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jcadam

Celiac In The Army

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This is a long post, sorry. It appears to me that the US Army is nowadays clearing celiacs for deployment:

I'd been having GI troubles for a long time, since I was a teenager, but the problems would come and go. I was in the Army for four years and just dealt with the occasional flare ups (which tended to occur more when I was under stress, either physical or emotional/mental), thinking I just had a sensitive gut.

One summer (about a year after leaving active duty and entering the reserves),

the symptoms suddenly got quite severe, with cramps so bad I couldn't stand up straight, weird body rashes, etc. Went to the ER once with severe abdominal pain thinking I might be having an appendecitis. After a few doc visits was told I probably had IBS. I also lost 20lbs during the course of that summer and somehow ended up with a severe Vitamin D deficiency.

After doing some research on the net, I decided to try the gluten-free diet. After a month or two, I was feeling MUCH better.A doctor told me I probably have celiac based on elevated IgA levels and the fact that my symptoms greatly improved on a gluten-free diet. Had an endoscopy done later (after 6-8 months on the gluten-free diet) which came up negative. Also, during this process, my thyroid was checked and I was diagnosed with Hashimoto's disease (family history of thyroid problems, so no big surprise there), due to the presence of anti-thyroid antibodies (though my thyroid function at this point is supposedly OK). I've also been recently diagnosed with asthma :(

Anyways, last month I was informed that the army reserve was directing me to report for mobilization/deployment (not with my current reserve unit). My commander, who knows about some of my medical issues, put me on orders and sent me to the nearest army base to do SRP (a pre-deployment process that encompasses medical, dental, and administrative screening). My deployment was quickly cancelled for reasons unknown to me (administrative SNAFU most likely), but I went ahead with the SRP anyway.

So, I see the SRP doctor who asks me if I have any medical conditions which might interfere with deployment. I said "yes, I have asthma." He asked me a few question about the severity of my asthma and told me I was still deployable. I then told him about the Hashimoto's diagnosis, which he said was fine.

"Anything else?"

"Yes, I have celiac disease."

"Oh, ok. You're deployable."

Really? I realize I may look perfectly healthy and fit (weight-lifting addict), but I surely wouldn't after a few months of eating glutinous foods. So, looks like I can still be deployed on a few days notice (like I nearly was last month). Either the Army apparently doesn't think that celiac disease would singificantly impact a Soldier's ability to perform in a deployed environment, or the SRP site is giving most medical condi1tions the hand-wave and declaring people deployable that really shouldn't be (to make readiness stats look good, no doubt), and passing the problems off to commanders in-theater to deal with (What? you can't eat MREs? You can't eat anything prepared in the same kitchen with flour? What are you doing here?).

I anticipate being deployed, arriving in-theater, and being sent home after a few weeks when I become too sick to work. After being disparaged for being weak, malingering, etc., of course.

Being well aware of the issues my condition would cause for me (and whatever unit I'm assigned to) while deployed, I'm thinking about submitting my resignation letter (I'm an officer and coming up on the end of my eight-year obligation), but I'm afraid HRC would immediately put me on deployment orders upon receiving it (the Army has made me cynical).

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We have several career millitary members. I'm sure they will share their experience soon.

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Greetings!

I am a career military person living with celiac. I'm in the Air Force but I can still share my story. I met a medical board after being diagnosed. They "C" coded me saying I can deploy however, the deployed location commander has to approve. Also, I can only deploy to locations with a fixed medical facility. That being said, I've talked to several diagnosed celiacs in the Air Force and they have the same "C" code. I do not see how it's possilbe for us to deploy without knowing our lifestyle needs can be met. I would not risk your health. Is there a way you can talk to medical and receive a waiver? It would be a shame to get out because of this when you're perfectly healthy while following the diet. It's frustrating I know.

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This confuses me. I understand the difficulties of being deployed while being a celiac...but you joined the military to fight for this country. Wouldn't you have been away that you might deploy when you joined? It makes me sad thinking people who serve in our army don't want to be there. As the daughter of a lifer in the army, I just don't understand it, however, if you really don't feel that you can deploy and be healthy, to the best of my knowledge you can file for a medical waiver. Its a messy process but you can do it. You can also get a medical discharge if you don't feel yourself fit to perform the duties of the job. Best of luck with everything!! And thank you for protecting this country!

