Medical Science Confirms: I am Full of Hot Air

Fumie and I had a ningen dokku (人間ドック) medical checkup today. It's like an elaborate physical, including X-rays, electrocardiographs, etc. The low point for me was a camera down the throat to check the lining of the stomach (high-resolution video coming soon! :-)). Fumie had an MRI as well, which she also didn't care for.

The “ningen” in the title means “human,” but I couldn't find anyone who knew the stand-alone meaning or origin of “dokku.” Looking it up now, I see that it's from the English “dock,” and thus the imagery of a full checkup like this is comparable to bringing a ship into drydock.

Most salaried workers get one form or another of this kind of checkup every few years at their company's expense, but we decided to get them on our own ($1,200 for the pair) because it seems like a good idea to have a checkup from time to time.

One test was related to the lungs' capacity to hold air: how much air you can breath out. I don't know that I'd ever done one of these tests, but I recall my dad talking about having done them when he taught elementary education at Kent. He used a simple version of the test (blowing air into an overturned, underwater beaker) as something that could be used to demonstrate various scientific principles to elementary kids.

Having grown up on a farm as a child and having been a runner as an adult, my barrel-chested dad has a fairly substantial lung capacity. I don't know that he ever told his students the results of his personal test, but he always had them try it themselves (because, after all, in college just as in primary school, interactive classes are more fun). Football players and marathon runners alike could never eclipse his volume. If I recall one story properly, a petite woman did eclipse his volume once, such that Dad thought she must have made a mistake in doing the test. Doing it again confirmed that she simply had amazing lung capacity. I think she was a volleyball player, for what that's worth.

In any case, today after I did the test, the doctor looking at the readouts started chuckling and shaking his head in a “well, whaddya know!” kind of way. I asked him what my lung capacity was, and he said “7.43 liters.” Well, despite my having heard my Dad's lung capacity stories, I didn't recall any numbers so I don't know whether 7.43 liters is large or small, but when he asked “do you really do that much sports?” I got an idea. As he looked back to check more readings, he sort of muttered half to himself and half to me “I've never even seen 7 liters....”.

So, clearly, I have another bullet point for my resume. Somewhere between “wrote Mastering Regular Expressions” and “8-year software architect for the Yahoo! Finance web site,” I'll have to add “Has a commanding 7.43-liter lung capacity.”


All 5 comments so far, oldest first...

Umm,yes, your title actually sums it up quite well.

— comment by Grandma Friedl on June 11th, 2007 at 9:26pm JST (17 years ago) comment permalink

Long-winded post, I should say.

Posting from my wife’s Mac, as I have a blinking question mark/kernel panic type horror story evolving on my side of the room…

— comment by nils on June 11th, 2007 at 9:34pm JST (17 years ago) comment permalink

I’ve always known that you – and my other brothers as well – are chock full of air. As impressed as your doctor was with your ability to expell 7.4 liters of air from your lungs, just imagine how astounded they would be had they been able to measure the prodigous amounts you expell elseware!

— comment by Marcina Kreta on June 11th, 2007 at 9:57pm JST (17 years ago) comment permalink

My father had a test like this once, before surgery. He broke the machine.

He’s a professional trombone player.

— comment by Sam on June 14th, 2007 at 6:48pm JST (17 years ago) comment permalink

Marci makes me laugh! 🙂

— comment by Anne on September 6th, 2012 at 4:50am JST (11 years, 10 months ago) comment permalink
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