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Apollo 13 by James Lovell

Apollo 13 by James Lovell

Author:James Lovell
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: HMH Books


The preliminary physical exam for Project Mercury took place at the Lovelace Clinic in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Of the elite group of men considered for inclusion in the program, thirty-two had elected to accept the invitation. This group was divided into smaller units of six or seven men and shipped, one unit at a time, to Lovelace for a week of medical tests. Of the six men who arrived at Lovelace in Jim Lovell’s group, five would make it through the seven grueling days successfully.

From the moment the astronaut candidates arrived, it was clear that what this NASA had in mind would be like no physical exam they had ever experienced before. Flying willingly into the arms of the doctors were six remarkably healthy men in the prime of life, all of whom wanted desperately to pass medical muster and be accepted into the program, and none of whom, as a result, was inclined to object to whatever procedures the New Mexico hospital had planned. The doctors were almost giddy at the prospect.

On tap for the compliant pilots over the next seven days were blood studies, cardiac x-rays, electroencephalograms, electromyelograms, electrocardiograms, gastric analyses, hyperventilation tests, hydrostatic weighing tests, vestibular balance tests, whole-body radiation tests, liver function tests, bicycle stress tests, treadmill stress tests, visual perception tests, pulmonary function tests, fertility tests, urine tests, and intestinal tests. In submitting to these whole-body violations, the candidate astronauts would have their livers injected with dye, their inner ears filled with cold water; their muscles punctured by electrified needles, their intestines filled with radioactive barium, their prostate glands squeezed, their sinuses probed, their stomachs pumped, their blood drawn, their scalps and chests plastered with electrodes, and their bowels evacuated by diagnostic enemas at the rate of up to six per day.

At the end of the nightmarish week, the six men would each be handed a card, saying either that they had checked out so far and were to report to Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, for still more tests or that they had been found wanting and were to report back to their previous billets, with the government’s thanks for their time and their sacrifice. The first six days proceeded as gruelingly as the six pilots had been told they would, and on the seventh day, all but one were issued cards instructing them to report to Wright Patterson.

“Have you been ill lately, Lieutenant?” Dr. A. H. Schwichtenberg asked when Jim Lovell appeared in his office, carrying his orders to return to Maryland.

“Not that I know of, sir. Why?”

“It’s your bilirubin,” the doctor said, opening the folder in front of him and scanning the top sheet. “It’s a little high.”

“I didn’t even know I had bilirubin,” Lovell said.

“Well you do, Lieutenant. We all do. It’s a natural liver pigment, but you have a little too much of it.”

“Can that make me sick?” Lovell asked.

“Not really. Usually it means you have been sick.”

“But if I was sick, that means I’m better now.”

“That’s true, Lieutenant.



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