Wednesday, August 22, 2012

NASA Astronaut Inspires Pediatric Patients and Staff

Four-year-old Kateri Golden of Cape Cod, vibrated with excitement as she watched NASA Astronaut Stephen Bowen slip a hospital gown over his blue flight suit. When he finally entered her room on Ellison 17 and squatted down beside her, Kateri unleashed a series of questions.

“Can I see when you have your space helmet on right now? How do you walk in space? How can kids become astronauts?"

“You need to go to school to study to become an astronaut,” Bowen replied. “You'll need to study science and space."

"Well, I’ve gone to school lots of times, but I have not learned about space at school yet. I’m going to need a lot more practice.”

Bowen, a Massachusetts native who has been on three spaceflights to the International Space Station, visited the MassGeneral Hospital for Children’s inpatient units, the PICU and the Pediatric Hematology and Oncology Unit on Aug. 17 to promote “Destination: Station,” NASA’s International Space Station exhibit featured at the Museum of Science now through Labor Day. Bowen signed autographs and distributed mini-foam astronaut toys, earth science books and space station stickers.

Delia Binette, 5, of Maine, showed Bowen her Mickey Mouse rocket-ship. “Who’ve you got stuffed in there?" Bowen asked.

“A puppy!” Delia exclaimed. To Delia’s delight, Bowen confirmed that dogs and other animals have traveled to space.

The excitement spread to staff members, who asked Bowen about the rigors of astronaut training. In the PICU, Bowen posed for pictures with Michael J. Whalen, MD, a pediatric critical care specialist, Avi Traum, MD, a pediatric nephrologist, and several pediatric residents.

Bowen also presented the MGH with a picture of Boston taken from the International Space Station and challenged the patients, parents and staff to find area landmarks and the hospital from the birds-eye view. 

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