Pilots Brain Tumor is Back – A Success Story

Pilots Brain Tumor is Back – A Success Story

In 2016 Rick* was noticing some weird things like pain in his hands and some slight vision problems. After some extensive medical evaluation, they found that Rick had a hormone-secreting tumor in his brain; specifically in the pituitary gland.

Rick’s tumor was causing multiple problems for him. For one thing, it was secreting growth hormone at excessive levels, known as Acromegaly. Acromegaly can cause enlarging of the extremities, hands, feet, and facial structures if not caught early enough. Medication can help stop the effects of the growth hormone and can also limit the growth of the tumor. However, medication may not always work 100% of the time. Unfortunately for Rick, that was his situation.

The second main problem is that the pituitary gland is located directly behind the pathways of the optic nerves. These nerves carry all vision from the eyes to the back of the brain where it is processed in the visual cortex. Rick’s tumor was pushing on the optic nerves and causing his vision problems. The larger the tumor got, the more likely it would be to continue to make his vision problems worse.

Rick elected to have surgery in order to remove as much of the tumor as possible. The initial results were great, but he had to be on regular medical monitoring for the rest of his life to make sure the tumor didn’t come back.

As a professional flight instructor, Rick now faced the process of getting a new FAA medical. He did have some continued vision loss but was able to obtain a Statement of Demonstrated Ability (SODA) via a medical flight test through the FSDO. The process to get his Special Issuance medical took 8 months from start to finish. Rick had even used a service to help him along the way, but on reflection, he did not think the service provided him much value.

Last year, during routine follow-up, lab reports showed some concerns. After further work, it was determined that Rick’s tumor had returned. They caught it early enough that medication was likely able to prevent the tumor from growing. Fortunately, it wasn’t causing further pressure on the optic nerves, but it was in a location that made it much more complicated to perform surgery. The decision was made to stick with medication management.

A condition of Rick’s Special Issuance was that he had to remain tumor-free and without symptoms. Rick knew that he was facing another difficult road to get his next FAA medical. He contacted all of the aviation medical consulting services and decided to select Wingman Med to help him with his case. After multiple discussions and reviewing extensive medical records, we had his personalized Action Plan for him in a couple of weeks.

He followed our guidance and we stayed in contact throughout the execution of the plan. Rick sat for his exam just two months after contacting us, and just two months after that, Rick had his medical certificate in hand and was able to go back to work. From initial contact to medical was half the time compared to his previous experience.

At Wingman Med we have helped pilots with brain tumors and open heart surgery regain their medical certification to fly. What can we do for you?

* Name changed to preserve anonymity

Also, see other Success Stories
I Can’t Feel My Face – A Success Story
Pins and Needles, Piloting and Pain. Cervical Radiculopathy – A Success Story

We are designated FAA aviation medical examiners, residency trained in Aerospace Medicine, and graduates of the Naval School of Aviation Safety. After years of helping friends and colleagues keep their medical certificates and stay in the air, we founded Wingman Med so we can do the same thing for you.

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