Our Connection with Epilepsy by Lynn Shiverick

sheverick family gala
Shiverick Family at Gala. From left to right Reg, Lynn, Louise and Parker

Editor’s Note: The Legacy Award is given each year at the Epilepsy Association annual Gala. The award recognizes individuals and organizations for outstanding support of the Epilepsy Association and for contributions to increasing the community’s awareness of and response to epilepsy. This past November, the Epilepsy Association was thrilled to present Lynn Shiverick with the 2013 Legacy Award.

Lynn was honored for her contribution to epilepsy awareness and for her years of service on the Epilepsy Association Board of Trustees.

We encourage you to find out more about the Epilepsy Association resources, especially the programs for schools that Lynn mentions in the following family story.

My husband Reg and I have four children, now ages 19 to 27, but it is because of our third son, Parker, that we are a family with a connection to epilepsy.

Parker was diagnosed with epilepsy when he was six years old. It was then that we could clearly identify that he was having partial complex seizures, and it explained a series of earlier frightening episodes and behaviors that we had just not understood. He was started on medication, and the following year we moved to Cleveland.

That year turned out to be a really tough one for Parker and for us – during the year, he had 17 or 18 seizures, and they seemed to be getting worse. His first medication also made him dizzy, tired and kind of dazed. We had a lot of worry – about his safety, the long term quality of his life, what his options would be, how his learning was affected, would he be dependent, would he ever be able to drive, could he swim, play on the jungle gym and this is when I really learned about the particular challenges of people and families living with epilepsy.

I was introduced to the Epilepsy Association by Max Wiznitzer, Parker’s pediatric neurologist at University Hospitals. Dr. Wiznitzer is a wonderful man, incredibly caring. He’s what I would describe as a “whole patient” kind of doctor. At our very first appointment, after reading the notes and examining Parker, he turned to me and said “What do you know about epilepsy?” And the answer then was that I knew very little. He suggested the Epilepsy Association as a first stop resource. Since epilepsy is the kind of condition that affects an entire family, I really gave him credit for being the kind of doctor who pushes parents to learn as much as they can about the disease, their choices and resources.

Initially I contacted the Epilepsy Association as an educational resource, but quickly discovered that the organization was much more than an information source. It is also a service organization dedicated to helping people with challenges such as issues with employment, medicine and medicine cost, transportation, support groups, and education.

One of the school programs that I was really grateful for was the Puppet Program, where Parker’s classmates were presented with a Puppet Show explaining what a seizure is, how to respond to someone having a seizure, and informing his teachers about epilepsy and what to do in the event of a seizure. Parker did have seizures at school and twice on the basketball court when we were not there, so I appreciated the value of this resource for educators and school personnel.

Parker began taking a new medication when he was in grade school, which works beautifully for him and he basically has been seizure free ever since. He is now 22, an engineering student, also a talented musician, and he drives with a restricted license that is approved by his doctor every six months. We think he will be on medication for life but we consider ourselves very lucky that his seizures are under control. It doesn’t work that way for everyone.

I joined the Epilepsy Association Board soon after learning about the organization, and then chaired the Gala party for several years. I also chaired the Development Committee, and did what I could as an advocate. I think in the beginning it was my way of doing something to help Parker; but the more I learned about the challenges of people living with epilepsy, particularly those without the resources I had, it became important for me to continue to help and stay connected.

Epilepsy is truly a terrible, really limiting condition when it is not well controlled, and the Epilepsy Association does great things to help. I think when you have a personal connection to something like epilepsy (and there are others), and when that connection has made you learn that adults, kids and families are really challenged and struggling, the responsible thing to do is to help where you can. It’s important to support the work of non-profit organizations. Fortunately, we live in a community nationally known for its philanthropic support.

I was honored to be chosen for the Legacy Award, but I think it is not really about me. It is about increasing awareness, and support for people and families living with the challenges and limitations of epilepsy.

This coming January 18th, the Epilepsy Association is sponsoring the 9th annual Winter Walk for Epilepsy. This annual fundraiser is a great way to become involved, to meet others with a connection to epilepsy and to find resources. I encourage you to click here for more information about this fun, family friendly and indoor event!  The walk will be held at SouthPark Mall in Strongsville and Great Lakes Mall in Mentor.

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