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Carmen Garca Roger, Valencia, 1975. Degree in Mathematics, specializing in Astronomy, Celestial Mechanics and Geodesy. He is suffering from chronic pain and has been selected from 23,500 applicants Potential Astronauts with Physical Limitations, In “Strong, Let the World Know” explains how to live with chronic pain…and be happy.
- When he was eight years old, he entered an operating room to correct flat feet and lengthen the tendon. It seemed like a simple intervention, what happened?
- Actually, when I was eight years old, I had surgery on both feet and both ankles. This was an exercise that was performed then and involved placing a prosthesis inside the joint. What happened was that, over the years, logically, I grew up. Actually I’m a tall lady, I’m 1.74m tall and I wear 42 on my feet. Keep the balance
- And from there your life changed, right?
- It was like the beginning of a massive degenerative process in the joints of the feet and ankles. Thinking that the joints could be saved, they immediately removed the prosthesis from me. But sadly it was not so.
- I think it affected all aspects of his life…
- Yes, at first, it gave me problems academically: I had two lower limb operations in the middle of my maths course and I had to try to get it out, but I was successful. And then I continued my life, I started working in private company…
- Altogether he’s had 11 surgeries, the last one transplant, right?
- Yes, after the prosthesis was removed, when I was already working, I was unable to walk, with great pain. I had to have both legs rebuilt, surgery after surgery. In all, he went through 11 reconstructive surgeries to have a functional life, legs that would function as well as possible, within which there were many joints that could no longer be saved. My feet were like a 100-year-old man with osteoarthritis who had played a really aggressive game his entire life.
- Since then, was the chronic pain always with you?
- Since then I have had severe pain from the trauma and it persisted afterwards. A pain is considered chronic when, after a certain amount of time, it remains in our nervous system, when the signal remains in the brain for about six months after the triggering element, and it can become even more intense. Chronic pain behaves very differently than usual. Pain has a meaning, it is a sign that something is wrong with our body. The problem is when that signal is changed, either the circuit is corrupted in some way, or because of trauma, exhaustion, because of other diseases… in my case it was because I had a stroke.
- And I guess since that pain has no origin, there is no cure, right?
- Treat it in the sense that they give you a medicine, like when you have the flu, no, no. There are many ways to approach chronic pain, that is, there is hope. I have attacked chronic pain with therapeutic exercise, which is fundamental, it is exercise to combat pain; With physiotherapy, which has a very neurological component… what happens is that there are approaches that require a lot of repetition, a lot of discipline, a lot of willpower… and, of course, there are pain units, which have Great Pros: I’m a friend to be there when you have to go and leave, don’t stay there with a “custom” exit. And if necessary, medication, but then only when necessary. Because from my experience the most powerful weapon is desire and discipline.
- We have all felt pain at some point and we know that it is something that destroys you. One in six people in Spain, 17% of the population according to the Ministry of Health, suffer from chronic pain. how do you live with it?
- Pain does mine, and chronic pain is like constant torture. The way to deal with this is to know in that moment of pain that thoughts aren’t real, because they are terrifying thoughts: “It’s always going to be like this, I can’t stand it, I can’t do anything, nothing is mine anymore.” Not going to help, why not?” Me…” All those thoughts, which are natural and that I understand because I have them, are not real, and what they do is that they keep you from taking care of yourself and all that. Doing what can help you overcome the pain. Those thoughts put you in a vicious circle instead of a virtuous one.
- The statistics are brutal: They say that 20 to 50% of people with chronic pain develop depression…
- Emotional and mental states are closely related to the sensation of physical pain, as the nervous system uses much of our thoughts and feelings. Depressive states can be induced by pain; And vice versa: depressive states can induce pain. And when we enter that dynamic, breaking that cycle is complicated. I understand and support and feel full sympathy for the people there. But it is possible to get out.
- How? With the will, how did I say first?
- With willpower and small steps. Going out for a walk today that is difficult for you, calling my friend to talk about something different, going to rehab, even for a while, doing the exercises you have to do, one minute today and two tomorrow. They are small steps but, added together, they are big.
- Chronic pain hasn’t stopped you from studying, passing exams, getting a good job, being able to do that work… but I guess it must have limited you in some way, right?
- It has suited me more than limiting myself. I have had to adapt on several occasions in my daily life, and that chronic pain continues with me and I have to flesh it out and give life. There is a chapter in the book in which I describe the rituals that I follow from waking up to coming home from work and going to bed. In every movement and gesture I make, in every move I make, I have integrated that I have pain and I have a disability, because some of the functions in my feet and ankles are limited. In my house, in my movements, while driving, taking a shower, doing my makeup… I don’t get up and get out of bed, no: I turn to my side, support my arm in a certain way, Forcing my stomach to rise, keeping my leg in a fixed position… If I don’t do this, I’ll die of pain and so on ever since I woke up.
- Are all your daily gestures and movements adapted to pain?
- accurate. And this requires not only willpower but also a certain humility, being clear about the situations in your life and accepting and accepting them. And knowing that if I wake up badly today, but I rehabilitate myself, tomorrow I might wake up a little better. It’s about having hope, but having real hope, as you work at it. Obviously I have bad days too. If one day I’m in a lot of pain and plus it’s a hard day at work, it ain’t easy. The point is a motivation, something that drives you from within: “I want to go to work because I like my job, I want to have a conversation, I want to be with my husband, I want to go to my parents.” Want to see, I want to have a glass of wine.” with a friend…”
- And now he has a new inspiration: to travel to space as an astronaut, right?
- Yes, I am currently in Cologne, Germany, where I have taken the European Space Agency (ESA) test of the third stage of the astronaut process with physical limitations. I’ve always wanted to be an astronaut, and until now it wasn’t possible because of foot problems. The ESA has opposed astronauts for people with disabilities and I said: “It’s mine.” I have an insatiable desire to learn and improve, and this project excites me very much.
- And if he manages to take the square out, how will he deal with the pain in space?
- I have no answer. But as far as I know, the absence of gravity would make my pain go away, because the main engine of my pain is the lower body, the lower limbs. And in space, since there is no weight, which is wonderful for me, it takes away 90% of the pain. But if I were in pain, the strategy would be what I follow now: space-friendly therapeutic exercises.
- Are the tests difficult?
- The last time I did a psychological test, behavior of 11 and a half hours … The last test, which was very difficult, we did in Hamburg, and it focused on mental, intellectual, cognition, intelligence, memory, spatial vision. , , concentration, etc and the next thing will be medical and physical tests for a week. I have been preparing since the spring of last year. It is a difficult and very difficult process, reaching to the essence of the individual, and told by someone who has undergone many selective processes in his life.
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