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BEVERLY HILLS (CBS2) — For Conrad Beiley of San Diego, life seemed to be on track.
“My aunt lives in Fullerton, and I decided to get rid of all of my stuff; get rid of my car, I didn’t need it. I moved out of my house, basically got rid of everything,” he says.
Beiley’s plan was to enlist in the Marine Corps, but just four months ago, he discovered something that shattered his dream of serving in the military.
Beiley learned he had a debilitating eye disease known as Keratoconus, but that wasn’t the bad news.
“I’m in boot camp and then all of the sudden they’re just like, ‘Yeah, you’re going to be blind and, by the way, you’re discharged and you gotta go home,’” he recalls.
Ophthalmologist Dr. Brian Boxer Wachler says Keratoconus – a degenerative disease of the cornea – can occur in anyone at any age.
“What happens is that the collagen is weak and it can’t support the shape anymore, so it literally bulges out causing tremendous amounts of distortions, glare and halos at night, blurry vision,” he explains.
“How many people in the population have this?” CBS2’s Paul Magers asks Wachler.
“It’s much more common than it used to be. It occurs now in 1 in 500 people,” Boxer Wachler says.
Beiley sought the help of Dr. Boxer Wachler in Beverly Hills and found out there was something he could do to reverse the effect of Keratoconus.
“For the last 10 years, we have had revolutionary treatments that have completely changed the way Keratoconus is treated, such as the Holcomb C3R that strengthens the cornea to stabilize it so it does not progress,” Boxer Wachler says.
The Holcomb C3R procedure is named after Steve Holcomb, the bobsledder. Holcomb had the treatment himself for Keratoconus and later would go on to win Olympic gold in 2010.
“It’s typically a 30-minute procedure and it doesn’t involve any surgery at all; it’s non-invasive and the beautiful thing about it is that it’s a one-day recovery for patients, so they’re usually back to their routine by the very next day,” Boxer Wachler explains.
“I know you did surgery on patient Conrad. What’s the update on him?” Magers asks.
“Conrad is doing great. The very next day when I checked him he was already seeing better,” Boxer Wachler says.
“You’re finding people who have been rejected by the military because situation and a cure, let’s call it a cure, is available. Why are you so passionate about this issue?” Magers asks.
“To me, when we have modern treatments that are clearly different from when the military policy was written decades ago and to see that policy not updated because it’s based upon the old-school treatments,” Boxer Wachler says.
After being diagnosed, Beiley tried to re-enlist in other military branches, but was denied.
“I got discharged from the Marine Corps ‘cause I have Keratoconus and they said, ‘Oh, we don’t take that either,’” he recalls.
Now, after being cured of Keratoconus as Dr. Boxer Wachler states, Beiley hopes there’s still a chance to chase his American dream.
“Yeah, I would give it another shot. I just feel that if you’re capable of serving, you should be able to serve,” he says.