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.



Happy Birthday Nicholas!

Editors Note:  This month we are posting the stories of the 2014 Winter Walk Featured Families.  These families are sharing their stories to bring about greater awareness of epilepsy.  Nick’s mom has written this blog.  To support the Meyers Family’s effort please visit the Meyers Winter Walk Team Page  We hope to see you at the annual Winter Walk for Epilepsy on January 18, 2014. It’s an indoor walk! The Walks are held simultaneously at the SouthPark Mall in Strongsville and the Great Lakes Mall in Mentor.

Nick was diagnosed with Tubular Sclerosis shortly after his birth at 32 weeks.  Tubular Sclerosis Complex (TSC) is a genetic disorder that causes non-malignant tumors to form in many different organs, primarily in the brain, eyes, heart, kidney, skin and lungs.  The aspects of TSC that most strongly impact quality of life are generally associated with the brain:  seizures, developmental delay, intellectual disability and autism.  Current estimates place TSC affected birth at 1 in every 6000.  Today, there is no cure for TSC.

Since the age of 3 months, Nick has experienced daily seizures of all types.  At times, he experiences seizures that result in him falling to the ground, resulting in injuries.  Many, many medications have been tried and have failed to control them.  He is currently taking 13 pills per day, a mixture of seizure medications, and has not maintained seizure control.  He has spent approximately 5 weeks in hospital monitoring units to determine if he is a candidate for brain surgery.  So far, all attempts have been unsuccessful.

Nick is non-verbal, developmentally delayed and exhibits many autistic qualities.  In spite of this he is a very energetic, happy, determined and loving young man.  Even though he is non-verbal, he makes his wants, needs and emotions very apparent to those around him!  He exhibits an amazing sense of humor that shines through even without the use of words.  He has chosen to embrace life and live each and every day to the fullest.  He doesn’t waste one second feeling sorry for himself.

As a family, we’ve chosen to not allow Tubular Sclerosis or epilepsy define Nick or our lives.  We make the conscious effort, led by Nick’s example, to go on living, even on the worst days.  This would not be possible without prayer, laughter and the amazing support system that has surrounded us.  We are blessed that every aspect of Nick’s life is supported with individuals that accepted him unconditionally and lovingly.

Our family and friends are always there to provide constant emotional support.  Nick’s classroom staff, in the Multiple Handicaps room at Greenbriar Middle School in Parma, are his biggest cheerleaders.  They challenge him each day to achieve success  through academics, life skills and social skills.  In the summer, he attends Camp Happiness (Catholic Charities) where he is accepted and loved unconditionally.  He participates in Parma Pride, Parma’s special needs athletic program.  He comes together with other special needs children, learns athletic skills and gets the opportunity to just be a kid.  He participates in activities at his little brother’s school where he has never been looked at as “different”.  He is a member of Troop 2008, Parma’s special needs Boy Scout troop, where he can have fun with his friends.  His medical team at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital works tirelessly to keep up with his ever changing medical needs, and provide all encompassing support for our family.

Even with the battle’s that have been presented to Nick, he is the happiest and most content when our family participates in events that involve “giving back”.  He participates in Catholic Charities Walk of Hope.  He helped to plan a movie for special needs individuals with his dad at PlayhouseSquare.  He helps to raise funds for Troop 2008 so that he and his friends can go on field trips together.  He is participating in this year’s Epilepsy Winter Walk to help raise awareness and support for those with epilepsy.

Nicholas was born on Thanksgiving Day, 2001.  That truly summarizes Nick.  As a family, we are so thankful to have him in our lives.  He is the best son and big brother imaginable.  He has taught us the true meaning of life:  to count your blessings, love unconditionally and to give back to others in need. Please join our family and our team on January 18, 2014 at Southpark Mall for this year’s Epilepsy Association Winter Walk.  Please follow Nick’s example and give back to those in need by donating to this cause that is so special to our family.

Paige Frate, Mighty Princess Warrior prepares for the 2014 Winter Walk

11-18 Paige Fraite

Paige inspires her team to come in first.  Click here to support Team Paige

Editor’s Note:  On January 18, 2014 the Epilepsy Association will host the 9th annual Winter Walk for Epilepsy.  The 2-mile walk will be held simultaneously indoors at the Great Lakes Mall  in Mentor and the Southpark Mall in Strongsville. Our passion is to raise epilepsy awareness and one way we do this is by sharing the stories of living with epilepsy.  Here is the wonderful story of Paige Frate submitted by her mom Kristina.

