Friday, April 08, 2005

Former NASA physician blogs

She watched Challenger explode. She cared for the shocked, grieving families of the shuttle astronauts. In her blog, Dr. Sanity, she writes:
"Challenger - A Flight Surgeon Remembers"
On January 28, 1986, I was at Cape Canaveral in Florida. As a NASA Flight Surgeon, I had been assigned as the Crew Surgeon for Mission 51-L (no one really wanted the job since many disapproved of having a civilian--the teacher in space--fly on a space mission). The crew had trained together for over a year, and I had come to know them all very well in the course of the training and medical preparation...I watched (the launch) with my usual awe, that humans had been able to contain such energy and put it to use in escaping the planet.

My awe was short-lived as we noticed an anomoly. Something seemed to have gone wrong with the SRBs (solid rocket boosters) and they detached from the ET (external tank) too soon. There seemed to be a big explosion, but none of us were certain what might have happened...I made a few commands to my emergency team, who were outside in ambulances, as I continued to watch the growing cloud of the explosion, waiting for the Challenger to appear from behind it heading back to the landing site, not far away. I waited and waited. The orbiter did not appear. I felt a momentary confusion, and then I think all the blood must have rushed out of my head as I realized what it meant. I knew they must have been killed. All of them. I had to hold onto the console for support. All I could think of was oh my God, oh my God...

I was desperate to get to the families and do something useful. I wasn't sure what, but I felt they might need me there. I drove my car on the center divider and the grass between the lanes, and made my way through the crowds who had stopped to watch the launch. It took me some 20 minutes to get to Crew Quarters.

The next 12 hours were something of a blur. I had read about mass hysteria in textbooks, but that description was far too mild for what I found when I reached the place the crew called home prior to a launch. All the members of the immediate and extended family were there. Women were screaming; babies crying. People thronged around me, wanting to know if the crew had parachuted to safety. I was stunned that they had not yet grasped what had happened...
Today, she's a psychiatrist (yes, another one!). She is fearlessly outspoken. Each week, she hosts a "Carnival of Insanities" (I guess there's not enough material for a "Carnival of Sanities").

She's creative, too. Here's her message to Kofi Annan, with a nod to Dr. Seuss:
The time has come.
The time has come.
The time is now.
Just go.
We don't care how

* * *

You can go to Iraq
You can march with the Lebanese
You can go to Iran or Sudan,
But please go. Please!

* * *

Kofi Annan, we don't care how.
Kofi Annan, will you please GO NOW!
Welcome to my blogroll, Dr. Sanity.
P.S., hope your wrist heals soon!
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