Tyson V. Rininger's Blog

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Passing your Airman’s Medical

Sometimes having too much information can be a bad thing. Working in the aviation industry I often hear horror stories about potential and even current pilots failing to meet the qualifications of a basic airman’s medical. Being a reasonably healthy guy, I didn’t put a whole lot of concern into it, but my worries were certainly present. Little could I have predicted I was worried about all the wrong things.

To prepare for my medical, I took no chances. My life suddenly turned into the Rocky Balboa pre-fight montage. I ate carrots, loaded down on my recommended daily water requirements, did some mild aerobic work outs, even used those Crest White-Strip things for that whiter smile. I was ready to go, almost. A friend and accomplished pilot had called the night before and began to discuss the vision requirements. As an eyewear user of 15 years and one who hasn’t replaced their glasses in 10, I became a little concerned. Unfortunately there was not much I could do other than squint if necessary.

I pull up to the doctor’s office just before 9am. The nice young lady behind the counter gives me some FAA paperwork to fill out, which we all love to do, followed by checking my weight and blood pressure. Once that was complete and I was a happy camper with the results, she points to me to the restroom and asks me to pee in a cup. Not a problem, done this many times.

Fifteen minutes later, I’m still in the bathroom. I’ve got the water running thinking of coffee, beer, any type of liquid really, but nothing. I’m so embarrassed. Cautiously I open the door holding an empty cup with my initials. The nurse gives me a really happy look followed by, “So how’d it go?” I’ve heard of conversation starters, but under the circumstances that question was a little unexpected. After seeing the empty cup, her smile turned into a look of compassion followed by, “Oh, don’t worry. This sort of thing happens all the time.”

I went back out to the car and grabbed a bottle of water to sip on while we continued with the exam. The doctor checked my breathing, reflexes, ears nose and throat, the usual. Next he wheeled over this strange contraption that looked like a microscope from Star Trek. “Place your head here and look through the lens. Of the two columns, what’s the smallest line you can read clearly?” This was undoubtedly a trick question. The letters K’ and V’ from each column at the top kept swapping sides. There were two other letters in the top row that I couldn’t read at all. Scared to death of answering incorrectly at what should have been an easy answer, I simply told him I had a sudden onslaught of vertigo! “Oh, haha, I’m sorry. I have this on the wrong setting.” Thanks doc

I proceeded with the eye exam fairly confidently and received a good bill of health. My vision had actually gotten better over the past ten years to a borderline 20/40 far and 20/30 near. Look out world, I can legally fly without glasses! If you happen to hear something along the lines of, “Salinas Tower, Mr. Magu entering right base” just remain clear and let me follow through to final!

Despite the elation of the vision test, I still wasn’t finished. The doctor had gingerly reminded me of the need to complete the urinalysis. With my bottle of water now empty, I ventured back to the restroom to take care of business. Once again, I stood there nothing happening. To my left was a sink and a bunch of clean glasses. Drinking one glass after another, I did my best to produce something, anything!

Another twenty minutes pass and I hear the doctor’s voice on the other side of the door, “What happened to our little aviator?” The nurse replies, “I think he’s still in the restroom.” Thoughts of waterfalls and bubbling water dispensers were replaced with parched desert. Once again, I cautiously open the door, empty initialed cup in hand.

The doctor offered me his exam room and a few magazines, aviation magazines of course, until something kicks in. Wafting through the pages I get a call from Marilyn Dash, a Pitts owner, Reno racer, and known practical joke inventor. After thirty-two seconds of idle chatter she asks why would I be answering the phone in the middle of a medical? “I can’t pee.” My statement was followed by utter silence. After a few moments I asked if she was still there. All I heard was a sudden insurgence of breath followed by weak moment of hysteria. “I have to call you back.” She says doing her best to hold back the tears. This was not good. I had instant nightmares of having acquired a new call sign.

After a few more minutes, I thought I’d give it another try. I began walking down the hall only for the same nurse to pop out of another room. Oh dear, please don’t say anything! Without further detail, my third trip was a success. For the last time I opened the bathroom door and there was the nurse clapping her hands in a small motion at her chest saying, “Good job!” I felt as though I had just placed a square block through a square hole for the first time in my life.

The doctor congratulated me, had me co-sign my airman’s medical certificate, and told me I now have an unrestricted medical for the next three years. Yay! Although the clinic was done with me at this point, the ramifications of my actions were far from finished. Sitting down in the car, I buckle myself in, turn the ignition, and have to pee. Nineteen glasses of water and a full bottle are beginning to take their toll. Living reasonably close to the clinic and way too proud to go back inside, I start my trek home. If it couldn’t get any worse, Marilyn Dash calls back. “Although we haven’t thought of one yet, you soooooo have a new call sign!”

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