I arrive at 10am and meet the folks that are running the test. The first few hours are spent going through paperwork, getting some baseline measurements such as height, weight, blood pressure, etc. They show me the room that the testing will occur in. It looks like a walk-in freezer that you would find in a restaurant except for two things: There is a window in the door that allows you too see, a recumbent bicycle and a bunch of monitoring equipment inside the room. And the room contains recumbent bicycle and a bunch of monitoring equipment.
I will be coming to this room for 4 days, each day’s test is slightly different. Today, I will be pedaling at or about 75RPM in a warm room. For 10 minutes at a time, they will place a snorkel in my mouth and I will breath through it. Something about the exhales gives them information about what is happening on the inside. I will pedal without headgear for 15 minutes, between the snorkel-in-mouth testing period. Three times during the test, they will place a different snorkel in my mouth. This one will contain nitrogen and by measuring the amount of nitrogen I exhale at the end of the 30 second test, they can tell how much blood my heart is pumping with every beat and how oxygenated my blood is. I will also be hooked up to various heart-measuring and temperature-checking devices.
But wait! There’s more. I am going to swallow the small pill-looking thing. They will hold a device that looks like a garage door opener near my lowest ribs and the device will tell them what my internal temperature is.
One of the pieces of preliminary information we gathered was determining 3 different categories of scarring: the percentage of body covered in burn scars and grafted skin, the percentage covered in grafted skin alone and the donor sites (where the grafts come from). For the curious, I have 30% scars and grafts, 20% grafted skin and 15% donor sites. We used a pretty cool app from Johns Hopkins to determine these percentages and the people I am working with were nice enough to share the images with me. I am going to post the photos on a different day because I don’t want to use up all the cool pictures on day 1 of the test.
I should note that when I mentioned I would be blogging about the experience and asked permission to take pictures, the people running the test were enthusiastic and excited.
Just before the fun begins, I strip naked and the measure my weight in grams (they want a very accurate measurement of water loss). I don’t remember the exact number, but it was around 78million grams, or something. While I sit on the bicycle, they begin sticking pads to my body, testing sensors, looking for the pill that I swallowed by moving the garage-door-thingy around my belly and back and setting up Netflix for me so that I will be entertained during the ordeal. I have a pulse checker on one finger. They add another when they do the nitrogen-breathing test. During the test, they will also be checking certain body parts with a heat sensing gadget that looks like a radar gun that the police use. At one point during the test, they will be placing a small pad of absorbent fabric on my arm in 2 places: One spot that is grafted skin and another spot that is clear skin to compare sweating. Finally, they use another heat-sensing camera to compare the skin that is clear, to skin that was used as a donor for the skin grafts.
It was a lot to keep track of, it is no wonder that there were 3 people managing the test. Luckily for me, my job was to pedal the bicycle and watch, Abstract on Netflix. I might have the easiest job of the lot.
Truthfully, the setup was more interesting than the test. Once I am pedaling, change occurs infrequently: Nurse Ratchet’s voice behind me (she requested the moniker) states that the blood pressure cuff is activating; Matt and Manall comes around to announce that it is time to put one of the two snorkels in my mouth. At one point, a piece of tape holding a wire to my leg breaks free and Matt must try to reattach the wire to my leg while I am pedaling at 75RPM.
The most discomfort I suffer is chafing from sitting for so long and the fact that I am forced to use subtitles on Netflix because I cannot hear over the noise of the heaters and fans.
Once the test is over, I stay put for another 45 minutes. They called this the ‘cool down.’ I am pretty sure that they do this to ensure that I am not going to pass out. I was not doing anything, but they were cleaning the equipment. When we are all complete, I strip down one more time and weigh myself. If I remember correctly, I lost about half a kilogram.
They did say that every day, the test is slightly different. Tomorrow, I will do exactly the same thing, but the room will be closer to a comfortable temperature. There are a few other variations, but I will wait until the day of, to talk about them.
The people running the test are very nice. During the setup, Matt asked if I had a problem with them shaving off a small bit of hair from my leg so that the sensor would stick. At this point, am I really going to say no? He is Canadian, so that may explain his courteousness. Nurse Ratchet (I believe her real name is Naomi) is married to a retired police officer and Manall has lived here, in Dallas her whole life; didn’t even leave for college. They have been very friendly and happy to answer all of my questions, even the stupid ones.
I end up at the hotel with plenty of time to write this blog post, work on the information for the Marketing of Yoga workshop that I am presenting this weekend, and do some writing on the new novel. All in all, an interesting day.
It is interesting to me that this opportunity presented itself at the same time that we are beginning a program to help provide Yoga Teacher Training to Vets. You will be hearing more about it in the coming weeks. #HelpingVetsHelpVets.