Every year at our Winter Walk, we choose one or two families to headline the event. These families, called Featured Families, are nominated by themselves or by another person because of their commitment and courage while coping with epilepsy. This year we have chosen two families to headline our 13th Annual Winter Walk. Here is a story from one of the Featured Families, the Watson family, about how epilepsy has affected their lives.
We are the Watson Family: Don, Monica, Hannah, Ben and Molly. Our son, Ben, is a typical 13- year-old eighth grader. He is very involved in Boy Scouts and 4-H and loves cheering for the Buckeyes, the Cavs and the Cleveland Indians. The summer of 2013, when Ben was 9 years old, he was in his first year of 4-H and showing a sheep as one of his projects. Ben was struggling to maintain control of his animal and we were getting frustrated with him for often appearing as though he was not paying any attention. He would stop talking mid-sentence, his eyes would flutter and it was apparent that he was completely “zoned out”. Having worked in health care, I recognized he was either having a seizure or had developed some sort of tick. We headed to Akron Children’s Neurodevelopmental Science Center for an EEG and Ben was diagnosed with absence seizures. Essentially Ben’s 4-H sheep was the first to figure out his seizures, as Ben would have control, then his grip would relax during a seizure and the lamb would simply walk away from him, without Ben being able to figure out what had happened.
We initially made the mistake of handling the diagnosis by simply thinking here is our diagnosis and here is the treatment medication, so no big deal, it will all go back to normal. We quickly discovered that epilepsy was not going to be such an easy journey. Ben had numerous negative side effects from his initial medication and was struggling with anxiety and depression at only nine years old. We knew we needed more help to understand, cope and manage his seizures. Thankfully we were introduced to another local family, the Dillon Family, who have supported us and offered some guidance including introducing us to the Epilepsy Association.
Today Ben has been seizure free for about 2 years and as he enters his teenage years, we will see where this journey leads us to next. Currently, and every year since our diagnosis, we work with the Dillons to organize and host a Dine to Donate Event in Wooster for Purple Day and we take part in this Winter Walk to help spread awareness. We proudly talk about our journey and continue to learn about epilepsy, while promoting more awareness. We have been amazed by how many people we talk to know someone with seizures, have had them in the past, or who are continually searching for support and understanding in dealing with their diagnosis. Our 20+ year old cousin, Danielle, who lives near Buffalo, NY, also has epilepsy and it is endearing how she has rallied around Ben, supporting him at every turn and participating in Epilepsy Awareness events in honor of herself and Ben. We are so excited to be selected as one of the Featured Families for the Winter Walk this year, so that we can continue to get people talking to raise awareness. Ben doesn’t look like a “sick” teenager, but epilepsy has certainly not been an easy journey and we know others will benefit from what we have learned if we are willing to talk about all of it. The Epilepsy Association has certainly helped us with this, as they have continued to spread awareness and provide education about the condition and given us the resources necessary to combat the many challenges associated with epilepsy.