Watch Out for Each Other

From NAFI's Chair

Watch Out for Each Other

A few weeks ago, I wrote about summer heat and being careful to monitor your condition as well as that of your students. Something happened to me since then that made me want to reach out to all of you to ask that you redouble your efforts paying attention to your own health and your family's, friends', and students'. Before I go further, I want to note that I'm not telling this story for sympathy. Rather, it's a cautionary tale to my fellow instructors to be careful of our tendency to dismiss aches and pains, being the type-A achievers most of us tend to be.

This started on the Sunday a week before AirVenture. I woke up with the worst back pain I'd ever had in my life. I was convinced that I pulled a muscle when I tossed a backpack over my shoulder the day before. I elected to take the day off and watch a couple of movies and just relax. During the day, no matter how I sat or lay down, I just could not find a comfortable position.

The next day, after a pretty restless night, my back hurt even more. I decided to go to the clinic at my office to find out just what I'd done to myself. About halfway through a three-block walk from my apartment to my office, I called a co-worker, Kevin, and asked him to meet me on the way and help by carrying my backpack. Just before the company promoted him, Kevin had been an EMT with a volunteer department near St. Louis. When he met me, he took one look at me and said, "Why don't I get my car and take you to the emergency room? That's what they'll do anyway." I thought about it for about a minute, realized that, in my company's culture, if I'd said the same thing to another employee, I'd expect them to go, so I agreed.

Long story short, at the ER, after a series of tests, X-rays and CAT scans, I was informed I had blood clots (pulmonary embolisms) in both lungs. I was admitted to the hospital on an emergency basis after being put on blood thinner. Fortunately, there's no damage to my heart or lungs, and I was released the next afternoon after an uncomfortable night. The really good news is that, because this isn't congenital or disease-caused, there's very little likelihood of recurrence, as the doctors think it was the result of a bad bruise on my calf about six weeks ago. The only downside is that I'm just not allowed to fly anything (not even the back of an airliner) for the next three to six months, depending on the results of a follow up in October. More good news is that I've been reassured by both AOPA and the FAA medical folks that getting my medical back should be straightforward. I'll keep you apprised of that process.

There's a saying attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt that has been adopted into aviation that goes, "Learn from the mistakes of others. You can't live long enough to make them all yourself." Here's what I want you to learn from mine. I thought I had a pulled muscle in my upper back, compounded by sleeping awkwardly. I've been told by the doctors that if I'd continued to self-diagnose and hadn't listened to my friend, this story might have had a very different outcome and that I'm very, very lucky. Regardless of age or overall health, if you or someone you know has an unexplained pain or irritation or even a small wound or bruise that won't go away, get it checked out by a professional - the worst that will happen is maybe some embarrassment and a bill. Think of it as doing a precautionary landing, if that helps. In my case, that "precautionary landing" proved to be a lifesaver.

Bob Meder,
NAFI Board Chair
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