I am sharing my daughter Paige’s story to increase awareness of epilepsy and to encourage your support of the 2014 Winter Walk for Epilepsy.

Paige was born on August 18, 2010.  At 6 months of age, she had her first seizure which was associated with a fever.   During the next two months, additional seizure types developed: clonic, myoclonic, absence, and complex partials.  At 8 months of age, through genetic testing, Paige was diagnosed with Dravet Syndrome. It is also known as Severe Myoclonic Epilepsy of Infancy (SMEI), which is a rare and catastrophic form of intractable epilepsy occuring in roughly 1 in every 30,000 births.  She will never outgrow this condition and it affects every aspect of her daily life, along with our family’s as well.

SMEI is a progressive disorder characterized by multiple seizure types that are resistant to treatment, often including life-threatening status epilepticus.  Earmarks of the syndrome include behavior and developmental delays, lowered immunity, chronic infections, delayed speech, sleeping difficulties, orthopedic concerns, and hyperactivity to mention a few.  In addition, children with Dravet face a higher incidence of SUDEP (sudden unexplained death in epilepsy).

Paige’s development remained on track initially, then declined significantly at 19 months.  This is when she became extremely ill with RSV, had a 67 minute seizure, her heart and lungs shut down, and emergency ECMO surgery was performed.  The surgery saved her life, but caused her to have a stroke.  She lost the ability to walk, talk, and eat.  It has been 18 months since the surgery, and I happily report Paige has learned  to walk again and can feed herself.  Her speech is significantly delayed, but she is making tremendous progress.  She attends therapies on a regular basis and continues to show us how resilient she is.

Paige’s Dravet impacts every aspect of our life.  The care she requires is intense.   • She requires high doses of medicines which are time regimented medicines.  (She currently takes 8 doses a day which are just her seizures meds.) • We try and maintain her body temperature.  She is ultra-sensitive and if her temperature rises above 99 degrees, she will have a grand mal seizure.  Therefore, we use a cooling vest.  • She cannot be exposed to direct sunlight.  We keep protective gear on her when outside. • She cannot be in a stressful environment. • We ensure Paige receives ample rest to eliminate sleep deprivation.  • It is of upmost importance to limit her exposure to illness.

My mission in life is to educate others on this spectrum disorder and type of epilepsy.  As a family we are dedicated to raising money to increase Epilepsy Awareness.  This is why I encourage you to support the Epilepsy Association Winter Walk and TEAM PAIGE.  We’ll be at the Mentor walk and hope to see you there.


Kristina Frate – mom to Paige, the Princess Warrior

A look at my life with epilepsy – by Michael Wesel

Mike Wesel

Mike Wesel

Note from the editor: In honor of Epilepsy Awareness Month we will post several blogs in which the writers share their experiences with epilepsy. We start with Mike’s look at his life with epilepsy. We are extremely fortunate to have Mike share his life with epilepsy for the readers of this Epilepsy Association blog. His ability to focus on the positive is an inspiration for us all.

This is my fourth Blog for the Insights to Epilepsy website. By now you should be getting to know who I am. I am 49 years old and have intractable epilepsy. My initial diagnosis occurred in 1972 when I was eight years old. I was seizure free until I was twenty-one when they re-occurred. I was seizure free for seven more years until I was approximately twenty-eight years old and I have had break through seizures, with varied frequency and intensity, ever since.

Let’s face it, anyone of us who has ever experienced a seizure knows that it is a nerve racking experience in and of itself no matter how we feel about it emotionally. Epilepsy has impacted every aspect of my life including my ability to legally drive a car, maintain employment, my marriage and family, and (yikes!) my relationship with law enforcement authorities. Despite all of this, I opened my own law practice in downtown Cleveland, maintained my certified public accountant certification, set-up my Westside bachelor pad, and have solid relationships with my two incredible sons. Upon reflection, I’m doing a lot better than a lot of people without epilepsy!

My seizures returned when I was 21. At the time, I had a tremendous amount of fear about what was happening to me. I believe fear is a normal human response that everyone experiences at some point. I overcame my fear by relying on a core group of family and friends to hang out and do things with. This prevented me from hurting myself and also gave me support when someone from the community reacted negatively to my seizures. Believe me this happened more than once. I am now used to having seizures in public and don’t really care what people think about me. However, I don’t seek such situations and I do wear a Medic Alert necklace whenever I leave my apartment. I have told my friends, colleagues, and others about my epilepsy.

