ESA title
Balance test for Elisabeth following end of bed rest
Science & Exploration

Elisabeth Part 3: Confined to bed

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

To begin with and towards the end of the bed rest I found it really difficult not to be able to get up and move about. At the beginning because I could still remember how it was to walk, and then the last couple of weeks before we could get up I was so ready to move again!

The fact that I couldn’t move was a bigger problem for me if I felt under pressure. I like to walk when I want to think about things.

Lying in bed itself is not uncomfortable. As I didn’t have any big problems with headaches or backache it didn’t matter too much to me. It was only necessary to change position regularly. Staying in the same position for too long you start to feel stiff – just like in ‘real life’. At the end of the bed rest I yearned to eat sitting upright. Even if you have breakfast in bed in normal life you have it in a sitting position. I didn’t have any problems with eating itself, but the way you do it is also important.

At first I didn’t notice the changes in my body. About halfway through the bed rest: I realized that my calves had definitely lost all tension, they were more like a slab of meat than muscle. It was just hanging down.

Personal hygiene

Taking a shower was fun! You have to shower lying down on a bed plastic bed. It’s a great sensation the first time you feel water running down your body in the opposite direction to normal. It made me laugh. Washing your back isn’t easy, but you are fast to learn a new technique.

Going to the toilet is not a problem: my roommate and I used our ‘pistolets’ in our bed several times a day. We both drank three litres of water every day so it was normal to need the toilet a lot. Using the bedpan isn’t difficult either. You are in the shower-toilet alone, and you can take all the time you need. You have your privacy and no one disturbs you.

The food itself wasn’t bad, although it wasn’t great either! There were combined menus for lunch and dinner to choose from each day. After the first three weeks there was no longer any choice, so you knew exactly what you would be eating from one day to the next. We eventually managed to get some spices like pepper, basil and herbs de province to add a bit of flavour. Since I didn’t have an exercise protocol, my only task during the bed rest was eating all the food that was served – it was very difficult when the food wasn’t all that inspiring.

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