The online support group I am part of has had quite a few new women join since Christmas. I’ve noticed that a lot of them have the same questions and concerns that we’ve all faced as parents – especially mothers – of omphalocele babies. The biggest one though: “How do you get through?” For us, weeks 12-18 were difficult. Actually, no, scratch that. They were worse. It’s the unknowns that drive you into the spirals and it’s hard to try to think of anything else than “what if?” It’s also just as difficult to not use Goggle when you are told something so foreign and unknown. We’ve all been trained to ‘just Google it’ and all the answers are there. But as we all know, and discussed here already, Google is the worst thing you can do in any medical situation, especially one so delicate as an omphalocele. Worst case scenarios are always the ones shown first.
Once we were exclusively with the MFM clinic at The General (at 18 wks), we felt we finally had some answers. We knew no matter what, we had a game plan with our new dedicated high-risk team because we finally had a better understanding of what we were facing. We knew what to expect depending on additional genetic results. But most of all, we finally knew that the light at the end of the tunnel was not necessarily a train heading towards us but quite possibly the Hubble Space Telescope.
In 2010, IMAX released a stunning documentary on the Hubble Space Telescope repair mission. It was a fascinating and beautiful look at both the cosmos and the repair mission to the Hubble Space Telescope itself. We the audience learn that most of Hubble’s instruments were designed for repair in space, with the exception of the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS). This time consuming task is delicate for a multitude of reasons. Not only are the astronauts working in over -200 °C temperatures, but they must do the repairs that can take hours in a suits with no bathroom or cafeteria. Additionally, you have to understand that the most vulnerable parts of the suit are the gloves, and the instruments and components for Hubble can be very sharp. Especially when they have the ability to just float around you rather than just staying put.
For the astronauts aboard the mission, their only hope when the power supply for the ACS failed was to remove and repair the fragile circuit boards inside the camera. The thing is, the boards themselves are held on by dozens of tiny screws. The narrator suggests that “it’s like performing brain surgery with oven mitts.”
Former astronaut and current Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate, John Grunsfeld described the task in a way that always stuck with me:
“It takes all the focus I can muster. I have 32 tiny screws I need to remove, and so I have a Zen approach to doing the task where I only think about the one specific task that I’m doing. The one specific screw. And when that screw’s out, I move to the next screw.
And eventually, I’ll get to the last one, and then I’ll be done. There’s no point in thinking how many screws I have ahead of me or how many I’ve completed, it’ll just be the one screw.”
Star cluster Westerlund 2 and gas cloud Gum 29 was chosen as the official photo for the Hubble telescope’s 25th birthday. Credit: NASA, ESA, the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA), A. Nota (ESA/STScI), and the Westerlund 2 Science Team
At the end of our initial MFM visit at The General, once we were told we’d have the amnio booked for the coming Tuesday rather than that day, I remember excusing myself to the washroom where I not only had to go to the washroom, but had a quick, good happy cry and said to myself “just make it to Tuesday”. Since week 18, I’ve tried to stick with John Grunsfeld’s Zen approach with respect to all things omphalocele by only looking to the next appointment coming up. I have to be honest, it’s made things a little easier to digest and handle on this journey.
I can’t say that I will forever have Grunsfeld’s Hubble Zen approach – though it had always come to mind even at work or while doing any task that seems overwhelming – but knowing that it is always possible to stay focused really helps put things in perspective. So, to you Mr. John M. Grunsfeld, I want to say thank you so very much. Not only for being part of the Hubble repair crew and allowing the Hubble to continue to bring us such amazing images as long as it has – ultimately changing the way we see our universe – but for sharing your amazing Zen approach. It has kept me grounded throughout this journey.
Want to know more about the Hubble Space Telescope? Why not check out Space.com’s Pictures, Facts and History article from April 2013, or these stunning 25th Anniversary Photos as published online in April of 2015. You can also go direct to Hubble’s site or follow it on Twitter.