Fit to fly - pt 2
The home leg from Swanwick feels longer than the outbound. I'm not typically emotional, in the sense that I'm not in control of them, they swing dramatically or have a hair trigger (apart from post childbirth). I am though, generally, quite aware of my emotional state. On this afternoon I remember having difficulty placing them. I was caught out by the situation, I only imagined feeling elation or despair - I found myself in a surprisingly flat dead centre of that scale. During that 4 hour drive I wrung the drops of positivity out of the day and the doc's words. This is the situation; I had passed all other elements of the medical but fallen short on the Spirometry test. A lung function indicator. I had a low FEV1 (forced expiratory volume in 1st second) - an indicator of Asthma or obstruction in the airways. It came as a surprise to me. I've never been diagnosed with Asthma nor had anything that barely resembles an attack. Since I can remember I've loved sports, played a lot of em, and loved the feeling of physical exhaustion through exercise. I run, bike and swim regularly. Then theres my job, which is quite physical (this is an understatement akin to describing the Antarctic as a bit nippy). I've never felt tight chested or short on air and have completed over 100 SCUBA dives with no problems. I tell the doc all this, his confusion starts to resemble my own. Between us we have no answers, I wonder about the effect of living within 8ft of a wood fire from a young age - he speculates about Western Red Cedar sawdust, but we rarely cut it, so i'm not sold. Anyway he's not a respiratory specialist, that's what the trip to the CAA headquarters in Gatwick's for. He explains that all the other elements of my lung function are good, that the next test will involve exercise and that it is most likely I will still get my medical certificate - but it may well have a restriction to multi crew operations.
Restricted to multi-crew operations. I'm driving still, digesting this. It won't be over, It'll be fine all airliners are flown with two pilots. I can still be a pilot. Not of single pilot operations though. I couldn't be a bush pilot, or a ferry pilot. I couldn't be everything a pilot could be. I could still be a pilot though - a restricted pilot - an oxymoron.
"Mr objective" is sparring with "Mr I wan't to be a pilot no matter what". I never admitted it out loud, but "Mr objective" convinced me that going through all the training and the cost, only to emerge in the incredibly competitive job market with this restriction, with fewer jobs available was verging on reckless.
I made up my mind, I want a Class 1 medical without restrictions, thats my goal.
I got home and to work learning about lung function and spirometry tests. My days of the occasional dalliance with a cig ended on the spot. I am visualising a perfect respiratory system and I will stop at nothing to achieve it. The results of my research tell me that your FEV1 score cannot be changed drastically. There is a technique to an efficient exhale and tips, like have an empty stomach. I take it all on board, and learn about the anatomy of a bronchiole. I can change the results, I know I can. I need to improve the elasticity of my airways. I need the pipes of a trumpeter, so I buy a......... massive pack of balloons - I start a lung training program of blowing them up as hard and as fast as I can in one breath. And I run more, a lot more. I found that doing 200m hill sprints after a 3-5k run was a really good way of working my lungs to exhale fast and conditioning my diaphragm for endurance. While I was running I was visualising big clear healthy airways and I was watching the skies, following contrails to their source and picturing myself there - I would run harder and picture the graph on the spirometry readout going through the roof. I imagined I had lungs like a turbo-fan.
Not too long into this period of training and before I felt ready for the make or break day, whilst we still had the Jerez plan in place (but also with financing proving a huge obstacle), we discovered that, against all the odds and medical likelihood, amazingly - we were pregnant again.