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When I made the decision to join the Army, I was 18 years old, just out of high school (signed up for an ROTC scholarship which entailed an 8 year commitment after finishing college). I was perfectly healthy then, and was well aware I could be deployed. I served my initial 4 years on active duty with no major problems, and the majority of my health problems started in the last 2 years (when I've been on reserve status). Celiac, thyroid disease, and asthma hitting hard in rapid succession.

You are right, of course. As a healthy, athletic 18 year old with no history of serious illness, I should have considered the possibility that I would become chronically ill with various autoimmune disorders at some point in the next 12 years, and declined to join.

This confuses me. I understand the difficulties of being deployed while being a celiac...but you joined the military to fight for this country. Wouldn't you have been away that you might deploy when you joined? It makes me sad thinking people who serve in our army don't want to be there. As the daughter of a lifer in the army, I just don't understand it, however, if you really don't feel that you can deploy and be healthy, to the best of my knowledge you can file for a medical waiver. Its a messy process but you can do it. You can also get a medical discharge if you don't feel yourself fit to perform the duties of the job. Best of luck with everything!! And thank you for protecting this country!

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You are right, of course. As a healthy, athletic 18 year old with no history of serious illness, I should have considered the possibility that I would become chronically ill with various autoimmune disorders at some point in the next 12 years, and declined to join.

Nice answer! ;) Couldn't have said it better myself.

Modiddly......jcadam never said they didn't want to serve. Having Celiac alone makes it nearly impossible to be deployed anywhere, for reasons so obvious it doesn't need stating. Throw in hashi's and asthma and the army would have be daft to deploy this officer. I guess with all the BS going on in the world, they don't want to let anyone go these days. I work on an air force base myself (civilian) and, although I have great respect for the military and appreciate all they do, the armed services have a habit sometimes of doing things that really make you shake your head in wonder. It can make you a cynic, at times, but that doesn't mean they are not appreciated.

Good luck to you, jcadam, I'm glad you are feeling better and thank you for your years of service! I could not do what you people do on a daily basis! :D

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I may be speaking for myself when I say this but I would LOVE to deploy with the rest of my troops. Nothing is more painful then seeing people deploy without me because I have this disease. I can almost bet jcadam feels the same way. I was like jcadam, I was perfectly healthy when I joined the Air Force . 12 year later I started having medical issues. It's not like jcadam wants to leave the Army, just wants to persue a healthy lifestyle and wishes to be a healthy happy individual without issue of becoming sick and ruining the progress that's already made. jcadam, please don't be discouraged, I understand where you're coming from. Some people have no idea the life us military people live and to do so with this disease is even more difficult.

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When I made the decision to join the Army, I was 18 years old, just out of high school (signed up for an ROTC scholarship which entailed an 8 year commitment after finishing college). I was perfectly healthy then, and was well aware I could be deployed. I served my initial 4 years on active duty with no major problems, and the majority of my health problems started in the last 2 years (when I've been on reserve status). Celiac, thyroid disease, and asthma hitting hard in rapid succession.

You are right, of course. As a healthy, athletic 18 year old with no history of serious illness, I should have considered the possibility that I would become chronically ill with various autoimmune disorders at some point in the next 12 years, and declined to join.

Thank you so much for your service first and foremost. I would talk to your command. I don't think the doctor you saw realized what you were talking about. Many doctors are celiac ignorant and not all listen to everything we actually say. There is no way they can feed you and keep you healthy on the front. Period. I would hate to see you give up your career based on one ignorant doctor. I do hope you are able to straighten this out without too much trouble. While celiac may not be a reason to kick you out of the service it is a valid reason not to be deployed into a war zone. If needed contact a lawyer to assist you in the fight.

