Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Cadet Who Fell Ill Feels Betrayed by the Air Force Service Will Not Pay to Treat Leukemia

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Cadet Who Fell Ill Feels Betrayed by the Air Force Service Will Not Pay to Treat Leukemia

Article excerpt

Throughout school, Casey Bowe of Laredo, Mo., earned top grades. He excelled in sports and became a church leader and 4-H Club officer.

He did it to show his worth to the U.S. Air Force Academy, he says. On July 1, he swore his oath of allegiance to the academy and his country - on the way to his life's dream of becoming a military pilot.

He began basic training at the academy's Colorado Springs campus. Bowe, 18, ran miles up and down hills as part of the endurance training. But after 10 days, he felt oddly exhausted and nauseated. He suspected "stomach flu." But blood tests showed something far worse: leukemia.

At a nearby military hospital, doctors gave Bowe chemotherapy. It slowed down the leukemia - uncontrolled growth of white blood cells. On July 29, Bowe returned to Laredo in north-central Missouri; he was discharged from the academy for medical reasons on Oct. 19.

Back home, cancer specialists told him that he needed a bone marrow transplant - at a cost of more than $300,000. The sooner it's done, the better his chances for long-term survival, leukemia experts say.

Bowe is optimistic. Members of his family always support one another - just like his classmates at the Air Force Academy, he said. "The academy had 100 ways of teaching us to work together and stick together," he said in a telephone interview last week.

But since he's returned home, he says, the Air Force has decided it no longer will stand by him.

"The Air Force told me it isn't responsible for giving me any more treatment - that my condition existed before I joined them," he said. "I asked why they didn't find the leukemia when they did blood tests months before I was sworn in - then, again on July 1."

His blood was tested for anemia, four commonly abused drugs and the AIDS virus, according to a summary of his medical checkup. But a count of his white blood cells wasn't done because it's not a routine test and wasn't ordered, Bowe was told.

Air Force regulations say the service must first commission a cadet as an officer before he or she is eligible for long-term medical care or other benefits, a spokesman for the Air Force Academy said.

"You can't commission a cadet if he's discharged from the academy for medical reasons," said Will Ketterson, director of media relations for the academy.

Under another Air Force regulation, Bowe asked for continuing treatment because the Air Force began his chemotherapy. He could request re-admission to the academy to have "continuity of care."

But the Air Force rejected that claim, too. The reason: No Air Force hospital can perform the kind of transplant that Bowe needs, Col. Harry F. Laws II of Air Force Headquarters in Washington wrote in a letter to Bowe.

An Air Force hospital, Wilford Hall Memorial in San Antonio, Texas, does bone marrow transplants, but only for patients whose donors are siblings, Laws said. …

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