Every child has a dream; whether they are three or eighteen they have dreams of what they will one day become. Usually when they are young they want to be a multitude of things; at the same time. A gun wielding fireman who runs a bakery and has a side job as a veterinarian for instance.
Not my son.
My son has wanted to do/be the same thing since he was three years old; the only thing that has changed is his terminology for instance instead of wanting to be an “Army Man” he now wants to join the Armed Forces.
I’m not sure where this obsession began; perhaps it was the war in Afghanistan? My son began his first day of Kindergarten on that fateful day in September; September 11, 2001. Arriving home from a visit to Toronto, my son and I watched television before attending school in the afternoon. With horror we watched as the towers fell. Teary eyes parents dropping their children off at kindergarten that day were sadly not weeping tears because our children were growing; no we were crying because of the horrendous acts of terrorism we’d watched or heard about that morning, our safety shattered.
Our children are of this era. They don’t remember the time before the war started; these children are fifteen and sixteen years old today.
It could be that his passion for the Armed forces is in his blood. Going back in history he has had many an ancestor who has served. A great grandfather (6 times removed), Sergeant James McKim who fought in Jessup’s Corp. during the revolutionary war as a United Empire Loyalist, my great grandfather who fought in the Boer War, a great grandfather who enlisted in WWI and my own grandfather who enlisted with the RCAF in WWII. It may be safe to say that this ‘drive’ makes up a piece of his DNA.
Whatever is was or is, it’s never left him.
I’ll tell you as a mother it’s not really one of those occupations you wish for your child to do. There is an extreme sense of pride for your child but also an extreme sense of fear. Many mothers (and fathers) have lost sons (and daughters) to wars, never returning home.
When my son turned twelve he immediately enrolled in cadets. Until that time every game, every movie, ever ‘role play’ had something to do with the military. Cadets is wonderful. It teaches kids so many great things. Of course my idea of great things differs from my son’s idea of great things. He’s learned to use a firearm (his idea of a great thing) and drive a tank. I’m proud of his dedication and drive when it comes to cadet’s; proud of the way he will serve veterans a fancy dinner at the local legion instead of hanging out at the mall; proud when I see him decked out in his parade uniform; proud when I’m watching him do drill with precision.
He has worked hard. He’s gone from trooper to now Master Corporal to hopefully Sergeant here soon. This past summer he was awarded “Best Cadet” at Camp Vernon in British Columbia. Since grade seven he’s attended a ‘military’ school – Juno Beach Academy.
Lately (like most teens) he’s been trying to decide his future. He recently made the choice to enter the reserves right after school, certainly not my choice…his. It’s hard to not be happy or accepting of his choices when he’s been so dedicated for so long.
A few months ago my son came upstairs one morning BEFORE his alarm. This is rare if not unheard of. He said he ‘felt weird’ and had woke up on the floor. I passed this off as he’d been going to bed far too late (despite my protests) and he’s often dramatic (also not unlike many teens). When my son turned to go to the bathroom however I noticed an incredible redness all over his neck; freaking out (as I do) I asked him what the heck he’d done to himself. He had no idea what I was talking about and was just as surprised as I when he looked in the mirror.
You do not get rug burn from falling out of bed.
I started the ball rolling right away, and well less than a month later he was diagnosed with JME – Juvenile Myoclonic Epilepsy.
The Epilepsy itself is a pain, but tolerable. He will need to take medication for the rest of his life but he has his life. The drug he takes is called Volproic Acid – Volproic Acid ‘eliminates’ seizures the clincher of course is that you can never go off of the drug. After being seizure free for one year you can get your driver’s license. My son has photosensitive epilepsy which can be brought on by a flickering fire, the lights shining in and out of the trees while you drive or strobe lights (hey no night clubs?).
The thing is…
The Canadian Armed forces has a “Seizure-Free” policy. He is classified medically as a G3O3 and in order to qualify/enlist the common standard is G2O2 – G stands for Geographical and how close you need to be to medical care at all times – O stands for Occupational and how much the job could affect you medically, and then there is BFOR which stands for “Bona Fide Occupational Requirement”.
The CHRA provides a defence if the discriminatory practice constitutes a BFOR; it is not discriminatory practice if there is any refusal, exclusion, expulsion, suspension, limitation, specification or preference in relation to any employment that is established by an employer to be based on an occupational requirement.
The CHRA (Charter of Human Rights) also does not apply to federally regulated industries such as the Armed Forces. All employees (for the most part) are painted with the same brush as they may all be called to duty in times of need.
This pretty much excludes my son.
Ok, I wasn’t born yesterday. I get some of this stuff. As both a parent and an employer I would not want someone in the Middle East who runs out of medication, or who finds himself/herself stranded in some rabbit hole without having access to the medication and has a seizure whilst carrying a fire arm. I’m not completely stupid. Nor do I relish the thought of my child jumping from a plane (with a parachute of course) or Scuba diving (even though he’s certified) for fear he’d have a seizure.
I guess I’m emotional about this whole thing because we’re talking about my son’s hopes and dreams here, how unfair that I may be the one to dash them. I have to be his advocate. I feel the need to take this as far as I can. I’ve done some investigating (I need to do much more), but it would appear that some of these policies have existed for a long time and maybe they need some updating. Epilepsy used to be a big deal, heck back in the dark ages one was institutionalized because of it and as early as the 1800’s one could find themselves in a place like Bedlam’s Insane Asylum…but it’s the 21st century!
Epilepsy is no longer an O.M.G. issue…its more “Meh”(for those of you who don’t know…because I just learned this cool word myself, Meh is akin to no biggie).
I have an appointment with my son’s neurologist in May. I cannot and will not just say “well son, sorry for your luck..time to focus on something else” I have to know that I’ve said and done everything in my power.
For those of you who read my blog that may have more information on either the Armed forces, Epilepsy, or both please feel free to comment on my blog or send me an email. I can’t have too much information. Even if your message is a negative one (meaning not hopeful), I would like to have it.