Tuesday, September 27, 2016

My High Altitude Simulation Test Experience

When I looked up information on having a High Altitude Simulation Test (HAST) completed, the information was vague, brief, and clinical. I couldn't find anything about what the experience of having the test done would be like. I thought I'd post my experience for anyone who might be looking for a little more than the clinical explanation.

When I met with my pulmonary hypertension specialist, one of the first questions asked was when did I first experience symptoms. Of course I couldn't tell that story without it being revealed that I travel quite a bit. Because I fly in airplanes several times a year, my specialist thought it would be a good idea for me to have a HAST completed. The test would mimic conditions in an airplane and would evaluate my oxygen saturation levels to see if I needed to bring supplemental oxygen with me when I fly. 

I arrived at Penn's Perelman Center for advanced medicine bright and early. This is my second visit to the center. It feels a little like visiting a fancy hotel. There are staff everywhere offering to help you, directing you where to go, there is even someone who coordinates the elevators. It makes you feel kind of special. 

I reported to Pulmonary Diagnostic Services and was greeted by Michael, who would be administering and evaluating my test. 

Michael was awesome! He was extremely friendly and very funny. I sat down on something that was halfway between an examination table and a chair. It was kind of like an examination throne.  

After getting some basic information, Michael explained in detail, step by step, exactly what the test would entail. I then had to sign a consent that said I wouldn't hold anyone responsible if I passed out or had a heart attack during the testing. 

The set up process took some time. I had sensors put in place to hook me up to an EKG machine. Another sensor was then placed on my forehead, and then my forehead was wrapped in a headband. The forehead sensor measured my oxygen saturation. I was informed that the forehead sensor is more accurate than using a finger clip. I was cool with that because the finger clip always makes me fidgety. I looked quite the sight. 

Next, Michael inflated a giant bag with a mixture that included only 15% oxygen.

The final step was for Michael to put nose clips on my nose, and for me to put the breathing register, that was connected via hose to the bag, into my mouth. 

The timer was then set for 20 minutes. 

For the first 15 minutes, I just had to sit and breath normally. Michael was great. He was talkative so I got to hear about his daughter wanting to attend college in Japan, he talked about the plane ride to Disney World, and a whole array of subjects. He kept what could have been a very boring and slightly awkward 20 minutes, interesting. At specific intervals, Michael would record my oxygen levels, my heart rate, and print out my EKG readings. Actually he said he was printing out more than the usual EKG readings because it had been a while since he had seen such beautiful heart rhythms. They were so perfect, I was clearly created in a lab by the government. Yes, that was my backstory. I must have escaped and I no longer have any memory of my time in the lab, but soon, according to Michael, I will discover that I can move things with my brain. Did I mention how great Michael was?  

After 15 minutes, I had to get up and walk. Some people are fine when just sitting, but when they get up and say, walk to the bathroom in the airplane, that's when they have troubles. This would explain why Betty in the Sky with a Suitcase (podcast) always has stories of people passing out on the plane. 

Michael started out walking with me, and then he broke out some entertaining dance moves. After walking for 5 minutes, the test was complete. It ended up being easy. Probably the worst part was that there's a growing saliva issue as the test progresses, and by the time you dislodge the breathing piece from your mouth, well it's sorta gross. 

Two things that could have happened during the test that didn't happen for me-  

- If they had trouble getting good readings, they would have to check my blood gas levels. Michael stated this is always avoided if at all possible, because getting your blood gas level checked is an unpleasant experience. 

- If my oxygen levels dipped under a certain number during the test, Micheal would have hooked up an additional tube into my breathing register. He would then start to pump in oxygen increasing the amount until my levels were at a safe range. This would have determined how much oxygen I needed on the plane. 

Fortunately neither of these events were necessary during my testing. 

Micheal unhooked me from everything. I joked about keeping the headband so that I could cosplay Eleven from Stranger Things. Michael happened to be watching Stranger Things so we geeked out together about the show. 

The good news, my oxygen levels never fell below the mid-80s, so at least for now, I don't need oxygen when I fly. Yay! 

Due to the nature of pulmonary hypertension, I'll probably have to repeat the test at some point in the future, but as long as Michael is there, I don't mind.

Because I'm a child at heart, and firmly believe that one should always be rewarded when having to endure medical tests, we stopped by Federal donuts.

Guess what they have? A churro donut! We ended up getting three donuts. I got the churro donut, Shannon got the blueberry pancake, and we split a tres leches. 

They were all really good. The churro donut however, was magical. 

Sunday, September 25, 2016

The Franklin Institute-Science After Hours-Wizard School

From the moment we entered the Franklin Institute's main lobby at 7 pm, I knew it was going to be a fun night.

There were so many activities going on, and only three hours, so I had to make my choices carefully.

Only a few days before the event, Science After Hours revealed an added surprise, Harry and the Potters would be performing in the Planetarium. I've always regretted never seeing a Wizard Rock band play live when Wizard Rock was at the height of popularity, so I was ecstatic over the idea that I would get to see the most famous of Wizard Rock bands play. 

