Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Waiting on the FAA

My medical certificate is a special issuance, so I operate under slightly more stringent rules than other pilots. I am supposed to notify the FAA promptly of any change in my condition. It used to be that I would call them up and tell them what happened, they would tell me that I was grounded, and a couple of days letter a certified letter would arrive containing a self addressed stamped envelope and the equivalent of an orange sticky note with an arrow pointing into the envelope saying "insert medical certificate here." I guess that they became afraid of spoofing, and no matter how unlikely it is that someone would call them up and falsely report a disqualifying condition, they insist on a letter. I sent them the letter. I have yet to get a reply, so I do, in fact, still have a medical certificate, even though it is not valid.

But all of that is moot. After the abnormal stress test in September, I stopped exercising, but my joints began to hurt more rather than less. One of my doctors suggested that this was a side effect of one of my medications (a statin), but another refused to let me stop. The problem got worse, so I voted to break the tie and stop.

It didn't help. In fact, it got worse. I could not run, or even climb stairs. I had trouble sleeping, because the pain kept waking me up. My doctor prescribed narcotics and blood tests. Unable to even climb into an airplane, I did not say "I can't take narcotics because I am a pilot." I took them eagerly.

They didn't help much, but the blood tests were way out of whack (think lots of metal in your engine oil analysis), and I got sent to a rheumatologist. It took a week to get an appointment, during which I slept little and hurt more.

Thinking I would have some time on my hands, I bought the new translation of War and Peace. I had promised myself that I would read it when the paperback came out. I took the book to the cashier at one of the big chain stores, and he kind of tried to make fun of me. "Have you been through this before?" he asked.

"Yes, a long time ago, but everyone says that the new translation is great."

"Well, good luck." He did not sound sincere. And I thought it was a cardinal rule of retail to avoid customer ridicule.

As I waited for my card to ring through, I had a sudden memory of the issue of Flying after the downing of KAL007. This was one of the best issues, ever, worth digging up in the library. Peter Garrison wrote about flying his homebuilt Melmoth to Japan, and the contingency of landing in the then-Soviet Union if his single-engine airplane, carrying his wife and son, had trouble over the ocean at night. (You may shiver now.) He did not imagine it going well, but his consolation was that "they wrote better novels." So maybe I would see.

The rheumatologist, a kindly man with a soft touch and a keen eye, took more blood and ordered more tests. He got me to scream with one of his "Does this hurt?" tests. ("I thought you had no foot pain," he said, looking hurt himself.) Better yet, he gave me a cortisone shot, which is supposed to provide some temporary relief.

I hope he's right. Not only will it be good to climb into an airplane; it will be good to have the strength to lift the book and start to read it.

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At October 28, 2009 at 8:57 AM , Anonymous Israel said...

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