Air Force Pilot, Grounded After Colitis Diagnosis, Wins Fight To Fly Again – WCCO

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A Flying force Reserve pilot is happy to be flying once again after being disqualified to serve due to a medical condition.

Lt. Col. Josh Nelson got rid of barriers to return in the cockpit as a C130 trainer pilot.

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“The great thing about what we do is the people who are there want to be there, we all choose to serve,” Nelson stated.

He’s done 5 implementations in his 21 years with the Flying Force, and he’s presently a full-time C130 trainer pilot with the Flying Force Reserves.

“There’s no greater honor and responsibility than, you know, being given the keys to the C130,” Nelson stated.

However that world altered in late 2017.

“Out of nowhere, with no family history or any background on it whatsoever, I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, which falls underneath the umbrella of inflammatory bowel disease,” Nelson stated. “And that disease just, it beats you up. I was afraid to eat at times because I was afraid of the pain that it would cause.”

He was grounded from flying. Ulcerative colitis is a disqualifying condition in the Air Force. He began taking medications. 2 surgical treatments followed. His household was constantly by his side.

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Lt. Col. Josh Nelson (credit: CBS)

“An ileostomy is pretty much, I don’t have a colon anymore, so I have an appliance stuck to my abdomen and it’s pretty much my small intestine that comes through my abdominal wall, and so that’s where my waste, my output comes through,” Nelson stated.

When much healthier, and positive in how he might handle his condition, his attention relied on going back to work. For 2 years, he worked with his cosmetic surgeon at M Health Fairview’s University of Minnesota Medical Center, Dr. Wolfgang Gaertner.

“There was a lot of steps that we had to go through. It took me a while to understand like aeronautics, and just like differences in pressures for example, to understand how his body would react to, you know, those physical demands,” Gaertner stated.

Nelson states he needed to attempt, and they provided it their all.

“The idea was to send the best package forward so when that package landed on that desk, it would be difficult for them to rule against me, mentally, physically,” Nelson stated.

In late 2019, the pilot got a waiver to fly once again, teaching him if you don’t attempt, you can’t prosper.

“Everyone can be resilient. Everyone can bounce back if they’re given that opportunity, and that second chance, which is what I think I truly was given, was a second chance and an opportunity to be able to return,” Nelson stated.

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He thinks he might be the very first pilot in the nation to go back to flying after an ileostomy.

Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.