that Mark has made a full recovery, three days following the flight.
The remainder of the week will include Mark’s final participation in the remainder of the South African and Russian experiments. Significant time will be spent completing the rehabilitation programme, which includes massage, sauna, gentle exercise training and hopefully a few good nights sleep!