Before I went into my Initial EASA Class 1 Aeromedical exam, I searched the internet for others' experiences and there was a huge lack of results, so here's mine.
Hopefully you read this and feel much more comfortable and know what to expect. I'm also going to include all costs involved, though this will vary depending on your medical condition.
Make sure you remember not to have any caffeine on the day of your medical. Turns out it's quite difficult to avoid!
I decided to go with Heathrow Medical Services. There are other qualified CAA examiners who can do your initial class 1, but having a look around online HMS seemed to have the most admirable feedback.
The first payment we made was over the phone upon booking the appointment. This was £552 and, if you are in perfect health, should be the only payment you need to make.
Arriving & Initial Checks
The sat-nav took us to the right place and we had no issues finding the right building. Upon arriving we were let into the waiting room. They checked my passport, got a signature and then one of the receptionists pointed me towards the bathroom to collect a urine sample, which I was instructed to leave in there as it would be collected and tested afterwords. After my Class 2 (where I had to carry the sample down a corridor...) this was a much more discreet way of doing it!
They then took my height and weight and again left me in the waiting room for the doctor to see me. Right on time, Dr Samir Alvi collected me and took me through to his room.
The first thing we did was go through the medical form that I had filled out beforehand, checking it for accuracy and discussing any points of interest. It was nowhere near as confrontational as I was worried it would be. This also covered my mental health and went through my family's medical history in some depth.
Asthma & Spirometry
As I had mentioned my history of asthma on the form, we then did a Spirometry. This consists of blowing as hard as you can into a machine which generates a graph and some important numbers. The shape of this graph shows information about your lung function.
The numbers are checked against the expected numbers for your age, height and weight and you will pass if they are within a specific margin determined by the CAA.
Being asthmatic means an instant referral to a consultant regardless of your spirometry results. We were directed to Dr Michael Wood at a private hospital only half an hour away. This referral cost £90 which you have to pay there and then, bringing our total spend so far to £642.
ECG, Nerve & Muscle Checks
After discussing the results of the spirometry I was asked to undress down to my underwear behind a screen (all very respectful) then lie on the bed.
Firstly Dr Alvi listened to my heart and breathing, and checked my blood pressure. Then he hit my elbows and knees with the hammer they use to test your reflexes (it doesn't hurt). He also poked the soles of my feet with a stick to check the nerves there work properly.
After that he felt my stomach in various places to check for abnormalities and asked me to breathe out sharply a few times which helps them to identify things like hernias. We did a couple of hand-eye coordination exercises to eliminate conditions like MS (multiple-sclerosis).
And finally he attached electrodes around my body, wiring them to a machine for my ECG (Electrocardiogram) test. This generates some numbers and graphs which the machine will print and also use to determine whether your heart is functioning normally.
Getting off the bed, I was asked to reach down as far as I could, then reach up to the ceiling. I'm not sure what that tests but there weren't any problems. After this I was able to put my clothes back on.
The blood test, I presumed, would involve a needle/syringe collecting some blood which would then be sent off for tests. It turns out there have been developments since 'those days' meaning all they have to do is prick your finger (it hurts less than standing on Lego...) with a tiny device. It's much more pleasant than using a needle - the device they use simply shoots a pin into and back out of your skin in a matter of milliseconds. I'm writing this the day after and you can barely see where the pinprick was.
The doctor squeezed my finger to encourage more blood out (I suggest you have a bottle of water ready because if you're going to faint, this is when you'll faint) and placed some drops onto a small machine, which measured my cholesterol level and haemoglobin count.
You are sat in a soundproof box then given headphones and a 'clicker'. The headphones play really quiet beeps at random frequencies and intervals - upon hearing these you are supposed to press the clicker. Your response tells the doctor how well your hearing works, which is compared to the expected results for your age.
Dr Alvi was now finished (the above took just under two hours) and I was returned to the waiting room.
I was then taken by Dr Adrian Chorley (Optometrist), who would spend about an hour testing my eyesight. I must say he was particularly friendly and interesting to talk to. Everything was pretty normal for an eyesight test - my peripheral and colour vision was tested then we did the 'reading letters across the room' thing with different lenses and filters.
The only significant point I have to make is that when looking inside my eye, Dr Chorley somehow determined that I was born prematurely. Of course I asked how; he told me that my blood vessels were slightly abnormal (more 'wiggly', was the term he used) which happens when premature babies are put into high oxygen incubators - the environment causes blood vessels to form differently, and the only way to see into the body to look at them is by looking into the eyes. This is important to note as they look similar to those of someone with diabetes (and a couple of other conditions) so can cause false alarm. It is however, completely healthy in my case.
Dr Chorley signed the necessary paperwork and we were finished.
I mentioned earlier that I was referred as an asthmatic, which means I didn't get my certificate there and then. We knew this would happen before going in and so had planned for it.
In many ways I was incredibly lucky. We had travelled for around 5 hours to the medical centre and the consultant I'd been referred to was only half an hour away - I would have to book an appointment though, meaning we'd have to come back another day.
Taking our chances, we sat in the car and Dad phoned the consultant's secretary who managed to fit us in later that day. The appointment would cost £300, payable on our arrival bringing the total spend to £942. We killed some time in the area then headed to the hospital.
We were met by Dr Michael Wood who made me complete another spirometry. I managed to get better results there. Then I was taken to the physiotherapy room where I was asked to run on a treadmill (at my own pace) for 6 minutes, just enough to elevate my heart rate and breathing. Straight after this, before I had cooled down, we did another spirometry. Then again after 10 minutes. We determined that my lung function wasn't affected by exercise and so the CAA would be receiving a positive report (which I also received by email this morning).
I think I've covered everything... Now you know what to expect. The CAA have all of the details from my medical exam and a report on my asthma from Dr Wood. They will process it over the next few weeks to make sure I meet their criteria for the certificate. I'm told I have no need to worry.
Just an update: It has been exactly 8 days since my exam and guess what came in the mail this morning!
Success! Looks like this may be the start of one big adventure... I'm going to finish this off by asking you to share/retweet this - I'm just getting this thing started and could really use your help getting myself 'out there'... Thanks!