Stroke case-based scenario

For almost 50 years, Jim held a Commercial Pilot's Licence with a Class 1 medical certificate.

Jim began his career with the Royal Australian Air Force before working for a major airline for many years. For the last 15 years of his career, Jim was a flight instructor with a regional flying school.

At age 76, Jim’s dramatic collapse at home from a stroke spelled the end of his long and successful flying career.

Experiencing a life changing event

Jim learnt he had diabetes about 6 years before his stroke. This resulted in his medical certificate being subject to an annual audit.

Every year, Jim would visit his Designated Aviation Medical Examiner (DAME) to renew his medical certificate. He also had to see a number of specialists to monitor the progress of his diabetes.

Diabetes can cause major damage to blood vessels and nerves, so Jim was thankful that it hadn't stopped him from flying.

One weekend when Jim was relaxing at home, his good luck finally came to an end. Jim collapsed for no apparent reason. An emergency CT scan showed Jim had suffered a stroke.

'The doctors told me there was nothing they could do that would reverse the immediate effects of the bleed,' Jim said. 'The best they could do would be to prevent further complications of the event.'

Following his collapse, Jim began to improve thanks to rehabilitation with a physiotherapist, speech therapist and occupational therapist.

Once he was feeling better, Jim sat a driving assessment. His GP cleared him for driving but told Jim to notify the state roads authority of his new diagnosis.

Visiting the DAME

Jim booked an appointment for a review with his DAME. He was hopeful his DAME would clear him for flying now he had fully recovered and was back to driving again.

'I was really surprised when my DAME warned me that CASA might suspend my medical certificates,' he said. 'I thought that if I could safely drive, I could just as safely fly.’

The DAME notified Aviation Medicine (AvMed) of Jim’s change in medical condition as per the Civil Aviation Safety Regulations.

The DAME told Jim not to fly until he received a clearance from either CASA or the DAME himself.

CASA wrote to Jim confirming the suspension of his certificate and that he must not fly for at least 12 months. CASA asked Jim to provide an updated report from his neurologist.

New test results return

Jim knew the neurologist's report would be important to CASA's deliberations. He had read so in the clinical practice guidelines published on the CASA website.

Sadly, Jim's neurologist confirmed that he had a high risk of future strokes. AvMed cancelled Jim’s certificate.

Jim was very disappointed but gets the chance to fly occasionally with a qualified flying instructor.

'I miss flying all the time,' Jim said. 'But given the risks I would pose in the air, it is a decision I accept. After all - I did have an excellent innings, so you won't hear a word of complaint from me.'

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