Day 2 of the study to observe how burn scars impact temperature regulation went much more quickly. Partially because I knew what to expect and also we got many of the preliminary data recordings out of the way, yesterday. Plus, I had the added surprise of swallowing another internal-temperature-monitoring device. I either passed the other one that I swallowed yesterday (but I would think I would notice. I may be reporting on that experience tomorrow), or the battery died. It is supposed to have a life expectancy of 30 hours, but…[insert your typical complaint about modern technology or manufacturing here].
The experience today was nearly identical to yesterday, except that the room is kept closer to room temperature.
We talked about general observation and experiences. They told me that most test subjects (is lab rat a derogatory term?) won’t drink water during the test. The reason is that the water is kept at body temperature so that it won’t impact the temperature results and most people don’t like drinking water that warm. I must say it is not my favorite thing, but I definitely prefer drinking water during exercise to not doing so. They measure the amount of water that I drink so that they can factor that into the results.
During the testing phase, they ask me a few times throughout the test to rate my comfort with respect to temperature and exercise. Am I cold -> comfortable -> hot. I am hardly working -> working at an average rate -> working very hard. One was on a scall of 1-6, in 0.5 increments and the other was on a scale of 5-16, single digit increments. I am not sure why they are not using the same scale for both; perhaps people would be inclined to use the same number for both measurements.
I noticed yesterday that my discomfort was relatively high at the beginning of the test. Over time I acclimated and felt more comfortable even though it was just as warm in the room as it was at the beginning and I was more fatigued. Yesterday, I found myself trying to remember what the last rating I had given so that I could rate my comfort relative to that reading, rather than to my overall comfort; it seemed unlikely that I had grown more comfortable as the test progressed, but I had simply adapted to the experience.. I was told that this is common and can be taken into account.
Today, without the heated room, the exercise was much more tolerable. I pedal for a total of 1 hour at a moderate pace. There is still the alternate periods of wearing the snorkel and the breath test (you can see a short video below of the test). But, without the added heat, the day passes leisurely. I almost feel guilty, sitting in a room, wearing a few sensors, watching Netflix and pedaling at a comfortable pace.
During a recent conversation, someone remarked how life-altering my burn experience must have been and how I must still carry the experience with me. My response was that eventually, all scars become stories and nothing more. While the burn was a traumatic experience, there was little trauma surrounding it; my life was comfortable, I had little stress outside of credit card bills and the only time my life was in danger was in moments of road rage on the highway.
I believe that I soldier who survives a burn has a very different recovery process. Because my burn was not enmeshed in a struggle of life-or-death and because I was not fighting for my country and my team, I think that my emotional separation from my burn experience was an easier transition. The last anxiety attack that I experienced was about 5 years after the burn; considering the severity of the trauma, that is pretty good.
While I have experience recovering from trauma (who doesn’t), I have no experience with a soldier’s life and struggle. That is why I am really happy to be able to use my experience to help soldiers, through this burn study and also through the Helping Vets Help Vets class in November.
Twenty-two vets commit suicide every day because they do not receive the support they need to help them through their recovery. If you check the sidebar, you will see a small study conducted by the VA that shows yoga and meditation can be beneficial for PTSD treatment. We will be sending vets to yoga teacher training because who knows how to help a vet better than another vet.