Before entering the Planetarium, we grabbed a beverage. Science After Hours is a 21+ only event. There are bars set up around the museum.

Pumpkin Juice - Juice + Butter Beer - Butter = Pumpkin Beer 

There were also at least two places with free alcohol tastings, but the lines were super long, so we skipped them.

Seasonally approved beers in hand, we stepped into the Planetarium. It was already very cool, and the concert hadn't even started yet. 

The Franklin Institute really knows how to throw an event. 

They changed the ceiling a few times during the concert. The moon was especially fitting during the My Teacher is a Werewolf song. 

The concert was amazing! They are really good musicians. 

Harry Potter, Harry Potter, and the ghost of Cedric Diggory had a ton of energy and really knew how to work a crowd. 

There was quite a bit of running through the audience and a little audience participation as well. 

I was so excited and had so much fun. Seeing Harry and the Potters live = Life Goal Complete. 

I saw people during the concert holding up their light up wands. I knew making a wand was what I wanted to do next. Unfortunately wand making proved to be so popular that they quickly ran out of supplies, so no wand for me. 

Since I wore my Hogwarts Express outfit, I wanted to get a picture in Franklin Institute's train room. 

The entrance was decorated. 

It was the perfect place to get a picture. 

I still feel strange about asking people if I can take a photo of them, but I did manage to get a few.

One of best things about being at The Franklin Institute at night was getting to go to the roof to see the giant telescope. 

It was an extra cloudy night, but we were still able to see the star Vega with the telescope. It was neat. 

After the telescope, there was only a little time left before the big finale, so we wandered into the Quidditch room, but all of the matches were over. There were tables where you could make origami snitches, but it looked a little too involved for the time that we had left. 

We did have time to try the dragon's breath. It involved graham crackers in liquid nitrogen. 

We were instructed to chew the graham crackers quickly and to not let them adhere to our tongues or to the inside of our mouths. The effect was a lot of fun.

The big finale took place in the lobby. Everyone gathered, and with wands held high (those who were able to make their wands before the unfortunate wand shortage that is) began the count down,

then a shout of INCENDIO!!!

The finale was spectacular. The fireball could have burned the eyebrows off of at least fifty Seamus Finnigans. 

It was a great night. I was extremely impressed by how organized the event was and by how many activities there were. Small touches and details really made the night. It was well worth the $15.00 admission. 

The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia hosts Science After Hours events every month. Each has its own, unique theme. I can't wait to attend another one. They sent me a survey and in the comments I suggested a Doctor Who night, fingers crossed. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Coors Field-Colorado

In our ongoing pursuit to visit as many baseball stadiums as possible, we were excited to be able to fit a visit to Coors Field, home of the Colorado Rockies, into our itinerary. 

Helpful Tip- It's always worth giving StubHub a look. We got tickets for seats in the Wells Fargo Club for just a little more than we would have paid for regular seats. The only downside was that we didn't get our usual souvenir ticket to go in the ticket book. 

We got fun stamps that let everyone know we had fancy seats. 

The weather was in the mid-90s, and our seats were in the blazing sun. 

It was so hot, we almost had the entire row to ourselves.

I kind of hate to admit it, but we ended up taking full advantage of being in the Wells Fargo Club, and watched most of the game sipping our lemonades in the nice, cool, air conditioning. 

We also spent part of the game exploring the stadium. 

As far as stadiums go, Coors Field was modern, and very nice, but wouldn't win any prizes for interior (San Diego is still our favorite) although I did think the Rockies home run fountains were quite picturesque. 

Since the park is in the middle of the city, the view isn't as spectacular as say Pittsburgh's, but I admired how perfectly blue the Colorado sky always seems to be. 

The food at Coors Field was great.

We passed up the Rocky Mountain Oysters 

in favor of the Monster Chicken Nachos. 

Monster is definitely the right description. The picture doesn't do them justice.

There was an entire chicken breast plopped on top of the chips. Everything was then smothered with salsa, cheese, and jalapenos. 

Whatever the chicken was cooked in was yummy, and it shredded up as you dug into it. Best ballpark nachos so far. Just be sure to grab plenty of napkins.

Usually ice cream is my dessert of choice at a ballpark, and although I am almost never one to pass up ice cream, it was love at first sight when I spotted the Berry Kebabs kiosk. 

Why aren't these everywhere? 

We chose the strawberry and banana kebabs that were swirled with white and milk chocolate. 

Not only do they look really cool, they're delicious too. And it's healthy cause it's fruit...right? 

You also get to have the fun challenge of not poking yourself in the epiglottis with the stick as you eat. 

I am seriously in love with giant berry kebabs. 

Rockies fans are passionate, the Rockies played great, and they won, which made the game all the more fun. Plus I got to wear purple. 

Our mission to knock another stadium off the list was a success. If you find yourself in Denver during baseball season, Coors Field is worth a visit. 

