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Despite the built-in frustrations of the occasional crash flying radio control planes continues to be a bright and effective part of my fight.
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Baby Steps To and Fro

I feel that I am getting better while I am getting worse

Text and photo by Tom Hintz

Posted – 10-10-2013

In the last several months I have invested lots of hours in exercising my brain whether through my work on my web sites or employing the focus and concentration required in radio control flying. I can say that I feel lots better and even more competent after a day at the flying field. The fresh air and exercise is nice but the concentration of flying works the brain hard and I need that. Simple chores that were plagued by forgetfulness seem to go more smoothly after flying for a day. Also, the interaction with friendly people at the flying field is another plus.

All this is not to say I have not had moments of frustration. I had a favorite airplane that started flying badly and my mind focused on the center of gravity for some reason. Then after moving the CG back and forth I realized that the servos had worn out and the control surfaces were flapping around and compromising some of each control input I made. This was frustrating because I had noticed the servo issues a few days before but just did not remember it. I installed new servos and my favorite plane is once again living up to my favorite expectations.

Not long after this photo was taken I made a rookie mistake of flying too far out and when another problem occurred I was unable to do anything to minimize the ensuing crash. the damage was total and the lesson hopefully learned.
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I recently crashed an airplane that I feel was in part because I was just too far away. There was also evidence that a control surface failed but what ticked me off was how far out the plane was when it happened. Once again, I knew better before and after the crash. This is a rookie mistake that I warn student pilots about all of the time. Then my mind “browns out” and I make that same error.

A new warning sign came when I entered the woods to look for debris from my crashed plane. When I was younger I would plow into strange woods that went on for miles, walk around in it all day and come out where I started. When I entered the woods this time as soon as I turned around and looked back, I couldn’t recognize anything. I was nearly lost already and as it turned out I was maybe 50 feet from where I had entered the woods. That is unsettling to say the least. I have long worried about getting lost in the car, now walking into a woods by myself is something I have to stop myself from doing.

When football season came around I perked up because I would get to see my beloved Packers again. I do follow the Carolina Panthers of course but once a Packer fan always a Packer fan. But even this cherished time in front of the TV revealed that things are slipping away.
I began noticing that after a commercial, frequently aired by the network after a change of possession, I sometimes could not remember how the team with the ball got it. I had no clue if they received a punt, intercepted it or what happened. The marvel of satellite TV lets me run the show backwards to see what I had just watched minutes earlier to refresh my memory.

Another development that I think is new is that when I go into a strange place I frequently get anxious because I don’t know what I am supposed to do or where I am to go. We went to a restaurant several months ago for a club meeting and I nearly rushed out because I was getting anxious and confused by the buffet-style layout. Certainly me running from food would be a new and inexplicable development.

One of the great things about RC flying is that when I get comfort5able with one thing there are many others to challenge myself with!
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Another thing I think about is that while I remember the issues above happening, I wonder how many are occurring that I don’t remember or recognize as a problem. It just stands to reason that there are things happening that I am not recognizing as a problem.

The good news is that I keep coming home when I do drive though I only drive to the flying field and the nearby store. Any other car trips are done with my wife Beth driving and me in the passenger seat. I drove for the first 30 years of our marriage, I guess she can drive for however long I need a ride. I don’t go many places so that helps reduce the burden on her.

So all in all, I feel good and I feel that in some ways my brain is working better. The RC flying is keeping me thinking and that seems to help with my work of generating content for my web sites. But yet there are the signs that things are not all rosy in my brain. The progression of Alzheimer's is a certainty but the speed of that progression is not. That is where I hope to focus my efforts to keep my brain functioning as long as possible.

I will keep on fighting, taking baby steps forward in the march to keep my brain functional. However I also have to remain aware of the steps backward as my symptoms progress. Right now I feel like I am making more steps forward than backward and am thankful for that.

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