Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Watching the Squiggles

It's the middle of the night in the MCC,
But on orbit early morning...GMT. 
ADCOs watch the squiggles with hawk-like eyes, 
With hopes of nice trends - no surprise. 

But on these special nights there's one more plot, 
It hangs out near the space data in its special spot. 
The readings don't come from the I-S-S, 
Their source has a 'within 20 feet' address. 

The user is an expert at detecting adverse trends, 
Night after night - even on weekends. 
Her pancreas is busted, but not her resolve, 
She's armed with glucose tabs - easy to dissolve. 

Diabetes doesn't come with a set of procedures,
The user is simply forced to deal with it's "features".
Everything can change from one day to the next,
It's the nature of the beast - Diabetes is complex.

But machine and disease DO share some traits,
i.e. Malfunctions are sometimes hard to correlate.
The initial response, however, is often the same,
First safe the system - don't worry about the blame.

Solving problems with logic is an engineer's work,
But applying logic to Diabetes can drive one berserk!
So we do the best we can, with our CGM squiggles,
Reacting to excursions - but it's just never that simple.

'Insulin on board' and 'glucose correction factors',
It feels more complicated than a fusion reactor.
The equations are simple, the theory quite clean,
But the unexplained fluctuations verge on obscene.

And when the squiggles are compared side by side,
It may be hard for a novice eye to recognize.
One set is a lifeless machine floating in space,
The other a mess of living cells ... part of the human race.

Even with this disease I'm alive, I'm alive!
And reading those pesky squiggles helps me survive.
I'm sure if she could, ISS would also thank me,
For watching all her squiggles - daily and nightly!


Friday, July 15, 2016

Nerdy April's Nerdy Baby

It's Friday y'all!
After a long week of challenging simulations, mentoring younger ADCO's, lots of meetings, and Chris on work travel I am ready for the weekend!!

Looking forward to: sleeping in a little, watching my sappy Netflix show, Pokemon-ing, 
gourmet mac n cheese, relaxing before starting overnight shifts next week, 
and maybe a date with Mr. Blackwell!

Oh, also, hanging out with this nerdy nugget:


Dangit baby, stop melting my heart with your adorable onesies! 

Monday, July 11, 2016

Learning About Learning, and Sims

It's funny the threads life weaves together. 
My baby is growing up - nearing the 5 month mark. She is so, so active! Her legs never stop kicking and her eyes are constantly looking for something new to lock onto. She still loves being outside and has recently picked up "reading". 


Through watching her I am learning so much about learning. She doesn't let a waking second slip by - she has so much to soak in. I love watching her practice her coordination or feel a new texture or experience new foods. Her coos and grunts and squeals distinguish what she finds interesting and what she finds terrible!

At work I have been selected for a new path. Before becoming pregnant I was marching down the path to become an instructor, but I have shifted gears and will instead start training to become an ADCO Specialist. I am grateful for this selection since it theoretically means less overnight shifts and more fun activities (think spacewalks, dockings, etc), but it is not without its challenges. I am starting sims again, and now the timing will be more difficult since I will still be working overnights at times and now throw in tending to a new baby. 

Our new sim setup - shorter ceiling and cozy quarters.
Life isn't always easy - especially when it comes to learning. Sometimes Zara shows frustration (lately it's been about her lack of mobility), and its obvious all of these new skills take time and practice for her. I just need to remember that my new ADCO Specialist skills will take time too, and I surely will experience frustration. But learning is important, necessary. Stretching myself for this assignment will be worth it - and in the process, Zara and I can both have fun watching each other learn. 

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Our Little Firecracker

In true 4-month-old baby fashion, Zara slept through her first 4th of July fireworks experience!
We had fun getting half price shakes at Sonic and "enjoying" the Texas humidity. 
Hopefully our little firecracker will be able to partake in the patriotic festivities next year!

Oh yes, and she can never stay still for a picture! 
I have probably 17 million pictures of her cute face and blurry legs, lol. 


Hope everyone had a relaxing weekend and great fourth!

Friday, July 1, 2016

My First Gig Speaking on Behalf of NASA!

Last week I had an opportunity to represent NASA; I gave a presentation at Rice University for a Physics Camp for girls! I probably spent way to much time preparing, but duty was calling...I thought back to my high school years and how much I would have soaked in someone coming to talk from NASA. I talked to them about my journey - eventually ending up at my dream job. I told them how I use physics everyday in my job, and finally, some thoughts for the future - especially if they were interested in an engineering career. 

I tried to stress the importance of mentors - "find a mentor and tell them your goals," I said. "There will be tough times in college, and you may even contemplate quitting, but your mentors will remind you why you started in the first place." I even offered them my contact information in case I could be any help!

I know they won't remember the physics of Control Moment Gyroscopes, but I hope they remember that girls can make it in engineering - and not just make it, but thrive. Heck, they can fly the International Space Station (sorry, I'm still just so dang proud of that one ;-). If engineering is really what they want to do then it doesn't matter what the statistics say about men vs. women - and better yet, they have an opportunity to sway the statistics the other way! 

