Thursday, April 02, 2015
Doctor's Perspective Do we need to be more strict on screening pilots?

By Dr. Anthony Policastro

DNF (Duties Not including Flying). Those three letters were a dirty word when I was in the Air Force. With the stroke of a pen, the flight surgeon could ground a pilot. The period might be a short one for something like the common cold or it could be longer for something more serious. I had to attend flight surgeon school, a seven week course which focused on the physiology of flight. It included time in the simulator to show about disorientation. I got disoriented enough to sleep for 15 hours after it. It included time in the altitude chamber. As part of that, they would lower the oxygen inside the chamber. The goal was to teach you which two symptoms of hypoxia you personally experienced. Mine were tingling in my fingers and dizziness. The idea was that if you felt those when flying, you needed to check the oxygen. However, much of the course focused on all the things the medical problems could cause while flying. The goal was to make the flight surgeon aware of what could happen in the air even with minor symptoms on the ground. The result was that the flight surgeon could ground the pilot from flying. Because of this pilots were reluctant to go see the flight surgeon. That was true even if it was for an annual physical exam. They often did stupid things to avoid that. When I was in England, a pilot failed a drug test, testing positive for amphetamine type compounds. He had taken an over the counter cold preparation that contained related medication and caused a positive test result. He did this to avoid being grounded for a few days. Since he did not take an illegal drug, he did not face a court martial, however, they did take away his wings. He never flew again. As a flight surgeon, I was on flying status. I had to fly at least four hours a month. That usually meant three to four flights per month and three to four cases of being airsick on a fighter jet. In the early 1990s, I had a transient ischemic attack. I had focal paralysis on one side of my face for about 10 minutes. All the tests were negative and no further attacks occurred. However, I was permanently off flying status which meant I could no longer get airsick three to four times a month. Aww shucks! We recently saw an issue involving the co-pilot of a plane who had medical problems that he did not reveal to the airline. The question has arisen as to how something like this can be allowed to happen. As is usually the case, this is a complicated question. It involves medical issues, someone's job and the impact on innocent people. In the military, the physician had the final say. It does not always work that way in the civilian world. The call is out for stricter screening of pilots. Perhaps, the focus might need to be on stricter reporting by physicians. The co-pilot in question had a medical leave form completed. The question is, how do you get from that form to an actual DNF?

Hospice fundraiser a success Delaware Hospice's "Beef and Brew" fundraiser, held on Friday, March 20, at the Georgetown CHEER Center, raised over $16,000 for Delaware Hospice. Guests enjoyed listening and dancing to the live music of "The Funsters," catering by Lighthouse Catering, beer sponsored by Banks Wines & Spirits and the Starboard Restaurant, and bidding on great prizes in the raffles and silent auction. Proceeds will benefit programs and services of Delaware Hospice in Sussex County, the only not-for-profit hospice in Delaware.

Cancer Survivorship Series continues Living Beyond Cancer: Medical Management, the third session of a monthly series addressing many of the important issues for cancer survivors and their loved ones, will be held on Tuesday, April 7 at 5:30 p.m., in the Conference Room of the Nanticoke Cancer Care Center, 801 Middleford Rd., Seaford.

At this session, Isabel Benson, nurse practitioner at Nanticoke Cancer Care Center, will discuss short and long term health risks after cancer treatment, as well as late effects and long term concerns of cancer survivors. This monthly series will cover many topics such as fitness, nutrition, stress reduction, medical management and other survivorship topics. Living Beyond Cancer is sponsored by the Nanticoke Cancer Care Center and survivors may join in at any session. There is no charge to attend. Remaining sessions include: Session 4: Nutrition: Start on the Road to Good Health - Tuesday, May 5, 5:30 p.m.; Session 5: Stress Reduction - Tuesday, June 2, 5:30 p.m. A light snack will be provided at each session. You must register in advance by calling 645-9150.

Hospice Lunch Bunch Lecture "Building Self-Confidence" will be the topic of Delaware Hospice's Lunch Bunch Lecture with Dr. Judy Pierson on Friday, April 3 from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. at the Delaware Hospice Center in Milford. Lunch is from noon to 12:30 p.m. and is $5 per person. The lecture is free. Lunch Bunch Lectures are organized by Delaware Hospice's Family Support Center to help members of the community re-invest in life and are open to the public. Challenges to our confidence are a normal part of life. Few of us have unshakeable or inexhaustible confidence. Come learn what is at the root of problems with self-assurance and how it affects your life and health. Leave with strategies for strengthening your self-esteem and confidence. Registration is required as seating capacity is limited. Register by Thursday, April 2, by contacting Michele August at 302-746-4503 or

Diabetes education classes The Delaware Diabetes Self-Management Program (DSMP) will present free diabetes education classes at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Seaford, April 14-May 19. Classes will be held every Tuesday from 9:30 a.m. to noon. More knowledge about diabetes can help prevent/delay health complications, improve your quarterly blood sugar reading, help understand the importance of an action plan for diabetes control, improve diabetes self-management and help understand the value of communication. For more information and to sign up, call Lynn Amaty at 629-3591, ext. 200.

Annual Breast Cancer Update The Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition (DBCC) will hold the 18th Annual Breast Cancer Update on Wednesday, April 22, at Dover Downs Hotel from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. The program will feature leading medical experts and speakers discussing the most up-to-date information on breast cancer diagnosis, treatment, and survivorship. This annual educational forum is free and open to the public. Continuing education units (CEU's) will be available to attending nurses and other healthcare professionals. Registration for CEU's is $30. The forum is open to the public and has become one of Delaware's most trusted sources of up-to date breast cancer information. For more information and to register, visit

Huntington's disease fact of the week Approximately 30,000 Americans have HD, and more than 250,000 other are at risk of having inherited it from a parent. The devastating effects of the disease touch many more. Huntington's disease is now considered one of the most common hereditary brain disorders. Walk, run, fun day is May 16- Walk, 5k Run and Fun Day For Huntington's Disease - May 16 at Roger C. Fisher Park, 27701 Park Lane Laurel 8:15 -9:15 a.m.- Registration; 9:30 a.m.- Walk /5k run/ Family Fun Day; 11 a.m.- Lunch Provided; noon- Fun Day Activities; 1 p.m.- Auctions Itinerary subject to change.