“I have always been a very healthy person”. Thats something I think almost every member of my profession will say, the first time they run into real medical issues and I certainly did.
3 weeks ago I was travelling home after a week of simulator duties and felt an intense pain in my stomach and lower back. It came and went in waves and after an excruciating night, I went to the hospital where they told me that it was likely kidney-stones.
Kidney stones and associated problems are very, very common. It is likely that you know someone, maybe even in your own family that has suffered from it and they will all tell you that the pain is excruciating.
While some other professions can be safely executed while in treatment for this condition, being a pilot is not one of them. As a pilot we have to be able to be fully concentrated on our tasks during 100% of hour working time and blinding pain does not fit into that picture.
This meant that I had to do something which I have never previously done in my 18 year career. I had to contact my AME to get guidance and help and possibly loose my medical.
Contacting you AME with news that could potentially take away your medical is a very scary thing to do. There is a feeling of loosing control and giving your livelihood away to the judgement of authorities and thats never a nice feeling. On the other hand, it felt very good to get decision making help from professionals.
As expected, I was told not to resume flight duties until the matter had been properly resolved.
I went to several different doctors and made a whole array of tests and, eventually, we found that there was no stone but some kind of minor “gravel” that had ended up in my kidneys, likely because of my low-carb/high protein diet that I had recently started. The problem now became to make sure that the attack I had endured, was a one time thing. This could be done by continuously testing the urine to look for traces of blood or stones as well as just general health checks. This took much, much longer than I thought it would do but getting appointments and test results, as well as relaying these to different doctors, takes time. Count on that if it happens to you.
I was lucky enough to have my various different other projects to work on, while I was cruising around medical centres, but few in my occupation are so lucky. Being grounded really makes you realise just how vulnerable you are in this profession. One day you are working your dream-job, the next day you aren’t. This leads me to an important conclusion, but more about that later.
When my results were good enough, it was up to the AME authorities, in my case the IAA, to make a decision on when I could resume flight duties. A decision was made to let me go back flying with an OML restriction. This means a restriction to fly in only multi-crew operations until my next medical renewal, at what point, the restriction can be removed if everything looks good and my AME agrees
So what are my thoughts about this whole ordeal?
I have to say that it has strengthen my trust in the medical system and the safety of air transport, yet again. I have, at every step, been greeted by professionals that have had the safety of the traveling public, as well as my wellbeing and professional career, in mind during their decision-making. My employer has been absolutely great and supported me during my near month of absence.
What could have been a very negative experience have actually made me even more positive towards both authorities, doctors and my employer. I will not hesitate to contact them again, if needs be.
A other things that I have learnt; Never take your health for granted. No matter what age you are or how well you take care of yourself, you never know what might happen. Always try and enjoy the moment, spend time with your friends and family and have fun!
Also, get a good loss-of-license insurance. I didn’t have to use it but if you end up permanently loosing your license, you will have wished that you had one. Your employer, flight-school or pilot-union will have selected good and trustworthy insurance companies to use, check it out now.
Get one as soon as you are starting to pay money for your licenses, do not wait because you might end up regretting it!
Have a wonderful easter my dear friends and stay tuned for new videos coming up soon on the channel!