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Fibromyalgia (FM) and
Chronic Myofascial Pain & Dysfunction (CMPD)
Information for Patients, Supporters,
and Medical Professionals

with Devin Starlanyl

David G. Simons M.D.: Above and Beyond

David Simons, co-author of the definitive texts of myofascial medicine, was a pre-astronaut.  He was the first man to see the curvature of the earth.  He was suspended from a balloon in what amounted to a metal can, to find out what happens to the body and mind at that altitude over a 24-hour period.  He was driven by the urge to know and to understand; that same drive helped bring us documented data on myofascial pain and trigger points and kept him searching until he found the mechanisms that cause trigger points to occur.

On August 19, 1957, Dr. Simons was able to view the earth from an altitude of over 100,000 feet, almost 20 miles above the surface of the earth, higher than any balloonist had ever been.  He ran experiments and recorded biomedical, astronomical, meteorological and electromagnetic observations.  One problem after another plagued the flight, but still he chose to continue.

He saw colors that had no name and described them for the people waiting below.

“Where the atmosphere merged with the colorless blackness of space, the sky was so heavily saturated with this blue-purple color that it was inescapable, yet its intensity was so low that it was hard to comprehend, like a musical note which is beautifully vibrant but so high that it lies almost beyond the ear’s ability to hear, leaving you certain of its brilliance but unsure whether you actually heard it or dreamed of its beauty,” he said in the taped log of Project Manhigh II.

Craig Ryan, in “The Pre-Astronauts: Manned Ballooning on the Threshold of Space”, tells the story of Dr. Simons’ flight, and the quotes used here are from this book.

“Simons would say later that the sunset from his vantage at the top of the stratosphere was the single most startling sight his eyes had ever seen.  For an entire hour he sat rapt, tearing his attention away only briefly to record his impressions on a tape recorder.”

“A curious reversal of night and day met my eyes,” he wrote.  “High in the atmosphere, where the sun still shot its rays, the ever deepening blue sky was acquiring a greenish, sunset tinge.  But below it, closer to the earth, was a giant demarcation line which looked like a faded rainbow arching from south to north across the eastern horizon.  And beneath the line was the darkness of night covering the earth below.  The daylit sky was above, the darkened sky below.  And as the sunset progressed, the rainbow arch rose ever higher, drawing with it a curtain of blackness.  Above the slowly changing colors was a layer of blue so clear that it was as if someone had lifted a veil from an ordinary blue sky to leave it polished and bright and clean with no scattered light to diffuse it.”  Night fell, and he marveled, “The stars glow like an animal’s eyes...I have ringside view of the heavens–it is indescribable.”

The book goes on to say, “He had prevailed over long odds, meager funds, a deadly storm, and near-toxic carbon dioxide levels.  He was the first man to spend an entire night and day in the stratosphere, the first man ever to float down into a thunderstorm, the first man to ascend above 100,000 feet in a balloon.  David Simons had just completed one of the greatest feats of endurance and perseverance in aviation history.”

Of this material are heroes made.  David Simons later met Janet Travell.  He turned his descriptive talents to trigger points, and together they founded the field of myofascial medicine and gave us all a chance to rise above the world of chronic pain.

Excerpted from "Fibromyalgia and Chronic Myofascial Pain: A Survival Manual" edition 2, by Devin J. Starlanyl.



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