In 1997 I suffered an angina attack and subsequently underwent a four-way heart bypass operation. My recovery was normal and I regained my third-class medical certificate in less than a year.
Over the years I’ve written about my medical problem several times because I wanted others facing a similar situation to recognize that their flying days don’t have to be over.
Many people have spoken with me since then asking how I’m doing (very well, thank you) and others have discussed their personal situations. I feel that I’ve been able to encourage others to seek a return of their medicals.
Now I have learned that a friend of many years who made my medical problems look, comparatively speaking, like a person with a hangnail has received his medical certificate back.
This fellow is Jules Bresnick and he lives in the Seattle area. He was originally a Californian, but has lived in the Northwest for many years. Jules has been flying since getting his original certificate back in 1973.
His current problems, which culminated in receiving a medical certificate from the FAA’s chief medical honcho, Dr. Warren S. Silberman, on Oct. 10, 2005, started in 1987.
Here’s his story pretty much as he related it to me:
“I went to renew my medical and was told my blood pressure was OK to pass, but the AME thought it was high enough that I should talk to my own doctor about it. The doctor explained that I had developed a case of mild essential hypertension. He wanted to put me on blood pressure medication and I told him that before I did that I wanted to find out what the root cause of this condition was. After a number of tests he told me there was some good news and some bad news.
The bad news was that I had a condition where the filters in my kidneys were failing. This condition affected both of them and I had lost about 50% of my kidney function. The good news was that it took a lot of years to get to this point.
He also told me that at some point in time I would require kidney dialysis and maybe a kidney transplant, but we had a lot of time to get there. I was able to get on the medications and continue flying.
In 1988 I learned I was losing my battle and that kidney dialysis was not too far away.
My wife Bonnie was super in her support, but we had to cancel a cruise through the Panama Canal that we had planned for some time. Good thing we had planned for this contingency as it only cost us the trip insurance we bought.
I had my first angina attack Aug. 2, 1999. After being treated in the emergency room, a number of tests were run and there was no sign of damage and nothing showed up on the EGT.
Two weeks later, while waiting to go on dialysis, I had a second angina attack. I was taken by ambulance to Virginia Mason Hospital in Seattle and I wound up having an angioplasty and a stent implanted. I also did a dialysis treatment while in the hospital.
I went on dialysis in April of 1999 and remained on dialysis (three times a week, four-plus hours a day and lots of needles) until my transplant on Aug. 29, 2000. Over the months I developed a severe case of anemia.
While there are many possible complications and struggles while on dialysis, there also are a number of them after a transplant.
Among the side effects of the drugs for the blood pressure and kidney problems, I had to have two cataract surgeries, must stay on blood pressure meds, have become a diabetic and have an increase in the skin cancer I have had for a number of years. I now have to go in every three months or so for treatments which can be very difficult.
Despite all the medical problems, I feel fortunate since I try to keep everything in proper perspective. In spite of everything else, life goes on. We have two main choices in life, to live or to exist. I choose to live.”
(As Jules struggled with his medical problems, in April 2001, Bonnie was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. She had to quit her job in a Bellevue law office and went through a massive surgical procedure. Unfortunately, the cancer came back with a vengeance and on May 14, 2003, she passed away.)
Now what did it take for Jules to regain his medical certificate?
Before the transplant, Jules decided to try and get the medical back. At the first attempt, the FAA told him that because he was on machine dialysis it wasn’t going to happen. He was informed that when he was able to go on at-home dialysis it would be reconsidered.
Jules talked with Barb Biehl and Dr. Christopher Taylor at the FAA’s Northwest Region and they provided information and the criteria he would have to follow to get his medical reinstated. He needed evaluations and positive results for his diabetes, angina, cataracts and kidney status.
Jules joined a gym and started working out – walking and toning using light weights. That would help with the cardiac tests. He would need a successful EKG stress test and possibly a more extensive thallium test.
Evaluations for each ailment and problem were required and complete medical records for each procedure had to be compiled.
After six months of compiling materials, gaining medical evaluations and fulfilling all the criteria outlined by the representatives from the region, Jules had the material submitted to Oklahoma City. Ultimately the office went through everything and agreed that there was no reason Jules should not have his third class medical restored.
Jules says he would be happy to talk to anyone who is overwhelmed by this process. The AOPA is great, so are the people in the FAA regional medical offices, he added. The process is not easy, is not quick and can be expensive and not always successful. If you want it badly enough, you should be prepared to fight for it, he said.
If you want to discuss this, contact him at 425-747-9922.
If all this doesn’t inspire you to go after renewal of your medical certificate, I don’t know what would.
Good luck to Jules and all the rest of you out there who should be seeking a return of your medicals.
Dave Sclair served as co-publisher from 1970-2000.