Karen Sharwood - February 04, 2002: ecg hassles and slavedriving - Arrived back in Moscow last night, only to be stranded at the airport again, for the second time. Russia is a fascinating country, but I have to say trying to get in and out of here tends to be a bit of a nightmare and being stranded at the airport was not a great start. Anyway, eventually managed to get on out of there and headed back to Star City.
One of the main aims of my study is monitor heart rate and the control of heart rate on earth and during space. To do this, we will need some sort of instrument that records each heart beat, gives us the interval time between each beat and then an average of the amount of beats per minute. On earth this is really easy and there are a number of heart rate monitors that we use and that provide with this kind of data that is simple to interpret. In space, however, they use an electrocardiograph (ECG) machine that records an ECG trace onto a cassette. So my goal today was to try and figure out firstly, how to use the on-board ECG equipment, and secondly, whether this equipment provided us with the same kind of data that we are familiar with and thus we could rely on as valid and reliable data. Well, that was the goal anyway.
Dale and Karl had tried to organize some sort of baseline data collection last week while I was away back in South Africa, but unsuccessfully so. They faced a whole lot of obstacles, with the primary one being that fact that I was not there. Eventually Karl managed to set up a meeting between myself and the medical team today at 9 to collect data using both the Polar heart rate monitor and the equipment that will be used to measure heart rate on board the ISS (halter ECG). There was a matter of urgency to this as well seeing as Mark has his second 0G flight tomorrow and considering we missed out on any data last time, we were absolutely determined to getting something more meaningful and valuable this time.
So 9 arrives and myself and the interpreter, Zhanna, are told that our request to have this meeting has not been received by the General (who has to approve everything that must be requested on paper) and we were please to wait. Ten arrives and we are still waiting, and I, being a little stressed about not getting things done in time, begin to get a little edgy. While we are waiting, another doctor suggests we talk about some scheduling for the testing that we are going to be doing before the flight and directly after wards. My heart sank when I heard this seeing as I have done this very same thing with this very same doctor on more than one occasion, and to make matters worse, I have done the very same thing with half of the medical team. The mind boggles as to the communication skills (or lack thereof maybe?). Anyway, we managed to finalize a whole lot of details, and the doctor, Vadim, was very accommodating and understanding based on what I needed to do and when. We then got a call to say that we would only be able to start with our heart rate data collection at 2
Finally 2 arrives and my edginess is growing by the minute. We roped in Yuri, the cosmonaut physical trainer to be our guinea pig for the pilot study and got him all wired up with the 5 lead halter ECG and the Polar heart rate monitor. We then went into a room where some of the on-board equipment is kept, including a body weighing machine, a massive ECG (Gamma One) and a cycle ergometer. We asked Yuri to do a whole series of exercises on the cycle different levels of resistance and different speeds of cycling. I wanted to get a whole range of exercise intensities so that we could compare the ECG and the Polar over a broader range of heart rates. The first test last for about 35 minutes and resulted in Yuri looking very red in the face and quite exhausted. I did ask him if he was ok, but he answered in Russian, so of course I took that to mean I have never felt better, pleeeease can we do this again tomorrow? (my reputation as a slave driver forever proceeding me). The Polar data looked great (sigh of relief), but bolshoi probleem with the ECG no data! I couldnt believe it. Yuri had just left, but the Russians must have seen the look on my face and managed to get him to come back for a second trial. This time we used different electrodes, calibrated the machine a different way and taped everything down. Everyone seemed happy. Yuri cycles for another 25 minutes and keeps telling me that he is fine (little did he know that he didnt really have a choice, even if he wasnt). We stop the test, open up the ECG, only to find once again that there is no data and in fact it had actually never started recording. By now it was about 5pm and I could see everyone wanting to get out of there, but I want going anywhere until we had figured out firstly, whether it was working (very NB) and how to use it. The Russians were great and by this stage also determined to get it working.
So off we went again and held thumbs, but alas, no joy. Heart attack city re: 0G flight. No-one could figure out what was causing the problem, but I was assured that something would be done so that we would still be able to use the equipment on the flight. The cardiologist then met with a technician who apparently did something to get it working, so we have it now and are ready to go with it tomorrow. While we were doing everything for the third time, however,, the medical chief, Vladimir, comes in and asks how things are going. The other doctors tell him what has been happening so he asks us why we arent just using the Polar the whole time, even on board. Of course this is what we had initially wanted as it would be so much easier and far more efficient in terms of data collection, but we had been told that it would be impossible seeing as it was a telemetric system. The doctors didnt seem to think that it would be a problem, but I was not so sure I could just picture Dale and Karls faces when I told them that we need to get something else certified! Anyway, it would be an absolute lifesaver if we could sort something out, so we are going to propose it to Energia, but I guess we just wait in anticipation for their response.
0G data hopefully to follow shortly!