Sometimes all it takes is one person to suggest something and it can change your whole way of thinking. I’m glad that I met the ex-air force pilot at the air show who told me his story of appealing to his local member of parliament which resulted in him being selected for training. I had no idea who my local member was so I did what most people do; I jumped on Google. What I found was that a local member in a neighbouring area was passionate about the defence force and in particular about flying (if only I resided in that area). So I got in contact with the member’s office and was advised to put it in writing and the process would commence.
Within a week I had sent off my latest appeal, accompanied with letters from leading defence ophthalmologists from around the world, as well as my research that I’d previously undertaken and provided to defence. And then I waited. Like the slow wheels of a tractor, I held out hope that I was the squeakiest wheel so I could get the grease. Nearly four months later I received a letter from my local member with an accompanying letter from the then Minister for Defence Science and Personnel. This time it was not just a rejection. This time it seemed as though the response was more ‘ending’ than before. It was put in no uncertain terms that I’d been advised “of the reasons for the decision on at least two occasions” during my previous appeals. What I set out from the start to do was have the aviation medicine area of defence (AVMED) look at amending the policy or issuing a waiver due to the numerous peer-reviewed medical research papers that proved ICL surgery as better in the long term than the currently approved PRK. This letter was once again referring to policy as a means to reject as opposed to addressing the request set out in my numerous appeals to review the policy itself in line with relevant medical research.
Aside from meeting with AVMED face to face (a request that had been denied), it seemed this pen war was not going to be won. Still inspired by stories of currently serving members who had appealed for years and finally achieved their dream of getting in, I didn’t want to leave it there. I knew the next time I appealed I would have to go beyond research and policy altogether.