*An extra shout out to Julie and Alexa, friends who used to live in New Jersey, but now live in Colorado. They fed and entertained us Saturday night and we really enjoyed catching up with them. 

Monday, September 12, 2016

Denver Hotel Hopping

It was difficult finding somewhere affordable to stay in Denver. We had all of our activities planned and wanted to stay in as central a location as we could. I searched AirBnB, but we knew we needed a car to get around, and many rented places did not offer free parking, thus making the stay not so affordable. The few places that did offer free parking were already booked. In the end we decided to go with our trusty standby, Priceline.

Marriott Gateway Denver Airport

Have you ever made what seemed to be a pretty good decision that turned out to be a great decision?

 We decided to take a late night flight out of Philadelphia so 1) We could have a full Saturday in Denver and 2) So we didn't have to miss a day of work.  Since we were arriving in Denver late, we booked a hotel near the airport that offered a free airport shuttle. There was no sense getting a rental car just to go to the hotel and sleep, so we figured we'd crash in bed, then take the shuttle back to the airport in the morning to pick up our car. Good plan, right?

Leaving Philadelphia, we finally experienced our first flight delay. There was some sort of computer issue. At first they tried to fix it by literally turning it off and on again.When that didn't work, we were instructed to get off of the plane. A new plane was found, but of course the flight crew timed out, so then we had to wait for a new flight crew. Our flight was supposed to leave Philadelphia at 9:30 pm, but didn't leave until 12:30 am. No worries for us though, we didn't have a connecting flight to catch, and we didn't have anywhere we had to be. 

We got to the Denver airport around 2:30 am Denver time, but for our internal clocks, it was 4:30 am. We weren't prepared for sleeping on a plane, we didn't have pillows or anything else, so we were exhausted by the time we landed in Denver. 

We were so thankful that we didn't have to deal with a rental car, or figuring out how to drive somewhere in an unfamiliar city. We just hopped in the hotel shuttle and fell into the extremely comfortable bed. 

The Marriott Gateway Airport Hotel was very nice. 

The rooms were clean, comfortable, and decorated perfectly. 

The staff were efficient and kind. 

I was a bit sad that we weren't staying at the Marriott for our entire trip, but it was just a bit too far from some of our activities. It was the ideal place to spend a night, or in our case, an early morning, after a flight delay. 

Quality Inn Denver Central

We nicknamed this hotel the "wake and bake." It is considered a 4:20 hotel in Denver meaning that they don't forbid the smoking of marijuana on property. We are not partarkers. We stayed here because this was the hotel that Priceline picked. We still can't decide if this was our first Priceline fail. 

- They offer free shuttle service to parts of downtown Denver, including Coors Field. A lot of the roads get shutdown for the ball games, so I think we would have been frustrated driving to the ballpark, plus we saved money on parking. The shuttle was easy, convenient, and on time. 

- The location was convenient for getting on the major roads to get to where we needed to go

- The front desk staff were pleasant and always helpful 

- It's probably one of the most inexpensive hotels in the area 

- It's a bit of a party hotel (this might be a pro for some). People were always lugging cases of beer into the elevator. We must have had a look, because we were placed on a very quiet,empty floor.  

- The elevator always smelled like pot. The hallways and our room smelled like a combination of mildew and birthday cake. 

- It's located in an industrial park area, so if you are expecting a place with mountain views, trees, any kind of nature... you're out of luck. 

The rooms were basic and nothing fancy. It worked as a place to just crash after a busy day. The bed wasn't uncomfortable. 

The issue was more that they seemed to be fairly newly renovated rooms, but appeared to be forgotten about and not well maintained. 

We really enjoy accommodations that include free breakfast. It doesn't have to be fancy. We're not picky.  

This was the first time that we actually passed up free breakfast after experiencing it once. I think they probably should have focused on quality over quantity. 

There was a lot of variety, but everything was the absolute cheapest quality. 

We opted for cereal, which tasted like stale cardboard. We were 99% sure the milk was powdered. The coffee was undrinkable. Again, we are generally not super picky, but we just couldn't do the breakfast for a second day, even if it was free. 

If you just want someplace affordable to crash in Denver, then stay at the Quality Inn, but if we went back to Denver, I would not stay there again. 

Baymont Inn and Suites Denver Airport

We left Denver with a similar plan to what we had arriving. Stay close to the airport for convenience. Unfortunately, Priceline did not grace us with another stay at the Marriott. Instead it selected the Baymont Inn and Suites, near the Denver airport. It was clearly a popular place for people to spend their last night. 

Baymont was fine for a one night stay. It was clean, and the bed was okay. It suffered a bit from the same, new- but- not- well- maintained disease that Quality Inn had, though not as severe.

 Still, it was perfectly fine as a place to stay the night before a flight. 

Baymont also offered a free breakfast, but there was nothing that really enticed us, so we decided to head to the airport and see what they had. 

We liked the Marriott, but I can't say we were all that impressed with our other two stays Priceline booked in Denver. I would suggest doing a good amount of research before making your choice.