…is a phrase we are all familiar with. When you take control of the aircraft from your copilot you mouth these words to ensure there is no debate on who defines the direction of travel. So why not use a similar assumption of authority as the visit with your aviation medical examiner (AME) looms closer on the horizon?
It is astonishing how often a deferral or denial occurs that might have been avoided by the pilot patient in the run up to the appointment. Let’s look at a couple of examples. First of all, think of your poor doctor; the end of the month when your medical runs out is also the same time when everyone else’s medical runs out and that is when your AME is at their busiest. If you have a problem that needs some work and the day of your appointment is the last day of the month you are going to be deferred. Better to schedule earlier in the month to buy yourself a buffer.
Evaluate what you are going to be putting down on the forms at the office – have you, in fact, visited a physician since last seen? Been prescribed new drugs? If so, might this cause a problem? As a participant in the Medical Services Program, one straightforward way to ascertain where you are is to have a dry run with their superb team of experts. I am a member and can highly recommend the service. AOPA also lists medication that the FAA may or may not have a concern about you taking. This does change and merits review on occasion.
You will be having an eye test so it makes sense to schedule your regular vision test before you find yourself squinting at the AME’s office. Going that route will ensure you receive an issuance requiring spectacles be worn, bumping into doors at the AME’s office because you cannot see them will cost you a deferral. Similarly, have your hearing tested – as we age, sensory loss creeps up on us and you do not want the AME to be the first doc to discover you have added “waddidusay?” to your lexicon. FAA allows us to fly with hearing aids so if you need one, do not ignore the problem.
During your AME physical you will be asked to “provide a sample” and having adjourned to the bathroom must urinate into a tiny pot. Ever wonder what happens to the contents? The doctor or nurse will dip a stick with various detectors into the urine to primarily look for glucose, an early sign of diabetes, protein, which might indicate kidney disease and blood that can be a harbinger of serious problems like infections, kidney stones, bladder growths or kidney cancer. Or a faulty test strip. If positive, the AME has to evaluate the problem and this may well lead to a deferral, potentially because of a false positive result. To me it makes sense to buy a tube of test strips from a pharmacy, read the directions and run your own test a month before your AME appointment. If positive, see your physician and ask them to check the urine under a microscope for red blood cells – proof that blood is indeed present. If you do have hematuria, blood in the urine, the problem can be addressed and treated and you can then attend your AME with everything taken care of. Certainly such investigations may require you to recuse yourself from the left seat until the medical matter is attended to, but it will be on your terms.
My central theme though is this; take care of your health first and then attend to your flying privileges.
November 17, 2011