Man's dream of being a soldier depends on surgery - WFSB 3 Connecticut


Man's dream of being a soldier depends on surgery

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Elijah Calderon when he was in basic training (WFSB) Elijah Calderon when he was in basic training (WFSB)

A 21-year-old Rocky Hill man’s goals of “being all he can be,” are on hold.

The reason is an unusual disease doctors nearly missed. It changed his life and derailed his promising career.

On his 21st birthday, Elijah Calderon decided he wanted to be a soldier. That was until his third eye exam revealed a rare disease, called Keratoconus.

Keratoconus is an eye disease that hasn’t affected Calderon, but it would if left untreated. The disease thins the cornea and can distort vision.

A U.S. Army doctor delivered the devastating news to Calderon late last year.

“I was heartbroken,” he said.

Even though he finished basic training, Calderon wasn’t formally working for the Army, which meant his surgery wasn’t covered by insurance.

“He was such a different person, he walked taller and stood prouder and was just, ‘yes ma'am’ and ‘no ma'am’ and ‘thank you sir’,” said his mother Jocelyn Harvey.

It’s unclear why other doctors may have missed this, but one eye doctor says it can be tough to pick up and sometimes patients are referred to specialists to test for Keratoconus.

While glad to have been made aware of the disease, Calderon’s family faced the reality that his dream of being a soldier may be gone and surgery could cost them $5,000 and it’s far from a perfect remedy.

The procedure would stop the disease, but wouldn’t take it away.

His family has been raising money for the costly procedures. He had surgery on his right eye, but the left one must be done or he could lose vision in it.

If they’re able to get the surgery and he heals well, his mission is clear. He will then talk with his Army recruiter, however there is no guarantee he will be able to re-enlist.

His surgery date is May 10. If he heals well, his goal is to try re-joining the Army in late summer.

Eyewitness News reached out to the Army for a comment but hasn't heard back yet.

For more on Calderon’s story, or to donate, click here.

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