A pilot licence is not valid without an accompanying medical certificate. The medical 'certificate' is now a rubber stamp initialled by the doctor in the same booklet as the licence sticker, but the terminology of 'certificate' and 'accompanying' persists, just like 'dialing' and 'hanging up' a telephone. When I'm working I usually get the medical renewed in the month before it expires, or occasionally I have to get it done the month before that, if I'm going to be working in the states right through the last month of validity. I thought of not renewing my medical when I wasn't sure when I'd be working, just to save a few dollars, but one doesn't want to be applying for jobs with an invalid medical, risking being called for an interview the next day and not being able to get a renewal in time. And I'm kind of wary about running around with no medical. It seems as though I might be scrutinized more closely renewing a lapsed medical than a current one.
A pilot's medical certification expires at midnight on the first of the month, and I have a nine a.m. appointment on the second. For nine hours I'm not certified to fly airplanes. I can cope. Maybe I should have stretched it for another month. But I didn't. I woke up, dug my licence out of my flight bag, looked up my flight time in the last ninety days (zero!) and in the last twelve months in my logbook, drank three glasses of water, and went to the doctor's office.
On arrival there's a form to fill out. These guys print out the usually persistent information from last year's form and just ask me to make any corrections. I also fill in the flight hours, check "no" to the question about aviation accidents since my last medical, and answer the question about consulting a physician since my last medical. Let's see, there was the eye infection, a routine cervical cancer screening test, and all the vaccinations for going to Cambodia. I can't remember anything else. I always feel like I'm going to be arrested later for forgetting that I sought medical attention for some long healed malady. Maybe I should keep a special file. I fill in everything I remember and hand the form back.
Now I'm given a paper cup. (That's what drinking all that the water was for). Unlike Sulako's experience, I'm not subjected to the sight of other people's urine samples. I can't find the link. He must have taken the photo down. It was pretty traumatic. I just leave mine on the toilet tank as instructed, wash my hands and proceed to exam room one.
I know the drill, so I take off my shoes jump on the scale and start sliding the weights to my weight. Except that the pointer on the balance is still hard against the upper stop. I slide the weight forward a kilogram. Another. Another. Another. Another. I have gained five freaking kilograms since my last medical. I start looking for what can be wrong with the scale. The tech comes in and I'm trying to inspect my own butt to figure out where I'm putting five unnecessary kilograms. I continue to rant about it right through the eye test. Stand here, cover your right eye, read the lowest comfortable line on the chart. Repeat with other eye. Repeat with glasses on. The chart is badly lit and I have to go a few lines up with my glasses off, but I can read the bottom line easily with my glasses. I take the glasses off again and read the small text on a piece of card she hands me. I think it's something from Dickens. I always wonder how many people memorize eye charts to keep their licence. She also has me go through a few pages of the Ishahara colour blindness test.
Next is the ECG. Clothes off except for underpants, wear a little paper vest and lie on the table. Technician sticks gel stickers all over me, from clavicle to ankle, and then hooks up electronic leads to them all. She looks at a machine for a few minutes and then unhooks me and peels off the stickers. They don't stick tightly enough to hurt.
I weigh myself again with the clothes off, but it only brings me by 1.5 kilograms (how do my clothes weigh that much?), and besides I am always weighed in my streetclothes. The doctor wants to examine me in the next room. The scale there is in pounds, but when I do the conversion it is giving the same result. I really have gained five kilograms. I continue to rant about this while he asks me questions that presumably test my mental health. I think a woman ranting about her weight is considered normal, so I pass, but hmm, I put on some winter weight last year too. This is not a good habit. There will be no sugar, alcohol or snack foods until I am back where I'm supposed to be.
The doctor has me follow a bright light with my eyes, stare straight ahead while he moves a pen around to test my peripheral vision, and then shines a light in my ears, one after the other. Usually I try to bring home a picture of some cool piece of apparatus, or a new medical fact from these things, but I'm too traumautized by the weight gain. Five kilograms is half a shopping bag full of butter. Where is it?! Maybe I need my eyes checked again. According to this chart I have BMI of 21, putting me in the normal weight range for my height, but there has to be something wrong with that. It thinks I could gain twelve more kilograms and still be a healthy weight. I'd have rolls of fat hanging off me at that. I don't weigh that much with my flight bag.
The doctor uses his stethoscope to listen to the noises my heart, and lungs make, from the back and front, and then probes my throat and abdomen for abnormalities. I am sufficiently normal to pass his inspection, so he stamps and signs my licence and then I pay at the front. Including the ECG it's just under $200.