Monday, 4 April 2011

Jumping the hurdles

Last week I focused on the amount of paperwork involved in just being allowed to travel and learn on both sides of the Atlantic. It is very much built up like a 110-metre hurdle race. Speed and accuracy are of the essence. Jumping the different hurdles is proving to be difficult, tiring, time consuming and frustrating. However the final goal is always at the back of the mind and after leaping each hurdle the satisfaction outweighs any preceding problems encountered.

Last week's hurdle was most certainly the Class 1 medical all future and current commercial pilots much complete periodically to be allowed to fly. Having travelled out the night before, fasted for 14 hours and the medical beginning at 7.30am, I wasn't exactly in the best of shape for poking, prodding and even more paperwork. Having arrived at said time I began with eye tests. This involved initially what you would normally encounter at the opticians. It was quite embarrassing that although I could see the text the lack of sleep and starvation made it difficult to read the letters and words! Following this I had eye drops for both cataracts and glaucoma tests.

Paperwork again popped it's ugly head up throughout the morning. In between the dozens of questions I quickly completed my hearing test which involved sitting in a small room looking at a wall waiting to react to beeps in the earphones. If you've ever seen Mr and Mrs with Fern Britton and Philip Schofield it's just like that box but without the glitter. Following weight, height and blood pressure measurements I was sent for the worst part of the day.

The next three stages were very simple. ECG, blood tests and then a process of blowing into a tube. I'll come onto this later. Firstly the ECG took place with no problems whatsoever. I love how quickly private hospitals work - so quick and efficient. Then it was time for what I had been dreading the entire trip. The 'bloods.'

I'm very open in admitting I'm not the greatest fan of needles and blood. In fact the idea of a Saturday night with Casualty makes me feel sick even thinking about it. Who in their right mind thinks it's "interesting" as the trainee nurse said to me. "I don't watch Casualty - I watch the real programmes." Whatever rocks your boat love. Anyway, there is nothing worse than a student nurse standing there with a five foot needle (I'm not joking - honest!) while your strapped into a seat. Long story short she must have only just begun her on the job training as it took the senior nurse (on their fifth attempt) to get some blood out of my arm. Has left me with a lovely bruise as a memento. At least I got a free Lucazade.

Now that my torture was over I could start to relax a bit. I only had a few (most importantly non-intrusive!) processes left to complete. The next was the most peculiar. Sitting in a chair I then had to blow directly into this big tube which was connected to the computer. Apparently it is to measure the size and efficiency of the lungs and is only completed on one occasion throughout the career - I may be mistaken! I had to breathe in and blow out as fast as I possible could and hold for six seconds. The computer would then record the air flow and create this chart. I didn't really understand the process as at this point I was still tired, still hungry but worst of all down on the blood count but I did pass.

A urine test later I was then able to devour a lemon drizzle cake, Kit Kat and a bottle of coke to get the sugar levels back to somewhere near what they should have been.

A bit more waiting and paperwork it was now time to see the doctor who conducted a physical examination before giving me the good news he could find nothing wrong. All tests complete - it was time to head home (via the pub).

I'm a great lover of the art of people watching and the journey home was certainly no disappointment. Having played the 'Ryanair game' I'd bagged myself an emergency exit row seat with extra legroom for the short flight home. Another gentleman was also as fortunate on the other side of the isle. Having ordered a coffee and a small snack he duly went to lower his tray table in front of him. For both safety and practicality reasons the tray tables are, on emergency exit row seats, stored in the side of the seat. This elderly fellow was obviously unaware of this as he spent 10 minutes (and this is no exaggeration!) attempting to lower a table that simply didn't exist. After a good moan he finished his beverages and prepared himself for arrival. As he went to attach his seat belt for landing he discovered the tray table at the side of his seat. I've never seen an old man get so annoyed so quickly. I had a chuckle with the business man next to me as we descended into a murky Manchester.

Having completed the medical I now have to wait fifteen working days to hear as to whether I have been successful or not. I also now have to look forward to the visa interview in London in the coming weeks.

One more hurdle down.

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