Small town girl. Joins Navy. Sees the world. Flies in planes. Hunts submarines. Gets out of military and has 3 kids. Rejoins Air National Guard as an "old lady" of 38.

A humorous compilation of stories and lessons learned. Usually the hard way.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Lessons From a Flight Physical

About a week ago, I had to get my flight physical.  (Yay- after many years on the deck, I finally get to fly again- as a civilian this time which means no pisser-dumping.  Double-yay!)  Being that it was a such a specific physical that I had to get, I was instructed to choose a doctor from a very refined list and make an apt. ASAP.  Having no references to go by, I began calling down the list. 

The first was extremely friendly however, would not be able to get me in for 2 months.  3 months wait for the second person I called.  Then a number that was no longer in service. This was  getting painful.  Finally, on my fourth try, I was elated to hear that they could get me in by next week.  Sweet.  Bring $95 in cash.  Hmmm.  Always strange these days to find a professional business that doesn’t accept credit cards.  But I needed my ‘up-chit’ so I didn’t ask too many questions.

So I when the magical day arrived, I went to my appointment, arriving the standard ten minutes early.  Then I waited.  And waited some more. 

Before too long, I knew the entire waiting room, their grandchildren’s names, & their pets names.  I learned stuff about those patients I didn’t want to know.  Then the realization hit me that everyone in the room except for me seemed to be over the age of 60.  Well, I thought, it is the middle of the day on a Wednesday.  People of pre-retirement age are probably working. Finally, after an hour and a half wait, the nurse came into the waiting room again, not realizing her power.  We all held our breath as she announced the winning ticket. 

Nurse:  Ms. Ma-kai?

YES! I had won!  Even if she mispronounced it- close enough. It was finally my turn.  I felt as though everyone was waiting for a speech, so I turned and smiled and gave a quick wave instead and darted quickly after the nurse.  I feared if I was not fast enough- I did not want the nurse to leave me and I’d have to wait for the next available appointment.  Who knows when that could be!?

She went through all the routine nurse stuff.  Temperature?  Check.  Blood pressure?  Check.  Weight?  Ugh.   Never where I’d like it to be.  I told myself I’d start working on that tomorrow.  (Until someone brings in free bagels to work… ) 

Then she brings me to a dark room and asks me to read the letters.  Darn!  I forgot my glasses that I wear on occasion at home.  I secretly despise wearing my glasses and avoid it whenever possible.  However; this would’ve been a good day to have them.  I think to myself, If I only would’ve worn black pants- I wouldn’t have had to change out my purses, thus, leaving them at home.  Ugh.  I cannot go through this 2 hr wait again!  I explain this to the nurse.  She is not sympathetic.  Her sock are brown and her shoes are black.  Just saying.

Nurse:  go ahead and read the bottom row.

Me:  There are letters on the bottom row?  It looks like squiggly lines.

Nurse:  Well, you need to have 20/20 correctable distance to fly.  You’re allowed to miss a few, so why don’t you go ahead and try.

Me:  Okay… [all I see are O’s]  Um… O?  [I look at her face, she wrinkles her forehead]  I mean, D.  [her wrinkles relax].  P?  [more wrinkles] Q?  S?  [the nurse relaxes]  H? [that one is for sure- I think]  R, N, M, Q. I mean, L  [surely some of them are right- I just keep spouting off numbers.]

Nurse:  [wrinkling forehead.]  You just… barely passed that. 

Me:  I did?  [maybe she is a nice nurse]  Well- I normally have glasses, so it should be okay.

Nurse:  Alright Ms. Maki- Time for your hearing test.  I’m going to stand in the back of the room and whisper numbers to you and you repeat what you hear to me.

Me:  [Seriously?  What kind of back alley…]  Okay…  [she reads the numbers and I repeat them.  I feel awkward.  I make a note to research this company when I get back to my office to ensure its legit]

Nurse:  Now I’m going to check your lung capacity.  [she whips out this machine that looks like it was used to send messages through Western Union back in the 1930’s.]  Just breathe into this tube as far and as fast as you can.  [I comply.  I still feel weird, but I continue to follow her instructions.  I start getting light headed.  I fight the urge to pass out.  I must not fail.  I do not want to come here again.]  Okay!  All done. 

[At last the exercises are done and she escorts me into another room and instructs me to undress down to underwear, throw some little hand towel over my shoulders and sit on the bed.  She leaves.  I look over on the bed and notice the stirrups. Oh god.  I hope she doesn’t think it is that kind of appointment.  What is happening here?? 

Soon the door opens (wide and I’m in plain view to the hallway) and a man that looks about 95 years old wearing a nice suit begins to enter the room.  It takes a while.  Finally, he makes his way over to me.  He reminds me of my grandpa.  I miss my grandpa.  I would never want my grandpa to see me like this.  I guess this guy is the Dr., which reassures me slightly- as it wasn’t a nice man just randomly roaming around the halls, but it also leads me to worry more.

He begins the exam.  Alone.  Don't they usually have a 2-person in the room rule?  Guess he's never been sued.  I guess that could be a good sign.  He opens a suitcase that is lined in a avocado green satin, full of medical-looking instruments.  Or torture devices.  It’s hard to distinguish.  I get nervous.  He pulls out the eye-examiner and turns to leave.  After a minute, he gets to the other side of the room and shuts out the lights.  He comes back.  I wait.  Finally, he is in front of me again and begins examining my eyes.  His face is uncomfortably close.  I hold my breath.  He doesn’t but I’m thankful it’s not stinky.  I do funny eye tests as he watches intently. 

Over the next ten or fifteen minutes, I take breaths, lie down, and involuntarily kick my leg out as instructed.  I listen to war stories.  He asks me about my stories.  It actually seems as though he’s paying attention too.  Somehow I find this surprising. He checks my glands.  He listens to my heart.

Finally, I realize, what initially seemed like a sketchy visit, actually ended up turning into a pleasant experience.  It was a visit in which the Dr. still had some old-fashion manners and really seemed to want to take his time and be thorough.  Not exactly a crazy concept, but I hadn’t seen anything like this since I lived back home.  It was the kind of doctor's office where the patients complain because they have to wait, but they keep coming back, because they know they’re being well taken care of.  The staff actually took the extra time to hear about how you were doing- and this is just so not what I had grown accustomed to.  I learned all about what he did in the Korean War.  He loved to hear about my stories flying over Kosovo.  We bonded.

After my exam was complete, the receptionist typed up my “up-chit” on a typewriter.  Yep.  They still had paper charts and their latest electronic was an electrical typewriter.  The Dr. waited patiently and narrated over her shoulder.  It wasn’t until she was finished and I had my ‘up-chit’ in my hand that he shook my hand goodbye and wished me luck in the new-old phase of my career.  He then proceeded to ask for the next patient.  It was uncannily fantastic.

I always seem to have this constant nagging in my stomach, gotta hurry, gotta hurry.  And for what?  It sure didn’t help me get out of there any earlier.  I’ve grown so accustomed to the in and out in 5 minutes that I forgot the pleasantness of actually having a doctor that tells you the stories of the 'good ol' days'.  So today I decided to let go of my sense of urgency and just accept time as it comes to me, knowing that no matter how much I stress being late- it won't change the fact that I'm still late.  Of course that could all change if I'm stuck in traffic tomorrow on my way to a meeting.  But, hey, I'll give it a shot anyways!


  1. Great post and I enjoyed the humor greatly. You have a gift of words and love how you make the arduous task of a medical exam seem like winning the lottery and tortuous at the same time. Well done.

  2. Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed it!