When Keratoconus Changes Your Life Plans

Diego during Corneal Collagen Crosslinking (CXL) procedure for Keratoconus

I had my whole life planned out. I enlisted in the ARMY. I was going to be there for 20 years then retire at the age of 38. Then I was going to teach ROTC at my old high school. Sadly my plans were derailed at the young age of 17; by a medical condition called Keratoconus.

Since I can remember I always needed glasses I always assumed it was from all the video games I was playing and how close I was to the television, but I never knew how severe my medical condition was. It was about two or three days after by seventeenth birthday that an Army recruiter contacted me regarding if I wanted to join the Army. I never thought about joining the military but long story short I went to take my physical test and my ASVAB test and I passed them both.

Forward to July the 12th of 2011, I was finally going to start boot camp, well, at least that’s what I thought. Before you can start basic training you must first go to reception, which is where you get all your paper work in order, get your equipment and take a mini medical exam. I took another eye exam and the doctor sent me to another room to get further exams. When the doctor stamped my papers with big red letters saying “DO NOT SHIP” my world came to screeching halt. I called my parents and my girlfriend, and I told them about my situation. I was crying like a baby when I was talking to them. For the next couple of months I felt like a failure, I didn’t know what I was going to do with my life. It took me a while to accept the fact that I was no longer going to be a soldier.

As time passed, I started to see the effects of Keratoconus more and more. My vision started to go down the hill, mainly in my right eye. Now I knew why I was discharged from the military. Keratoconus was more severe than I thought. It wasn’t until last year of 2015 that I started looking into doctors who specialized in Keratoconus.  I found a doctor who was highly recommended.

Before I continue I want to inform yall that I don’t come from a family of money. We grew up poor; our economical status change for the good over time. I consider my family a working class family. I pay for my own tuition at my local community. So in other words, we don’t have a lot of money to spend.

I made an appointment with the doctor’s office. I knew the consultation was going to be around $300 since I didn’t have medical insurance. Imagine how surprise I was when he told me that the contact lenses (scleral lenses) that I needed were $2,700. As a college student that is a lot of money! That was almost what I had in my account. I was saving my money for when I would go to a university. I made a tough choice and I spent all of my savings and more on my scleral lenses. I was officially broke. But damn! It was so worth it. When I put my scleral lenses for the first time, it was as if changed from an old school television that your grandparents had in the living room to a 4k plasma television with HD. I wanted to cry a little bit since I never knew of the small details I was missing in life. I never knew my brother had freckles in his face nor how much detail the pavement had. I was finally able to see the stars clearly!

It was an amazing feeling but it didn’t last too long. the doctor fitted me FIVE different times but my eye would always get blood shoot red. Sadly he wasn’t able to find the perfect fit for me. I used eye drops that made the redness go away for awhile but the redness came back in two or three hours. I might add that the eye drops cost me around $120. It was too much tedious work and I didn’t want people to look at my eyes and think that I was stoned out of my mind or that I had an eye infection, especially at my job.

My left eye was still good without any corrective lens so I decided to get corneal collagen crosslinking (CXL) done in order to keep my vision. I took a year off from school in order to save up for my university; sadly I wasn’t able to use the money towards my education. Once again I was left broke thanks to my old friend, Keratoconus. Two days after the procedure, I saw improvement in my eyesight. I was ecstatic that something finally went my way. Sadly that wasn’t the case. As time went by my vision in my left started to get bad again. doctor told me the shape of my cornea hadn’t changed at all. But yet I am wondering why my vision is still getting worse.

Here I am now, I am not using any corrective lenses. I am still going to community college. I already got an associates degree and hopefully in two more years I am going to be graduating with my bachelor’s degree. So that’s always a nice thing to look forward. Also, it is going feel so good knowing that I didn’t let Keratoconus stop me from achieving my goals.

I am sure I have bored y'all already with my story and I am sorry for that. I promise it is almost done. Also, I didn’t share part of my life story so yall could feel pity for me. Please don’t! I don’t deserve it. Yeah my medical condition sucks but it could always be worse.  No matter how bad you think you might have it, someone else has it worse than you. Keratoconus may derail you from the plans that you have in life, but it cannot stop you. The only thing that can stop you is yourself. You must be mentally strong if you are going to beat Keratoconus! Try finding a Keratoconus group in social media; those people know exactly what you are going thru! They are going to give you the support you need.

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8 comments:

  1. You are very lucky to have one good eye.I have it in both, dignoused at 21 and now 53. I tried many different lenses over the years and one day my Dr said "I can't do anymore for you" She suggested Boston Foundation For Sight! This place is amazing, I can now see at driving level.
    Check it out, they have financial aid and are a non profit.
    Janine

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  2. Where did you have cross linking performed?

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  3. I was diagnosed before I graduated from tech school in the Air Force, I went through basic without knowing. Christmas of 2011, I found out. I understand where you are coming from. My doctor did tell me about CXL but I haven't decided if I want it yet, I have intact in my right eye. Just like you I graduated with my associates and now going to graduate with my bachelors degree in May. Thank you for publishing this, it was so hard on me, I can relate to you a lot!

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    1. So were you released from the Air Force?

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  4. I can understand how you have gone through, and how you have cope. I was diagnosed after my graduation , but I knew I cannot see clearly even with spectacles before that. I am a Medical doctor and I was in U.K to pursue my post graduation and work. I went to U.K from a third world country and it was only once in a life time chance. I started my career but unfortunately due to K.C I could not get the required references to continue my career in u.k. I knew something is wring with my eyes and It is getting worse. I was one of the better students but during the start of my career I had this huge set back. I was totally broken. Then at last someone suggested keratography and only the I was told I have k.c. And then I looked for treatment options and started wearing lenses. But I had to abandon my career in u.k. Once you are out if N.H.S and if nit a U.K national it is very difficult to get into it again. Today I know how much more I would have achieved has someone diagnosed me earlier. I have three kids now and am working currently in my native country. I am really worried about my kids. I hope they remain o.k through out their life. I hope God give all of us a complete and easy cure . I hope this disease is finished from the face of earth alltogether.

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  5. Hey Diego, keep strong. Technology is improving and new lenses are coming out all the time. God willing, a lens design will work for you.
    Have you considered a corneal transplant at some government clinic ?

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  6. My son was diagnosed after completing basic training 9 months ago. He had CXL done in both eyes and he is still healing. Definitely detailed his career. We don't know what's next.

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  7. Your story is similar to mine. But in my case is post lasik ectasia. And im from mexico btw. Good luck!

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