I Didn’t Choose Disability, Disability Chose Me

Four months ago, I passed out on a routine jog.  I’ve been on disability ever since, because a pilot that passes out for no good reason isn’t exactly a safe pilot.

At first, I was pissed off…shocked…embarrassed…frustrated…and a scared.  What if something was wrong with my heart?  What if my brain was jacked-up?  What if I never fly again?  What if I can’t ski or run or exercise?  What if I have some freak condition that will cut my life short?  The month of November was a tricky one to navigate, much less make sense of.  I had to wear a heart-rate monitor for 30 days.  I hated it.  I took a self portrait on my unhappiest day.  I felt like crap and was in a bad mental place.  I stopped working out (for fear of passing out again)…gained weight…and just didn’t feel like myself.

The turning point came on Dec 1st when I had a stress test and got my heart rate all the way up to 181 and felt fine.  I still had a lot more tests to endure, but whether something was wrong with me or not, I wasn’t going to sit around and wait to find out.  Q: How was I going to define my “disability”?  A: Ski my face off.  Since then I’ve skiied 65 days and counting.  It’s been my therapy, purpose, and lifestyle.  This has been the best season of my life.

We don’t have control over much, and if we’re lucky enough to have a clean bill of health, we better use it…urgently and intentionally.  The clock is ticking.  Clichés aside, we only get one chance to do it right.  I didn’t beat cancer or overcome a some crazy affliction; I just had a little health scare…and it fanned the flames of the fire under my ass that much more.  Can’t wait to run another marathon, climb Mt Ranier, and perhaps ski Antarctica….all goals for 2017.  I want to live in a way that if/when my health leaves me, I’ll be able to look back with satisfaction and a stupid grin.  I hope we all can.

All my tests came back negative; huge relief.  Whenever I get back to work, I’ll be able to tell the other pilots all about how disabled I was……can’t wait to hear them chuckle.


not a happy camper; the stickies ripped out my chest hair


MRI’ing w/swagger


I heart stress tests


Brain function was off the charts


3 months of no-shaving bliss


Day #36ish


Day #21ish



Day #63, coincidentally my 37th bday. Best cake ever!









About the Author

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Photographer. Pilot. Traveler. Skier.




If I could “like” every one of these pics I would. Rough stuff but you did real good JH. Here’s to your next year and years of health and happiness!

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