ESA title
Elisabeth Giesen
Science & Exploration

Elisabeth Part 1: Why take part?

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ESA / Science & Exploration / Human and Robotic Exploration / Research

My name is Elisabeth Giesen. I am 30 years old. I was born in Stuttgart and for most of my life I have also lived in this region, as I do right now. I am currently studying for a second degree in business law at the Fern-Universität Hagen - I plan to finish in September. I also have my own small company, creating and selling quilts. I also work for different chambers of commerce as a member of the board of examinators.

Applying to take part

I first heard about bed rest studies in a report on the radio. They were looking for male subjects for the study in Berlin last year. I was interested in the idea of staying in bed for 60 days and earning money! I discussed it with a friend. The only problem was, it was only for men...

Then last August my friend called me to tell me about an article in our local newspaper, about how ESA was looking for female participants for a bed rest study. I searched the Internet and found the MEDES homepage. I sent my application at the end of August.

Mid-September MEDES called to ask all the same questions as the application form – its always necessary to make sure that it has been answered truthfully... After this interview, we arranged a date for the medical check-up. In the middle of October I travelled to Toulouse together with another German volunteer.

For me, that check-up was important; I hoped it would reveal I am physically fit. I didn't think about the study to begin with, but more about a complete medical check-up, hopeful about the final result: perfectly healthy! Nearly four weeks later, at the end of November, MEDES finally called again to invite me for the psychological interview. That was great, because now I knew: I am really healthy!

I returned to Toulouse on 10 December. First up was another medical check-up because some of my results weren't as they were supposed to be. That was a little surprise, but in the end it was just another blood sample.

The psychological test was interesting: what can I see in hands? Loads of questions about how I feel right now. During the study I would have to answer these same questions every week.

I stayed in Toulouse for two nights, and apart from the tests, I met most of the other "subjects" who would take part in the study like Nadine, Beata, Marjo, Isabelle, Laurence and Delphine.

Reasons for taking part

I had to wait until the second week of January to get the answer from MEDES: they wanted me to join the study. I told them straightaway I would like to take part, but to be honest, I only really decided after the phone call. It was another two to three weeks before I heard when I had to be in Toulouse and all the other details. That was the hardest time, because I had to fix all my other dates like study exams etc., but without dates that was really difficult...

In all honesty the money did play a role for me. In the beginning I only knew that the men had earned about 3000 to 5000 Euros. So I was quite amazed about the 15 200 Euros.

When I heard from MEDES that I could take part, I sat down and tried to decide if I really wanted to. I knew it would be a unique experience. Besides that there was the time to consider: nearly four months when I wouldn't be able to concentrate on finishing my studies and finding a new job. I tried to imagine how I would decide if I were rich and could do with my time what I really want to do. If that had been the case I wouldn't have hesitated. And so I decided to take part in the adventure.

Another motivation for me to take part in the experiment was that it was the first time the study would be done with women. I knew the results are not only interesting for space medicine but also for "normal" life science, it was important for me to help the scientists get new data. You never know, but it might help me as well in the future...

My main motivation though was to explore my own limits. Especially the psychological part of the experiment was a main interest for me. Nobody can tell you how you will react in such a situation. Even the psychologists could only guess!

Getting ready for bed

The February before I travelled to Toulouse, I was really busy making arrangements for staying away three and a half months: my job, my studies, the newspapers, friends and clubs... All the small things that are a part of your daily life are important.

At the same time I started to think about what might be important during the study. What do I need? How many clothes and what kind of clothes? If you wear the same clothes for three months, it is important to like them. What books, what music, what kind of work, what will be possible during the bed rest? What kind of films?

Always the same problem: the baggage limit on the flight to Toulouse was only 20 kg. In the end I had 23 kg and my handbag was another 10 kg. I must congratulate myself: I used nearly everything during the bed rest (apart from two scientific articles, they were too boring).

I knew that I would be in the nutrition group, but I didn't know that it would be so without any protocol! In the end I was so glad that I had come prepared with so many things to occupy myself. The only thing I regret was that I didn't take any quilts with me to work on. Maybe next time...

Support from family and friends

My sister knew about the application from the beginning. She told me it might be an interesting experience and she was certainly right! I told my parents before I travelled to Toulouse the first time; they were more concerned about the possible risks for my health. I knew I could count on their support whatever my decision.

The reaction from my friends was mixed: the men only thought about the risks and the women said that they wouldn't do it themselves, but found it interesting. Maybe because they wouldn't do it they were all so positive about it... They were interested in hearing all my news, which helped me during the bed rest to write e-mails to them and keep in touch with the real life.

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