It was about 1990 when Thomas (not his real name) came to see me. I was a young assistant professor and we were in the very early days of excimer laser keratorefractive surgery.
Thomas wanted to serve in the military and specifically in the special forces, but his fairly low amount of myopia was enough to exclude him.
In those days the military did not perform refractive surgery. Thomas had learned that if he had a great result from surgery and could then pass all the vision testing they would give him then he would no longer be ineligible.
At this time in my life, I spent time working out and particularly liked to do push-ups. I would travel a fair amount for work and wherever I was it was simple to just do push-ups and sit-ups on the hotel room floor.
In the movies about the military the sergeants were always disciplining young recruits by making them do push-ups, and I felt pretty good that I could do about 120 push-ups before my arms got tired and I had to stop.
So, I felt a bit of a kinship with Thomas. Perhaps if corneal surgery became boring, one day I would become a Navy Seal, I joked to myself.
After we discussed the risks and expected outcomes, Thomas decided to have the procedure.
He was young and healthy and within a few days his corneas were crystal clear, his uncorrected vision exceeded 20/20 in both eyes, and contrast sensitivity and glare testing demonstrated outstanding visual functioning.
Frankly, I doubted anyone examining his eyes would have guessed that he’d had surgery.