Monday Musings: The Right Stuff?

[Note: This blog contains the rantings of a madman. Following any actions in this post or others will definitely damage your health, if not kill you. In other words, do not attempt anything discussed here, please. All medical decisions are best made with medical professionals who haven’t lost there minds after years of battling CF.]

Pilots, Astronauts, and Pushing the Envelope

I love the movie The Right Stuff. What’s not to love about the coolest guys ever flying jets beyond the speed of sound and riding rockets into space. Heroes, all of them.

What kind of courage would it take to do something like that? To risk everything – your life and any love and happiness you might have known – to fulfill a dream unlike any other. And then to repeat it in test flight after test flight with the odds increasingly against you?

Who would you have to be to do that? Man or woman? It doesn’t matter. Who?

Now, a hypothetical question. Let’s say you have cystic fibrosis in the moderate stage, four hospitalizations a year, hemoptysis, and you’re trying to hold on to what you have. But you know your luck can’t last forever. You experience a slight downturn in your PFTs and wonder if you have any tricks left.

Photo: jurvetson creativecommons.org/licenses

And you understand you’re potentially one day away from an infection that might put you down hard or move you to the severe stage – getting CF’s painful backhand across the face, your head turning in slow motion, teeth and blood flying as you drop to your knees – not enough to kill you, just make you suffer more than you’ve ever suffered before.

New medications are years, a half dozen trial stages, and a mile of red tape away. But there is something else, a rocketship parked in the desert with your name on it. A way to bypass the delays. Do you get in and risk it?

Again, hypothtically, what if a chemical existed that might provide breakthrough results right now?

But there’s a catch – there is always a catch.

  • The chemical is hard to get. You can’t drive to your local vitamin store, buy a bottle and start ingesting it like a pill-popping madman. No, there are hoops you have to jump through and white lies to tell before you get it.
  • You have to apply it to your skin and there is no set of instructions how to do this or what mixing agent works best. Take your pick.
  • There are no dosing instructions. There is advice from some braver test pilots, but that’s it – no Tylenol box with the maximum dosage for a 12 or 24-hour period. You can go crazy and bathe in it if you like. No rules here. You control the throttle.
  • Unlike experimental trials or any trial, this is mostly hypothesis with a few test flights.  No real laboratory results or longterm safety testing. It’s you, the test plane, and miles and miles of blue sky. Will you be able to reach the eject handle while cartwheeling out of control?

With these obstacles in mind, what would you do? Would you place the compound on your skin like a nicotine patch? No idea how your inner chemistry will react?  Would you risk everything?

Do you have the right stuff? Is it the right stuff?

I look up at the stars as I would any other night. But this time I hear a noise in the distance echoing off the canyon walls and desert floor, breaking the silence . . . 10 . . . 9 . . . 8 . . . 7 . . . 6 . . .

Helmet tucked against my body, I walk toward it one step at a time.

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