Although I am actively and successfully managing my epilepsy, it impacts my freedom and continues to stress me out. For example, I can’t drive a car which frustrates me, especially in our fast-paced world. I have alleviated this stress by using public transportation as much as possible. With a little planning and a lot of waiting I get where I need to be and generally on time. I memorized the time schedules for the routes I use most often. I love to read and carry a book with me everywhere I go, so my extra time on public transit is not a waste, but a luxury. When I can’t use public transportation, I have an excellent driver to take me where I need to go. Another luxury, right?!

Despite – or perhaps because of – the constrictions of my disease, I live a full, happy, and (sometimes) adventurous life. I keep very busy with both my law practice and the charitable organizations that I volunteer and belong to. I refuse to let epilepsy trap me in
my Westside apartment. First, I accept that life comes at me, epilepsy and all and I look forward to that challenge. After all, life comes at everyone and we all have to deal with what lurks around the corner. Second, I actively manage what others may call a detriment. For me, my epilepsy is a fact of my existence and I’m going to deal with it by focusing on my health, happiness and surroundings. Although, I have epilepsy, it does not control me.

Of course, not everything has been rosy. Shortly after my ex-wife and I separated, I was out by myself drinking when I had a seizure and was arrested for slapping a police officer. I came out of the seizure handcuffed to a gurney in the emergency room with a black and blue face and a broken ankle. Talk about stress, and frustration. As my sister says, I was in a bad place. This I think was my low point. If things had turned out differently, I could have lost my law license and CPA certification. That event taught me that my emotional health impacts my epilepsy. That night, I was being reckless and not using my head which had a pretty immediate and direct effect on my physical well-being. Now I understand that I must stay on top of my emotional health to be able to work with my epilepsy. (And, yes, once I recovered, I apologized to the policeman!)

Importantly, through this rollercoaster ride, new challenges constantly arise yet I keep a positive attitude and somehow manage to overcome them.  One day, a cure will come.  Until then, I take life by the horns, pay close attention to my physical and mental health, pray a lot, keep busy, and rely on the incredible people in my support group.

This is Epilepsy Awareness Month.  I find that the more I accept and address my situation, the better my life becomes.  So, I encourage you to take time to assess your relationship with epilepsy and, then, grasp life and let people know who we are and what we are all about.  Now, I let the commuting drivers deal with frustration, fear, and stress!  Give me my book, epilepsy management skills, and acceptance and I will gladly sit back and happily cruise on to my next life challenge.

I have had more seizures in public than I can count…

Mike Wesel
Mike Wesel
Hello everyone!  If you had read either of my first two blogs you would know that I have had epilepsy most of my adult life. I was first diagnosed with Epilepsy in 1972, when I was eight years old. My seizures were controlled later that year and I was seizure free for thirteen years. They returned in 1985 when I was twenty-one and they were controlled again later that year. My seizures returned again in 1992. I was twenty-eight and have had break through seizures, with varied frequency and intensity, ever since.

As Andrea Segedi at the Epilepsy Association and I were brainstorming (pun intended) about what I should write about next, she suggested I should write about having seizures in public. I have had more seizures in public than I can count. In the past my seizures came out of nowhere were very explosive and lasted about twenty to forty seconds with a period of confusion afterwards. Thankfully, the frequency of these intense seizures has decreased.

I have had seizures just about anywhere you can imagine including during Church. I have always been very open about my epilepsy. When I meet someone, it is not long after I introduce myself that I tell let them know that I have epilepsy. I try to let people know what to do, when and if, I have a seizure. This helps take the stress out the situation.

My friends and colleagues all know that I have epilepsy and know what to do. They respect me and treat me like any other person in my profession. When I fly, I always let the flight attendants know that it is unlikely but that I may have a seizure and what they need to do. If I am by myself and have a seizure in public, when I come out of the seizure I immediately let everyone know what has happened. I also always wear a medic alert necklace.

Although most people react in a positive way and want to help, there are people out there who don’t understand or recognize what is happening. When I was in college, I would often swear and talk out of context during my seizures. I did this during a seizure when my friends and I were at the movie theatre. As we were leaving a woman said “That’s some way for an adult to act in the movie theater.” I have only had this happen a few times during the many seizures I have had in public. You just have to keep a positive attitude understand that some people just don’t get it.

I believe that the key to dealing with seizures in public is to let people know that you have epilepsy and what to do if you have a seizure. Also, understand that there are some people who just won’t get it. I suggest keeping a positive attitude and a good sense of humor. I have done a lot of crazy things in my life and during a lot of them, I never was aware of what was happening.

