Linenger's Letters to his Son

March 7, 1997
"
Cry all you want"

Hello John:

Looks like alot of snow down there in Russia. Have you learned to make a good snowball yet? And can you hit the broad side of the Prophylactoria yet? It'll be baseball season when I get back, so you'd better start practicing your throwing.

Daddy got his shot today. It's not just you that gets all the immunizations--adults have to get shots sometimes, too. And you were thinking all along that it was just something that adults do to babies and little boys just for the fun of it. In your case--it's to keep you healthy so that when I come back to Earth we can have a grand time together. In my case--it's for an experiment.

Basically, this smart doctor named Clarence wants to know if the immune response differs in someone who is living in space. Whether after an immunization I produce antibodies just like I would back on Earth, or whether my response is altered. If altered, it might mean that after a long period in space I might be more suseptible to infections, colds; all that stuff. Especially after returning from a flight and having to once again face all the germ pool you all are brewing in down there. This is the main reason why the Cosmonauts stay in the Prophylactoria (a building built to quarentine the crew, that you should be able to hit successfully with a snowball...) after their flights.

No, I didn't cry. But I got to thinking about that. It's a needle. Someone jabs you with it in the arm. You have tinsy-winsy arms; so relatively speaking, that needle makes even a bigger hole in your arm. I've decided that I will never say, "John, when the nice doctor stabs you with a needle, I want you to sit quietly and be nice". Heck no! Defend yourself; and if he wins out, cry all you want. Okay with me. You won't shame your father one bit.

Now, it ain't over yet. This doctor named Clarence now wants me to draw my blood (figure I'll do it myself--I'm the only real doctor onboard, and who wants a pilot sticking you?) periodically over the next month. And roll a cotton plug in my mouth for a saliva sample. Spin 'em both in the centrifuge. Freeze 'em. Bring 'em back on the Shuttle. So you see, you don't have it so bad with those six-month, twelve-month, and eighteen-month jabs. (By the way--remind Mommy it's time for your eighteen month shots pretty soon--on second thought, I'd better tell her; you're smarter than that).

Anyway, I actually had some fun with it today. In case I have an allergic reaction to the antigen, my crewmates had to stand by with epinephrine, a respirator bag--all that medical stuff. I kept saying, now remember: if I stop breathing, just relax. Inject this medicine, then that, then this again. Oh, the second one in the muscle, the first just under the skin. Then put this mask on my face and sqeeze the bag once every second or two. No big deal.

I could see that I got their blood pressure up higher than mine. Hey, you have to do something to entertain yourself up here for five months!

Okay, John: enough of this doctor-talk. Think that the doctor named Clarence will probably cook me a nice barbecue when I get back home, so I'll recoup all the lost blood in no time. And we can play in his pool, smell the aroma of the food cooking, and relax together. I look forward to that.

Miss you. Miss Mommy. Love you both. Take good care of each other.

Dad.

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