Space Agency Astronaut Dave Williams trained for NEEMO
7, but was sidelined by a temporary medical issue. The
Topside Team calls Williams "one of the unsung heroes
of NEEMO 7."|
7, Topside Team
Day 2, Tuesday, October 12, 2004
At about 11:20 this morning,
the NEEMO 7 crew had been in saturation for 24 hours. This is an
exciting milestone for them because by definition, they truly have
become "aquanauts." Also, Bob and Cady join a very small
and elite cadre of people including Scott Carpenter, Dave Williams,
Mike Gernhardt, Mike Lopez-Alegria, Dan Tani, Mike Fincke, Jeff
Williams, Scott Kelly, Rex Walheim, Peggy Whitson and John Herrington,
to have both flown in space and lived undersea.
There is something else
interesting happening in the habitat today. You may know it as minimal
access surgery, laparoscopic surgery, or even keyhole surgery, but
no matter what you call it, the crew of NEEMO 7 is performing it
in this extreme environment. Still not sure what they are doing?
Laparoscopic surgery is a technique for performing complex surgical
procedures through very small incisions. Using a device called a
laparoscope which is a tiny camera connected to a TV, the surgeons
can see inside the human body. The advantage to the patient is enormous:
compared to the trauma and long recovery times with traditional
open body surgery, the scars and recovery times with minimal access
surgery are significantly reduced. However, the surgery inside is
exactly the same!
Today the crew performed
a procedure called a "laparoscopic cholecystectomy," which
basically means removing the gallbladder. We should be clear here
that the "patient" for this -- and all the surgeries that
will be performed on this mission -- is a very complex and high
fidelity surgical dummy (in this case complete with a fake gallbladder).
No real aquanauts are being operated on! But what is unique about
this operation is the virtual assistance of a surgeon in Canada.
This virtual assistance is called telementoring, which is a process
in which an experienced surgeon uses two-way video and audio communications,
know as video conferencing, to guide the learner through an operation.
In addition to removing
a gallbladder, the crew is going to perform an ultrasound using
tele-mentoring. Ultrasound uses energy in the form of sound waves.
The sound waves are transmitted into the body using an instrument
called a transducer or probe. The sound waves are reflected by the
internal structures of the body. The differences in reflection by
various structures allow the ultrasound to create images.
Now you are probably
asking why we are doing this in 60 feet of water? Throughout the
mission, our objective is to evaluate the ability to use telementoring
to enable remote physicians to aid non-physicians in performing
a complex medical procedure that may be required on an emergency
basis in an extreme environment, like the International Space Station,
on the way to Mars, on the battle field, or in a remote location
of the unsung heroes of NEEMO 7 has been CSA Astronaut Dave Williams.
Williams was the commander of this mission until only one week prior
to the mission when he was medically disqualified from diving. Fortunately,
it’s a temporary condition and we hope to be diving with him
soon on another NEEMO mission. Instead of packing his bags when
he found out the news, Dave graciously offered to stay during training
and help the topside team in any way he could, and to help bring
Bob Thirsk up to speed for his newfound commander role. All of us
topside appreciate his unbreakable spirit, can-do attitude, optimism
and of course, outdoor grilling ...