Aeromedicine ~ the branch of medicine concerned with the diseases and disturbances arising from flying and the associated physiological and psychological problems… Our Museum Library has an array of books associated with this topic; I’d like to share some of them with you.
We have two aeromedical handbooks:
The first Is Flying is Safe – Are You?, written by W. Bryce Hansen M.D. In the Chapter entitled ‘Oxygen Plumbing and Pressure Cocoon’, he shares a commercial airline incident ” … to illustrate two of the most important aspects of a slow or a rapid decompression of a pressurized aircraft; the expansion of trapped air, as in the middle ear, and the hypoxia resulting from reduced atmospheric pressure.” The first indication to the flight crew that a decompression had occurred was a rise in cabin altitude… the Captain noticed pressure effect on his eardrums. The second steward (was) in the Economy Class galley checking and re-stowing the aircraft bar… (His) first indication was the sight of masks falling when he happened to glance in the direction of the cabin… and noted that no passengers in the area appeared upset or inconvenienced. He … returned to the galley to secure the bottles… Within approximately thirty seconds he felt nausea and was conscious of a lack of coordination… (He) sat on the floor and used the portable oxygen set… He was also searching for his bar key which he was at the time, and apparently unaware of it, holding in his teeth.” In addition to including detailed information about this topic, Hansen includes the practical section, ‘What To Do’, followed by ‘Points to Remember’.
The second is the RCAF volume, Fit to Fly, an aeromedical handbook for aircrew. The second chapter focuses on ‘Flying Fitness’, and includes the above drawing showing factors that contribute to decreased flying fitness.
A book that honours the sense of history of medicine in the RCAF, Salute to the Air Force Medical Branch on the 75th Anniversary RCAF, looks closely at the many contributions of personnel over the years. One chapter includes ‘Aviation Medicine Pioneers’, the Research Scientists, Inventors & Bioscience Specialists in the RCAF. The illustration shows the contributions they made to help protect their crew ~
Yet another chapter honours five para-rescue medics, including para-rescue medical officers, nursing officers, and medical assistants. Colonel J.R. (Dick) Wynne was awarded the para-rescue badge; he jumped on several para-rescue missions.
The work done by Colonel Anne Marie Belanger, a graduate of the National Defence College and Officer of the Order of Military Merit was highlighted in ‘The Nightingales” and includes a photo of her being admitted to the OMM ~
The next two books tell the personal journeys of two flying doctors. Flying Doctor was written by Clyde Fenton. The book is mainly the story of his adventures in aerial medical work in the northern territory of Australia, during the six years immediately preceding the war. He celebrates the use of an ambulance plane. He refers to the Fox Moth as “a bonny machine”.
The Flying Doctor Story 1928-78, written by Michael Page, was published in 1978, to mark the 50th Anniversary of the Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia. It is considered to be the complete Flying Doctor story from the earliest days; much of the story is told through the words of men and women who “accepted hardship, danger, and difficulty as they extended the Mantle of Safety over most of Australia. Their experiences are packed with human interest, and are linked by a narrative which covers every step in the development of the Service.
The last book I’d like to share with you has a section about a medical exam taken after an application to join the Air Force ~
This Doctor’s Journey, published in 2000, was written by George Piercy M.D. George Piercy grew up in the Comox Valley as a member of a pioneering family. While not a flying doctor, he found himself surrounded by military activity while at college; they had what was called the College Officer Training Program. Piercy writes, ” I enlisted in the Air Force division of this program. If I were going into the Military Service I would hope to get into the Air Force. ” Towards the end of the classes he took, Piercy formally applied to enter the Air Force. He, ” … reported to the old Bay Street armory where the medical exams were conducted. After the usual routine of weighing and measuring me, taking a history of my health, reading an eye chart, finding out if I could tell green from red and pissing in a bottle, I was led by an old Corporal who I’m sure had been in the Boer War, into a rather cold, unheated room in the armory and told me to strip. Shortly a rather plump surly looking balding man with a Hitler style moustache appeared. He was obviously the Medical officer and he proceeded to examine me. He really didn’t seem too enthralled with his work and said very little as he went through his exam except to comment on my web toes. He finally got around to checking my heart and lungs which I thought was a bit more important than noting my toes. As he was examining my heart the expression on his face changed as if he had discovered gold. He began questioning me a length about my past health and informed me that I had a pronounced mitral valve murmur… He informed me that my classification would not permit me to enlist… How dare this pompous little man have the audacity to suggest that I was not fit… it was obvious he was not going to change his mind. In fact a second physician from the next room was asked to give a second opinion. In spite of my obvious great disappointment, I was very glad the examination was over because I was getting damn cold sitting there in my birthday suit. “