Update on Chris Hadfield's condition

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May 31, 2013

Update on Chris Hadfield's condition
by Raffi Kuyumjian, CSA's Chief Medical Officer and Hadfield's Flight Surgeon

Today is R+17 (Return+17 days).

In addition to several science and medical data collection as well as debrief sessions, Chris continues his daily 2-hour reconditioning in the gym, and he is doing much better in terms of walking, balance and coordination. He ran for the first time yesterday using a special treadmill that supports a percentage of his body weight. It is starting to be difficult to tell that he has just recently returned from space, although it'll probably take 3-4 months until he feels perfectly adapted to gravity again, and a year or more for his bone to regain the lost density during 5 months of weightlessness.

Early next week will mark 3 weeks since his return from space and he will be traveling to Russia for further debriefs and to attend the traditional welcome home ceremony with Roman Romanenko and Tom Marshburn at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center near Moscow.

May 22, 2013

Update on Chris Hadfield's condition
by Raffi Kuyumjian, CSA's Chief Medical Officer and Hadfield's Flight Surgeon

May 21, 2013

Fifth update on Chris Hadfield's condition
by Raffi Kuyumjian, CSA's Chief Medical Officer and Hadfield's Flight Surgeon

Today is R+7, (Return+7 days). Just a week ago, Chris landed in the Kazakh steppes after 5 months in microgravity. He continues his readaptation process as well as multiple medical examinations. Yesterday, a very comprehensive vision exam was conducted using sophisticated tools to look at his retina in fine detail, his visual fields and optic nerve. These will complete the examinations started on Friday with the eye MRI. Also yesterday, a fitness test on a cycle ergometer was conducted to compare his fitness to the last test he performed on orbit a month ago.

Today is very busy with a balance test on a special platform, MRI and ultrasound of his spine, isokinetic testing to evaluate muscle strength, debrief sessions and finally, reconditioning at the gym.

May 19, 2013

How Chris Hadfield Exercises Back to Health
by Natalie Hirsch, Canadian Space Agency Exercise Specialist

Most of the muscles that control posture on earth go on vacation for the duration of a space mission, except during 2 hours of in-flight exercise per day, and upon return to earth need to work every waking minute to support the body. These conditions leave astronauts feeling fatigued, stiff, sore and unstable upon return to earth. (Consider that astronauts do not sit down while in space so even their tailbones hurt while they get used to sitting again on Earth.)

Fortunately, our bodies are amazing machines that continually adapt to our surroundings and the discomfort experienced upon return to earth is temporary and part of the normal response of a healthy human body getting used to a significantly different environment. The time to adapt to a new environment varies between astronauts: genetics, fitness, age, duration in space, exercise in space and upon return to earth can all play a role in how long it takes to return to being a healthy & fit earthling.

The overall goal of the post-flight reconditioning program is to assist an astronaut in returning to his pre-flight physical fitness - ensuring that he (or she) is just as sprightly after a stint in microgravity as he was before launch. This includes making sure his balance, agility, muscular endurance, strength and power, flexibility, cardiovascular fitness and bone density are similar to when he left earth.

Reconditioning: Week 1

The first week of reconditioning included a movement assessment to identify how the returning astronaut performs basic movements (balancing, stepping, squatting, and lunging) and exercises to practice these movements.

The focus of the first few days of reconditioning was on balance, coordination and locomotion - getting used to controlling body in gravity - and cardiovascular fitness.

More on why and how astronauts exercise in space.

May 18, 2013

Fourth update on Chris Hadfield's condition
by Raffi Kuyumjian, CSA's Chief Medical Officer and Hadfield's Flight Surgeon

The weekend schedule will allow Chris some "active rest". His walk continues to improve despite some lingering dizziness and soreness in his back muscles, which are slowly getting used to working again in keeping the back straight and upright against gravity after 5 months of complete rest... Somewhat similar to having spent 24/7 in bed without moving for 5 months and then suddenly having to get up and walk!

Today a session of science data collection on Manual Control testing for coordination and reaction times using a motion flight simulator and car simulator amongst others: showing clear signs of improvement compared to 3 days ago when he completed the same tests! After the usual 2-hour daily reconditioning session, a few interview sessions will complete the day for Chris.

May 17, 2013

An update on Chris Hadfield's condition
by Raffi Kuyumjian, CSA's Chief Medical Officer and Hadfield's Flight Surgeon

Chris' readaptation is going well and he continues to improve on a daily basis. His walk is more and more confident, the dizziness he was feeling is fading away every day and he is in good spirits!

He has a full day today of science data collection, amongst others, EEG recordings to evaluate how his sense of orientation and coordination are re adapting to gravity (see photo). He will also have a medical check with an ECG to evaluate his heart, as well as an eye ultrasound and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) of his eyes. These special eye examinations have become routine for all returning astronauts, since some of them have shown decreased vision during and after spaceflight, but the causes remain unclear. It is important to understand these and find ways to mitigate them before we consider longer duration missions to Mars for example.

The day will end with the usual 2-hour reconditioning session with the CSA exercise specialist Natalie Hirsch.

May 16, 2013

An update on Chris Hadfield's condition
by Raffi Kuyumjian, CSA's Chief Medical Officer and Hadfield's Flight Surgeon

Chris is already showing noticeable improvement in his walk and equilibrium since yesterday, but it usually takes about 3 weeks until we are confident a returning astronaut can return to driving. He will be driven to where he needs to be until then.

Today is a bit of a lighter day for Chris to help him recover from effects of gravity, as well as the jet-lag and the 24-hour flight to Houston from the landing site. He has a medical check, a 2-hour reconditioning session and short debrief meetings in addition to this morning's press conference. He needs the rest as tomorrow is a full day of science data collection, medical checks and reconditioning.

May 15, 2013

An update on Chris Hadfield's condition
by Raffi Kuyumjian, CSA's Chief Medical Officer and Hadfield's Flight Surgeon

Spaceflight is a good model for accelerated aging. Today Chris feels like he's an old man! He sometimes shuffles his feet when he walks, he is sore in his back, has difficulty walking around corners and sometimes hits the corners! He feels dizzy and finds it challenging to walk up or down stairs. His manual dexterity is a bit off.

Although he does not feel it, his hip and back bones are not as dense as before his flight since they lost calcium in weightlessness (astronauts typically lose 1% of bone density per month in 0G). This is similar but not as severe as the osteoporosis that affects the elderly, since Chris will likely recover most of that bone density loss in about a year. Scientists are using Chris as a subject for their science experiments in order to collect data to better understand these effects and how to treat them, which will be important for our aging population.

In spite of these expected readaptation challenges to his body, Chris is doing well. He is in great spirits and is looking forward to the "rejuvenation" process of returning to gravity over the next weeks and months!

Today: medical check, science data collection (blood pressure regulation, coordination, sense of orientation etc) to compare these results to those of pre-flight and in-flight levels, and finally, the first of daily 2-hour sessions of exercise and reconditioning.

More information on the scientific experiments