The Chilean mine rescue was a great example of international cooperation and effort, much like the International Space Station. Another similarity between the two was some of the physicians involved. JD Polk and other Flight Surgeons at NASA had, years ago, made a contingency plan for how to make the limited Space Station food stores last for months if there was a problem with re-supply. So, when the Chilean government asked if NASA had any advice for how to care for the miners trapped in a similar resource limited setting, Dr. Polk and a team went down to help and MedPage Today wrote up a great summary of their efforts.
“We had worked through the data, the decreased calories, the refeeding plan, and many of the things involved in this particular mine rescue” for the Hubble mission, Polk explained.
Reintroducing food after having gone into a state of starvation is a complicated issue, he noted.
Too much carbohydrates too fast in a body that has used up its store of electrolytes like phosphorus needed to metabolize glucose can result in fluid overload, cardiac failure, cardiac dysrhythmias, and even death.
Refeeding has to occur over five to seven days with a fairly protein laden meal, high in thiamine, high in phosphate, high in magnesium, before normalizing carbohydrate intake, Polk said.
Dr. Polk says all of the adulation should go to the Chilean authorities and that they were part of a large team. However, the story illustrates the utility of the work NASA does with Space Medicine (something we particularly enjoy here at MedGadget) beyond work in space.
MedPage Today: Houston, They Had a Problem: How NASA Doctors Helped in Chile
Image: NASA doctors Michael Duncan and J.D. Polk discuss with Chilean naval doctor Andrés Llarena, a specialist in submersion medicine (US Embassy, Chile)