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Thank you so much for your service first and foremost. I would talk to your command. I don't think the doctor you saw realized what you were talking about. Many doctors are celiac ignorant and not all listen to everything we actually say. There is no way they can feed you and keep you healthy on the front. Period. I would hate to see you give up your career based on one ignorant doctor. I do hope you are able to straighten this out without too much trouble. While celiac may not be a reason to kick you out of the service it is a valid reason not to be deployed into a war zone. If needed contact a lawyer to assist you in the fight.

I completely agree with you. A lot of military docs don't understand celiac disease. I have educated docs on more than one occasion. Keep pressing them to understand the disease and explain in detail why deploying will be unhealthy for you.

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You are right, of course. As a healthy, athletic 18 year old with no history of serious illness, I should have considered the possibility that I would become chronically ill with various autoimmune disorders at some point in the next 12 years, and declined to join.

<snort>

yah, how could have NOT foreseen this?

Seriously, though, it does sound like an under-educated doctor. Don't let this drop without making an effort to clarify to those in charge that you may be on a forced fast for months if you are sent somewhere without adequate food choices.

You have 12+ years of knowledge and experience that could surely be put to use somewhere more appropriate.

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You are right, of course. As a healthy, athletic 18 year old with no history of serious illness, I should have considered the possibility that I would become chronically ill with various autoimmune disorders at some point in the next 12 years, and declined to join.

Hee! Good one ;)

It kind of sounds to me as if the doctor you saw didn't understand the ramifications of having Celiac. I agree that it would be a shame if your talents and experience could not be utilized.

Thank you sir, and thank you too, Daniella :)

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um. i wasn't trying to be rude. i obviously didn't know you joined when you were 18.

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Thanks for clarifying that. It's hard to read tone without facial expressions.

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You are right, of course. As a healthy, athletic 18 year old with no history of serious illness, I should have considered the possibility that I would become chronically ill with various autoimmune disorders at some point in the next 12 years, and declined to join.

*thumbs up*

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I guess MRE's are OUT of the question, yikes...

My husband is a lifer (that's the plan)...in his 4th year, deployed twice. He doesn't appear to have any serious health issues, but I plan to still have him DNA tested along with myself before trying to have babies.

Annnd from experiencing second hand just how non-caring (maybe that's harsh) the doc's are in the military, it wouldn't be any surprise that they'd pass you for deployment. Civilian doc's don't have the appropriate knowlede on Celiac, let alone military! :( Shoot strep throat might land a soldier with 2 days quarantine. That's if the soldier and medic are buddies, lol.

Hubby has tendonitis in his achilles and they don't give a rat's patootie! They just gave him naproxin (sp?) for inflammation. Bronchitis? "Here's a pill go home for the day, show up at 0500 in your P.T.s!"

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Greetings!

I am a career military person living with celiac. I'm in the Air Force but I can still share my story. I met a medical board after being diagnosed. They "C" coded me saying I can deploy however, the deployed location commander has to approve. Also, I can only deploy to locations with a fixed medical facility. That being said, I've talked to several diagnosed celiacs in the Air Force and they have the same "C" code. I do not see how it's possilbe for us to deploy without knowing our lifestyle needs can be met. I would not risk your health. Is there a way you can talk to medical and receive a waiver? It would be a shame to get out because of this when you're perfectly healthy while following the diet. It's frustrating I know.

Hey Daniella! I've been in the Air Force active duty for the last year and 8 months doing Pararescue Training and they diagnosed me with celiac disease a few months ago after doing bloodwork and finding low iron levels. I have no outer effects from it besides the low iron that I wouldn't have found out about unless they had done bloodwork during a physical test. Anyway now that I know I have celiac I have gotten all my levels back to normal with the gluten free diet that I have been on for about 3 months now. Not only did they remove me from my pararescue training, but they said I am most likely going to get discharged for it! I was passing all the physical requirements for pararescue "and it's not easy" and just because I have to eat gluten free they no longer think I can make it in the air force. It seems to me that they could reclass me into something that would keep me more stateside like Honor Guard or just put me on a "C" flag or whatever they put you on. Anyway, I'm going to my formal medical eval board court case around October 15th and wanted to see if you had any tips for me when talking to the board because I would take just about any job to stay in right now. "first child on the way". Thanks!! A1C Hancock.

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