Scott Carpenter's Doctor: Astronaut's Taste for Adventure Led to Long Life

Friday, 11 Oct 2013 10:54 AM

By Charlotte Libov

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Scott Carpenter, one of the original Mercury Seven astronauts, stayed healthy into his late 80s because of his taste for adventure and zest for life, says his physician and longtime friend Chauncey Crandall, M.D.
     
Carpenter died at the age of 88 on Thursday, but was in “excellent health” until recently, Dr. Crandall told Newsmax Health.
 
“Scott Carpenter always stayed active, writing and lecturing. He was a great storyteller, and would light up at the podium,” said Dr. Crandall, chief of the cardiac transplant program at the world-renowned Palm Beach Cardiovascular Clinic. He became Carpenter’s personal physician about 10 years ago, when the astronaut moved to West Palm Beach with his wife Patty.
 
“It just goes to show that staying active and engaged can keep you fit and strong well into old age,” said Dr. Crandall.
 
Carpenter was the fourth American in space, and the second to orbit the earth, replicating John Glenn’s three-obit trip just two months before in 1962. He also forced a collective sigh of relief in the nation when he lost radio contact with NASA upon splashdown but was found an hour later.
 
The Carpenters divided their time between West Palm Beach and Vail, Colo., where Carpenter was a legendary skier. Carpenter died in a Denver hospice following a stroke.
 
“It was a major stroke,” and at age 88 it proved impossible to overcome, said Dr. Crandall, author of the Heart Health Report newsletter.
 
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Despite the seriousness of his health situation, Carpenter, typically unflappable, had expected to fully recover. “He was calm, he didn’t seem troubled and he was looking forward to returning home,” recalled Dr. Crandall.
 
Although Carpenter stayed fit through the years, “His body was battered from the early life he had led,” performing many extreme physical feats, said Dr. Crandall. “He was a test pilot, and then an astronaut, and he was also an aquanaut.”
 
Carpenter, who has written books about his exploits, joined NASA’s SEALAB program and once spent 28 days straight living underwater.
 
On one occasion, Dr. Crandall, a devout Christian, invited Carpenter to church, although the astronaut was “not a particularly religious man.” Carpenter went. “They escorted him up to the front pew, of course, and he greeted everyone afterwards,” Dr. Crandall recalled. “He was a very humble man and he was always open to everything.”
 
About eight months ago, Carpenter fell ill with a virus and his wife contacted Dr. Crandall, who was then on a medical mission in Haiti.
 
“I flew home early to see Scott. They didn’t expect him to live, but we prayed with him and he got well over the course of the next week,” said Dr. Crandall.
 
Well before that, though, Dr. Crandall had talked to Carpenter about his experiences in space.
 
“I said ‘Scott, I have one question to ask you. When you were up in orbit, did you ever see anything you couldn’t explain? And Scott answered: ‘I felt a presence outside the capsule and I saw evidence of a bright glow that stayed with me.’ I think everybody who knew Scott saw that bright glow.” 
 
 

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