To Travel Or Not To Travel, That Is the Question

The Flying Surgeon Discusses Your Travel Options

Dr. Thomas Bartell is Madison, Wisconsin’s only board certified plastic surgeon who focuses solely on below-the-neck procedures—breast reduction and augmentation, tummy tuck, arm lift, body contouring and liposuction. Dr. Bartell is also the only plastic surgeon in the area specializing in scar-free breast augmentation.

However, not many people know that Dr. Tom Bartell has an exciting hobby that he is very passionate about. In his free time, Dr. Bartell loves to go up in the air in a plane that he can fly with his own two hands.

About Dr. Bartell’s Hobby

Dr. Bartell is dedicated to his work and his patients, and in his free time, he enjoys the thrill and freedom of flying planes such as a Cessna 172 Skyhawk. He has had his private pilot license for almost three years. He explains that it wasn’t easy, as you must complete a certain amount of hours flying as well as complete multiple written and oral exams along with demonstrating your skills to instructors countless times.

“I’ve wanted to fly ever since I was treated to a ride in a single-engine plane by a friend 30 years ago,” Dr. Bartell says. “Unfortunately, the time constraints of a surgical practice and child-rearing conspired to keep me on the ground.” However, a few years ago, after dropping his youngest child off in his college freshman dorm, Dr. Bartell finally walked into the office of Morey Airport for his first lesson. Now, he tries to fly at least once per week. “I don’t usually go far, but like to practice landings and take-offs, and sometimes fly to get a bite to eat somewhere. Occasionally I am able to take a friend or family member up with me to share my experience because it’s always more fun to fly with someone!”

As stated before, it takes a lot of training and patience to learn how to fly. “At first I felt I wouldn’t be able to master the skills involved, but I had a very patient instructor. Before I knew it, I was flying solo.” When asked what it is like to fly, Dr. Bartell lights up with the biggest smile. “The feeling is tremendous.  I feel so very fortunate to be able to do something that so few people in recorded history have been able to do; fly above the earth on their own.  It is a privilege that I never take for granted.”

Where Does Dr. Bartell Fly To?

In the last three years since he earned his private pilot’s license Dr. Tom Bartell has flown to countless destinations. He’s flown to over 20 airports alone – literally every public airport within 40 nautical miles of Madison. He’s also flown to Eagle River, Milwaukee, throughout Central Wisconsin and Mosinee and to Marshfield.

Travel Restrictions After Surgery

Because you will be put under for your procedure, it is important to know beforehand what you can and cannot do once you are home. Dr. Bartell will go over this information with you prior to your surgery.


How Can I Travel After Surgery?

As you will be put under for your procedure, it is required to have another person that you trust with you at all times to take you to and from your surgery. Once Dr. Bartell has completed the procedure and deemed you fit to leave the office and go home, you will be released into the care of whomever you brought with for a ride. It is their responsibility to take care of you for awhile to ensure you do not drive home. They should be there to carry any heavy things for you, drive you to and from places, and ensure you don’t try climbing stairs alone for the next few hours. Some post-op surgery instructions from Dr. Bartell for you as the patient are:

  • Don’t lift or even pull heavy bags during your travel.
  • Walk and take your time when going to and from the clinic and vehicle
  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • If you’re driving a fairly long way, plan a rest stop or two and walk around, stretch, get food and plenty of water to stay hydrated
  • Keep any medication at hand, and have your surgeon’s number in your phone.

As far as traveling goes, getting around by car or truck should be perfectly fine. Seat belts should always be worn although they can put pressure on surgical sites, depending on the type of surgery you had done. If your seat belt hurts too much, find someone to drive you for a few days while you heal, especially if you have been given pain medication that you cannot drive while taking. This way you can keep your seat belt on but lean your chair back a bit to relieve the pressure and irritation, while ensuring you are still safe.


What About Flying?

Typically you are to not fly a week or two after your surgery, depending on what type you have. A few post-operative exams are scheduled with Dr. Bartell so he can check your healing progress. It would be wise to wait to fly until that first exam, at which you can ask him whether or not you can fly at that time.

Follow Your Post-Op Surgery Instructions Carefully

As always, not every patient is textbook, so it is extremely important to follow after care instructions given to you by Dr. Bartell perfectly. He will let you know if you are to not travel in the near future, and can answer any other questions you may have about your surgery. It is always wise to not plan any trips too soon after your surgery for this exact reason. Always remember, your body needs to heal. If you are told you cannot fly or travel for a set amount of time following your procedure, make sure you don’t. Rest yourself and get better so you can enjoy your new body after it has healed completely.


“Being a pilot is a lot like being a surgeon,” he explains. “Both require a significant amount of time and a rigorous amount of training to accomplish. Both involve technical skill and extreme coordination. And both require regular practice to maintain proficiency. However, flying and surgery have one more thing in common: even after I stop operating and after I stop flying, I’ll always be a doctor, and I’ll always be a pilot. This can never be taken away.” We are extremely proud of Dr. Bartell, the surgeon, the pilot.