Three Million Miles

That’s my best estimate of how far I have flown in my lifetime. The planes I fly lately go about 300 miles per hour, when they are cruising. I used to fly slower planes, and not all of a flight is at cruise speed, so I used an arbitrary average of 200 miles per hour times 15,000 hours of accumulated flight time. Three million miles is the result. It would work out to about 120 laps around the earth’s equator.

Every now and then, I look back and, well, marvel at how far I have come. Sometimes this happens at milestones, like the fifteen thousand hour mark last year. Sometimes it happens when it’s not clear if I will be logging more.

I had a health scare a couple of years ago. I was grounded by Metabolic Syndrome and had to work purely at the desk side of my job as assistant chief pilot for a small air taxi company. I had neglected my health, and my health was sulking. I was overweight, with high cholesterol, high blood pressure and high blood sugar. I had to make some drastic changes to get healthy again. I started by throwing bacon, butter and sugar out of my life. With the temporary help of insulin, I started walking every day. I lost over eighty pounds, and my blood pressure dropped to optimal, my cholesterol plummeted, and my blood sugar stabilized at normal levels without medication. When I was cleared to resume flying, I told the company I wanted to leave my mostly desk job to return to flying only. That reduced my stress levels a lot, and the kind of flights we do leave me ample time for exercise. I was healthier than I’d been for a decade or more, often taking vigorous hikes an hour to two hours long on steep trails.

Until three weeks ago. One chilly May morning, I had trouble completing an easy one-hour walk. I felt short of breath, and had to rest frequently to get home. My chest ached, and I thought I must have the flu or something. It’s amazing how quickly you can get in to see a doctor if you are an older man with chest pain. I learned that it is most likely angina, a lack of adequate blood flow to the heart, which is usually due to a build-up of plaque or platelets blocking an artery. Medical tests are ongoing, and I’m grounded again. Blood tests show good results, with normal everything and quite low cholesterol levels.

I’m still walking every day, but I have to carry nitroglycerine now. Also, I have to stick to places where an ambulance could reach me, so the wooded trails I love are off limits. I’m no longer drug-free; I must take aspirin and a statin every day until an angiogram can determine the specific nature of the problem. It is quite likely that I will need a stent, which will mean medication indefinitely.

None of these things have to ground me permanently, but after getting a stent, I would need six months to show that I am stable and then I will have to pass a stress test. Recently, I could not. In the meantime, I am off work on disability leave.

I am doing the house-spouse thing, and trying to write more. In particular, I have been getting more serious about my submissions: doing more of them, and taking more time to research the publications and target them better, trying to match my stories to their tastes. I’m getting short-listed quite a lot, and getting some nice replies from editors. Encouraging rejections, if you will allow me an oxymoron.

I’m a little down, but I’m not out. I may have another million miles in me yet.

3 thoughts on “Three Million Miles

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