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These lines never used to give me trouble. Alzheimer's is making lots of "used to be simple" tasks anything but.
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It’s Getting Tougher

The back and forth of a fading short term memory

Text and photo by Tom Hintz

Posted – 10-9-2015

As I write this RC withdrawals are in full bloom. The last two consecutive weekends have been rained out and the weather folks are giving us an 80% chance of losing tomorrow, the third Saturday in a row to more rain. I think that all of this lost flying time is effecting my productivity in the shop. The increasing memory-based frustrations in the shop reinforces the therapeutic value of spending weekends at the flying field for me.

The rain did give me lots of shop time in which to finish my ESM 88” Zero build. The push to finish the ESM 88” Zero also revealed what feels like the Alzheimer's taking another step or two down its path. The last couple of years have been filled with starts, stops and restarts in the shop as my mind jettisons the current train of thought leaving me standing there trying to recall what I wanted to do just moments before. The frequency of this stopping and starting and the increased effort needed to recall a lost thought seems to have gotten worse recently.

The most frustrating part of getting the ESM 88” Zero ready to fly has been getting the fuel tank set up correctly. This is a very common, relatively simple procedure but because of how the ESM 88” Zero fuselage is designed there is a twist to this installation that exposes a frustrating facet of living with Alzheimer's. I can literally forget why I did something seconds ago.

All of the components are installed in the ESM 88” Zero fuselage from the bottom. That means that the gas tank has to be installed upside down from my point of view. The tank has a fill line, a line to the carburetor and a third that vents the tank so it does not draw a vacuum which would stop the flow of fuel to the carb. It is that vent line that was faking my brain out.

The vent line is supposed to go to the top of the tank to let air in as the fuel is burned off. With the ESM 88” Zero I have to install the tank upside down because I am installing it from the bottom of the plane. Then with the plane upright the vent line is at the top of the tank. Sounds simple enough – unless you have Alzheimer's ejecting random thoughts and observations during the installation. I wound up taking the tank out three times, finding that I had it upside down and then carefully reinstalling the tank upside down again. On the fourth attempt the thought process remained intact so I got the tank in correctly and all worked fine. That was nearly five hours later because taking this tank and the related fuel lines out and putting it all back in is no easy feat on the ESM 88” Zero.

Naturally Alzheimer's would start ejecting thoughts that forced me to work in the tightest space on the plane. Sometimes this all seems like a plot!
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Each time I had to remove and reinstall the tank the level of my frustration grew because Alzheimer's does nothing to make me forget why I am frustrated. That lets the frustration build further disabling my memory and I would install the tank upside down again. Then when I got the tank installed correctly I couldn’t remember exactly what I did differently to get it to work.

At some point this short term memory is going to get bad enough that I will need to get some help with some of the tasks related to building RC airplanes. Right now I try to have one of the other RC pilots that I trust check my new plane out before I fly it. Another set of eyes will often spot a mistake that could cause the plane to crash. This is a good practice for any RC pilot but especially for me.

Once again I have to recognize that the Alzheimer's is not going away. More importantly it has taken another step that I am aware of, there may have been more I do not recognize. Nobody knows how many steps there are before Alzheimer's shuts me off completely. All I can do is keep on fighting the best way I know how. By everything we (including my neurologist) know that is RC flying.

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