My 18 year daughter was diagnosed with Mesial Temporal Lobe Epilepsy perhaps five years ago. She is extremely fortunate in that she only ever experienced "simple partial seizures", now call Focal Onset Aware Seizures. These are non-motor and typically manifest as auras / deja vu and perhaps gastric upset and sometimes a taste in her mouth. She is blessed with gifted, engaged, and caring neurologist that runs a Level 2 Epilepsy Center at the Jersey Shore. In fact, he has had such a positive impact and influence on her that at his urging she has decided to pursue a medical career as a physician after shadowing him for a summer at the Epilepsy Center - as a freshman in high school.
For a variety of reasons, my daughter has decided to join the military to pursue her dreams of becoming a physician. She wants to join the Air Force through ROTC. We just came to the awful realization that diagnosis and treatment of "epilepsy" automatically disqualifies one for military service with exceptions few and far between from the little research I've been able to do thus far.
Given the fact that her seizures are non-motor and she is fully aware, is a waiver possible for Air Force duty? She does not wish to become a pilot, she is interested in genetics and regeneration research - her own science research landed her a spot at the Intel International Science Fair. She's a competitive swimmer and captain of her team, an outstanding student and one of the premier technical high schools in the states, a recognized science fair winner, etc. She is treated successfully with Lamotrigine and been seizure free since being on the meds - even for a period of several months when she (without telling her mother and I...) she'd stop taking her meds.
My reading of the acceptance criteria is not encouraging. Unless you have been seizure free at least five years **without medication** it's an automatic disqualification. Given this, my questions:
1. Has medical clearance for military service - Air Force in particular - become any more nuanced, in that there can be a distinction made for those whose epilepsy only manifests in non-motor symptoms and remain fully aware and functional?
As an example, my daughter had a seizure at 11 years of age in the middle of the Junior Olympics swimming Fly and finished the race without issue. In fact, she's been a certified diver since age 12 and is now an Advanced Open Water / Nitrox certified and is more comfortable 120 feet down than many folks are sitting at their dining room tables. (Our neurologist - begrudgingly - approved of her diving activities with us... she's logged maybe a hundred dives)
2. Is it possible to call her seizure disorder something else that won't automatically put her in the Rejected category? She is in outstanding physical condition. But, she has been diagnosed and is on medication. Is there an out? Other than lying and risking dishonorable discharge??
3. Is there a strategy anyone has successfully employed to gain enlistment in the service as someone with epilepsy? Particularly the Air Force? I've read that an appeal from an expert witness testifying to her fitness for duty might work, then there is the possibility of sponsorship by a congressman, etc. Other options??
Most of what I've read online is at least five years old and I'm sure the situation changes over time. I certainly appreciate the military's concerns about the availability of medication especially for those with Motor symptoms. However, in my daughters case, her medical condition and the military career path she'd like to pursue do not seem to automatically preclude service. She poses no risk to anyone around her.
I'd really appreciate anyone with experience that can suggest resources. I'm certain her neurologist will support her petition for a waiver. I'd like to know what, if anything, we can do to stack the deck in her favor. She'd be an asset to the service, would be thrilled to serve her country - as her mother and I both would be - and it would be loss for all if she isn't permitted to serve.
I'd sincerely appreciate any thoughts or suggestions that might help. Thanks so much...