Every Cloud by Thomas Flanighan

After serving nine years in the military as a Royal Marines Commando, I needed a new challenge and started striving towards a career as a Commercial Pilot. The flying medical involved an ECG which showed abnormal results. At the time, I was not concerned as the Doctor who performed it was almost certain it was ‘Athletic Heart’. They asked me to attend my GP practice at my convenience. Afterwards, I was referred for an Echocardiogram. Once completed they wrote back to the Medical Centre to inform them that there was a strong suspicion of Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM).

I was referred for a Cardiac MRI which would confirm or dispute diagnosis of potential HCM. This was to enable me to fly without restrictions. The Cardiac MRI was performed, which later confirmed diagnosis of HCM.

After discussing the condition with my consultant, it was advised I keep my BP and HR low and do not exert myself as this could cause an onset of symptoms (blackouts, palpitations, chest pain). I have been working within these parameters and think this has been helpful for me to remain fit and healthy but to still exercise and stay symptom free.

On the day of my diagnosis, me and my fiancé were driving to our home in Northumberland. This sounds very cliche but there was a huge black cloud over the sky at London Heathrow with the most prominent silver lining. At the time, I thought this was the end of a potential career in Aviation. I found the news incredibly hard to stomach since I was completely asymptomatic and in the prime of my career. I had invested so much time and money into pursuing a newfound passion for flying.  

The photo of the black cloud with silver lining that inspired Thomas

After extensive Cardiology testing, I was assessed fit to train as a Pilot. 12 months later, I am in the final stages of my training. This process has showed me that goal setting is key (no matter how small) and to truly believe in yourself. My diagnosis has shown me that a positive attitude and cheerfulness in adversity can overcome a seemingly negative situation. There is a huge amount of support available from charities for those who need it.

A picture of Thomas flying over Newcastle at night during his night qualification

It is incredibly important to me to share my story. Even though my career in HM Armed Forces is understandably ending, this condition does not put a stop to a second professional career. Remember, the black cloud will disperse, and the Sun will shine again.

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