University taught me a lot of things, but what applied the most now was how to research and argue a point. With my first no-go letter from the defence force, I was now on a mission to prove to them that the Implantable Contact Lens (ICL) surgery I needed was better in every way long term than the current approved surgery Photorefractive Keratectomy, or PRK. The difference was that instead of reshaping your eye via a laser beam with PRK, ICL surgery injected a lens in front of your natural crystalline lens and behind your iris. The only reversible eye surgery that exists, it’s basically a contact lens inside your eye. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get PRK as my eyes are long sighted and so don’t have enough curvature for reshaping to occur.
My research culminated in a paper to defence proving via many medical peer-reviewed journal articles that ICL was in fact safer in the long term than PRK. Coupled with my paper, I got in contact with two leading defence ophthalmologists from around the world, both of whom had tested ICL successfully in a military environment, with one of them proving that ICL in fighter pilots was acceptable with the varying pressures that they fly under. They both wrote letters of endorsement for me from their research. Out of all my investigations, the most interesting medical paper on ICL was where a US soldier had ICL surgery and was serving in a combat setting where a grenade went off a few feet from his head. Apart from shrapnel wounds to his eyes and other injuries, the soldier survived. What amazed me was that after he had his ICL’s tested and checked post-injury, the tests found that the ICL’s were intact and hadn’t been at all affected by the blast or caused complications to his eyes. If this guy can have a grenade go off near his head resulting in neither ICL be affected, then surely the defence force would look kindly on a guy trying to fly.
As the sound of the printer whirred down after creating the papers I was to send to the defence force, I was meticulously checking my research paper, letter of appeal, and letters of endorsement for any smudges or creases, ensuring that what I was about to send was unfaultable. It would be six weeks for the reply to come. My first no-go a few months prior from the defence force was sent by the medical officer at the recruiting office. This time, the response to my appeal was from the Chief Medical Officer of Defence Force Recruiting Headquarters; “Unfortunately, the current ADF entry standard is clear with regard to this procedure…” And there it was, again. Even though I had thoroughly argued and proven via sixteen different medical papers that ICL was in fact better than PRK in the long term, I was being told that it is not their policy, with no suggestion of possible change to this policy or even a mention of investigating the future potential. Initially, it made me feel like I had wasted a lot of time and energy in developing this paper. Smacked once again for trying, another no-go put in front of my eyes. It was like being turned down all those times at the school dances.
But I knew what I wanted. I would just have to find another way to convince the medical officers in defence that they should consider trialling a change to their existing policy on eye surgery; a policy change other governments from around the world were already commencing.