Thursday, September 23, 2010

Some Astronomy & Fun Happenings

After a few weeks of fairly low activity, a lot of fun things have recently happened.

Some Astronomy Fun:

Connor and I when out for a viewing session of Jupiter as it makes its closest approach this September 2010 until the year 2022. I had sold my larger Meade LX 200 GPS scope approximately 2 years ago, but kept the smaller Meade ETX 105 for easier viewing sessions and eventually something to pass on to Connor and Brandon. I hadn't brought it out in over a year and even thought about selling it. (I've recently been wanting to buy a Macintosh)
Well, it was late, but we decided to pull it out and set it up at about 9:30 PM. Julie wasn't thrilled that was keeping Connor until 1130, but hey, has been over a year. The moon was almost full and as sparse clouds slowly passed by the crystal-clear sky, Jupiter was out in all its glory. It was almost 75°, a gentle breeze kept any bugs away and it was perfect.

Connor and I have seen Jupiter many times and I have even spent many hours imaging Jupiter with both the 10 inch scope and the 5 inch scope.

jupiterjupiter meade etx105

My neighbor came over and it was his first time looking through a telescope, ever. I think he enjoyed it very much and was also amazed at the detail that was visible on the almost full moon. I mentioned, of course, that the real in viewing the moon is when it is first quarter or less. All four Gallery in satellites were clearly visible as shown in the astronomy program graphic below.


And here is a picture I took of Jupiter back in 2004 And the rest of my astronomy hobby Photo album!


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

More research on ALS

Get enough to eat and drink

(credit to another ALS patients blog)

Most people find a gastrostomy tube is much more comfortable and easy to use than they thought it would be.
Malnutrition, present in 16 percent to 50 percent of people with ALS, is a predictor for worsened survival, according to a study published in 2000. The main cause of malnutrition in ALS is swallowing dysfunction, resulting from paralysis of muscles involved in swallowing, but weakness of the muscles involved in chewing food also contributes, as does a higher than normal metabolic rate of uncertain origin in this disease. (My metabolism has always been skyhigh)

A vicious cycle can ensue, in which poor nutrition exacerbates weakness, and weakness in turn limits food and liquid intake.

Signs of insufficient intake of calories may be obvious, such as excessive and rapid weight loss. But for those who like an objective measurement, a body mass index (BMI) of less than 18.5 is considered a red flag. To calculate your BMI, go to

While you can still swallow and chew safely, take in foods and liquids that are dense in calories, such as high-calorie shakes and bars, and high-protein foods like meat, fish and eggs. Drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration. I try to eat high cholesterol meals as well as high caloric meals. I will discuss the high cholesterol portion of that statement later.

When eating and drinking are no longer safe because of fear of choking, or when eating a meal takes so long you become exhausted, it’s time to consider a gastrostomy, or PEG, tube. PEG stands for percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy tube, which relates to how the tube is inserted. The end result of PEG tube insertion is a small tube that goes directly into the stomach from outside, not something that goes through the nose or down the throat.

Most people find it’s much more comfortable and easy to use than they thought it would be.

A very active online forum at is operated by the ALS Therapy Development Institute (an ALS research institute in Cambridge, Mass., supported by MDA) and provides a variety of opinions and experiences with the PEG tube and other aspects of ALS therapy.

From an anonymous ALS patients post: “Best thing I could have done! No more choking, no more dehydration, no more weight loss. ... When I got mine I was still walking and drinking normally but having trouble with food, and I’d lost 35 kilograms (77 pounds). It would be fair to say I was in denial, and it took a while for me to adjust to the idea of having limited food intake. Now I can’t believe I was so silly.”

Breathe well

Noninvasive ventilation can prolong life despite a decline in respiratory muscle function.
As the muscles involved in respiration — the diaphragm and the intercostals, which are between the ribs — weaken, it becomes harder and harder to move enough air in and out of the lungs. This is especially true when lying on one’s back, as the weight of the abdominal organs creates even more resistance for the weakened diaphragm. I haven't had problems breathing while on my back and my FVC is still at 85%, but I have noticed needing to take additional breaths during sentences.

In recent years, a large percentage of ALS patients have opted for “noninvasive ventilation,” or NIV, to help them with their breathing. NIV delivers air under pressure (with a normal percentage of oxygen, not an oxygen supplement) to the lungs via a face mask or mouthpiece.

A 2007 study showed starting NIV earlier prolongs survival better than starting it later, when respiratory function is worse. This study used 65 percent of normal forced vital capacity (the amount of air one can exhale after taking in a deep breath) as the dividing line between early and late intervention. People who started using NIV when their forced vital capacity was at least 65 percent survived an average of 329 days longer than those who started it when their FVC was lower than 65 percent. NIV can be used for as many hours of the day or night as the person wishes and can easily be taken on and off.

Although NIV may prolong life by months or even sometimes years, for indefinite survival with ALS, “invasive ventilation,” which means ventilation through a tracheostomy tube, is almost always required. A tracheostomy is a surgically created opening in the trachea. Not only the delivery route but the type of ventilation device used with it provides for more complete substitution for normal respiratory muscle function than does NIV.

Surprisingly few studies have followed the course of people with ALS who have opted for invasive ventilation. In fact, many studies use “death or tracheostomy” as an end point, implying that these are approximately equal. That, however, is certainly not the case, so it may be that following people with tracheostomy ventilation until death would take so long the study could not be wrapped up in a timely fashion.

A small study published in 2003 in the journal Neurology found that, out of 70 people with ALS in Tokyo who opted for tracheostomy ventilation, 33 survived more than five years on it. In that group were three people who lived for 10 years on tracheostomy ventilation and two who survived for 18 years. The most common cause of death was pneumonia, followed by cardiovascular disease.

The down sides of tracheostomy ventilation are that it requires respiratory care that poses a significant burden on family members or costs a great deal if professionals are hired to help, and that it may allow for prolonged survival even when all voluntary muscle movement has been entirely lost and even communication is difficult. Still, many people are happy with this option.

From an anonymous ALS patients post: “My wife decided to follow the doctor’s suggestion and get her trach early,” noted an ALS TDI Forum visitor in March. “It’s been over two months now, and it has made a huge difference. She looks 10 years younger, has good color, and hasn’t taken a nap since the procedure. She was on BiPAP about 17 hours a day before the procedure. Her oxygen saturation has been excellent. ... Caring for her can be a bit overwhelming at times, but it sure is a lot better than the alternative. We are convinced we made the right decision!”