I'm so excited for these girls, they have an amazing future ahead and I'm so thankful that I got to be a small sliver of it!




PS: if you want me to come represent NASA at your event, submit an application via NASA's Speaker's Bureau and request me as the speaker!!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Touring Independence Plaza

In case it isn't crystal clear - Chris and I really love space. Heck, he's building a spaceship and I'm flying one! We are trying to instill Baby Zara with our love for exploration, we joke that she will probably want to be a deep sea diver or something - the opposite of blasting off the Earth. But, while she is young and mold-able, we enjoy taking her to see space things. As of last weekend she has been to two major NASA sites (Kennedy Space Center and Johnson Space Center), and seen all three remaining Saturn V's (although I doubt she will remember these little trips)! Chris received some free tickets to Space Center Houston for "Boeing Week" so we took our little family plus Mimi (Chris's mom) and Granny Kay to see the new Space Shuttle and 747 display! I met the others there after my console shift; flying the ISS to touring the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft all in one day!

Inside the 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft!

Outside of the test article Space Shuttle Independence!

Pano at the top of the stack!

Hello from the mirror ceiling inside the space shuttle. Baby Zara had fun in her carrier!

"Yes, Baby Z, this is what a space shuttle looks like! Far out, huh?!"

Friday, June 24, 2016

The FAA Revisited

Six years ago I was fresh out of college and attempting to begin my Aerospace career as an Army Flight Test Engineer. Little did I know how difficult it was going to be to obtain an FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) Class 3 medical just to fly aboard (not pilot) experimental Army aircraft. It took nearly six months of back and forth with the elusive FAA doctors in Washington, mountains of paperwork and heartache over the frustrating difficulty of a seemingly straight forward task before I was finally granted a Special Issuance Class 3 medical waiver.

In the spirit of tenacity, I recently looked up the Class 3 guidelines to see if anything has changed in the 3-ish years that I have been away from the Army. I was pleasantly surprised.

It appears the FAA has updated their hardline stance on Type 1's only being eligible for a Class 3. From the FAA website, "First and second class applicants will be evaluated on a case by case basis by the Federal Air Surgeon's Office." Essentially, at least how I read it, a well-controlled Type 1 can apply and potentially obtain a medical certificate that would allow them to be Pilot-in-Command of an airline transport.
Screen captures from faa.gov
This really is a huge step forward. Granted, I no longer have a need to maintain an FAA medical and therefore have not attempted to obtain a Class 1 or 2, but I imagine with enough paperwork and diligence someone can get through!

I actually had a hard time finding the legislation trace that allowed these new insulin-treated diabetes provisions. It looks like the FAA requested the American Diabetes Association to convene a panel of experts "to form recommendations for a protocol to identify a subset of pilots who use insulin who pose no great risk of incapacitation from hypoglycemia than any other pilot in the general population." The panel convened on June 27, 2014 and created guidelines for a policy to "permit the special issuance medical certification of certain insulin-treated applicants for first-, second-, and third-class medical certification." They go on to mention that the applicant will need "substantial documentation"...ha...I ended up sending them my entire medical record from 11-years-old on before they would issue me a third class. I'm just not sure where they are going to get all this extra paperwork from ;-)

My favorite paragraph from the report states, "The enormous progress in management of the disease justifies a change in FAA policy, which dates from 1949. [nerdy April note: 1949?!?!?!?! kthnxbye] That policy is that pilots with insulin treated diabetes may not receive first or second class medical certificates, thus barring them from commercial operations. While the 1949 ban was justified by the science that then existed, it is no longer justified by evidence based medicine."

The main point that the panel stressed is that airmen should be medically reviewed on an individual basis - and I think this is so, so important. Diabetes is not a "generalized" disease - it is an individual one. Not every Type 1 walks around with an insulin pump and continuous glucose monitor, because, they don't have to - treatment and management is extremely individualized. What management works for some doesn't necessarily work for all and what blood sugar ranges are recommended for some are not necessarily recommended for all. Heck, there are even a plethora of different types of insulin that react differently in patients bodies. We are all different, and so is our treatment, management and control of this disease. Can I get an Amen?!

A couple additional sections that highlight why I feel so strongly about this issue:

"The panel also considered the data from Canada's experience certifying pilots with insulin treated diabetes to fly since 1992 as well as the data from the United States allowing pilots to fly with third class medical certification, including solo operations, since 1996. The twenty years of data from these two countries indicate that there has never been a diabetes-related accident or incident involving a pilot with insulin treated diabetes who has been granted certification to fly while using insulin."

"After considering all the evidence and clinical experienced outlined above, the expert panel concluded that there are pilots with insulin treated diabetes whose risk of incapacitation in flight is equivalent to, or lower than pilots who do not have insulin treated diabetes."

This.This is what made all the trouble with the FAA worth it. 

I'm not sure how I lost track of these changes, but I'm glad I circled back around to find them. With more Type 1 pilots flying comes more data, and hopefully, continued updates to the FAA's (and other organization's) policies.