Diet and Epilepsy: How the Ketongenic Diet stopped seizures

By Karen Johnsonn MS,RD,LD and MOM

Johnsons at Purple Day PartyLucy with her parents Ben and Karen at the Epilepsy Association’s Purple Day Party

I am a Registered Dietitian with a master’s degree in maternal child nutrition and a culinary school diploma.  Currently I am self-employed as a personal chef who caters to clients with special dietary needs or who prefer to follow a low-fat healthy diet.  I have three children and I take much pride in providing them a healthy, fresh, appealing diet.  Never did I imagine I would be using my training and expertise to manage my daughter’s epilepsy.  Never could I have guessed that my normally developing two-year-old daughter, Lucy, would begin seizing uncontrollably and that I would be uniquely qualified to save her.  Here is Lucy’s story…

In the Fall of 2006, Lucy had her first seizure.  A situation that began with one grand mal seizure progressively worsened until finally culminating with the administration of the Ketogenic Diet.  Before the Diet saved Lucy’s health and development there were numerous ambulance rides, doctor’s appointments, medication changes, and many, many seizures.  Lucy was eventually diagnosed with a severe form of epilepsy and was experiencing a maximum of 70 myoclonic and atonic seizures daily.  Lucy was no longer a normally developing child.  After almost two years of seizing Lucy could no longer play, feed herself, or dress herself.  The seizures were so frequent they were beginning to affect the development of her gross motor skills, fine motor skills, and memory.  She could not be left unattended because she would fall with every seizure.  She began wearing a helmet to protect against head injury from the falls.  After numerous medication trials of various combinations of Adivan, Clobozam, Depakote, Dilantin, Klonopin, Lamictal, Trileptal, and Topomax the Ketogenic Diet was determined by me, my husband, and Lucy’s neurologist to be her final hope.

Lucy entered the hospital on May 26, 2008, at 3-years-8-months-old to begin the Ketogenic Diet.  The initial hospitalization is necessary to monitor that the child safely enters Ketosis, an elevated level of ketone bodies in the blood, a state caused when the body is forced to burn fat instead of carbohydrate.  Lucy did not tolerate ketosis well initially.  When her body entered ketosis, after two days of starvation, she presented with diarrhea and vomiting.  After three days her body adjusted and she was sent home on the very rigid Ketogenic Diet.  Lucy was still seizing.  The Ketogenic Diet is in no way a definite cure for epilepsy.  Many children do not tolerate the diet long-term.  These children fail to thrive and therefore cannot remain on the Diet.  The children who do respond to the diet are still at risk because many families find the Diet too difficult to tolerated and do not remain vigilant enough, long enough for the diet to stop the seizures and allow the child’s brain time to “rewire”.

No neurological professionals can explain for certain why the Diet is effective at stopping seizures.  They only know it works by keeping the child in Ketosis.  Therefore, the Diet is based on a very strict ratio by weight of fat to combined carbohydrate and protein that must be adhered to by measuring all foods to the nearest tenth of a gram.

After about a month on the Diet all of Lucy’s seizures stopped.  For the next four-and-a-half years every meal and snack Lucy ate would be a challenge for her and me:  getting Lucy to finish every meal; distracting Lucy when she did finish and wanted more (which was more often the case as time wore on); creating new and interesting meal options; and finding ways to make the heavy whipping cream (that was unavoidable to maintain the ratio) palatable without using sugar.  With the help of the Ketocalculator, a website designed to calculate fat to combined carbohydrate and protein ratios and calories for individual Ketogenic meals, I was able to create 152 different meal options for Lucy to enjoy. 

Meal preparation for the Ketogenic Diet is very time consuming, even more so if you are also preparing meals for family members not following the Diet.  Because all meal ingredients are measured to the nearest tenth of a gram, all food for the child following the Diet must be prepared separately from the meals of those not following the Diet.

Through hard work, perseverance, and determination the Ketogenic Diet gave Lucy her life back.  She began to learn how to read, write, add, subtract, run, and even swim.  I became a dietitian because I have always been a firm believer in the power of “diet”.   Lucy’s story reaffirmed my belief and converted many people who witnessed her miraculous recovery.  The Ketogenic Diet achieved what no pharmaceutical could:  it stopped the seizures which allowed Lucy to develop as a normal child again.

PS:  Purple Day is the International Epilepsy Awareness Day.  Click here for more information

“Nature is the best medicine” by Amy Mittinger


Amy Mittinger enjoying life at a Harlem Globtrotters game

From the editor of Insightsintoepilepsy:  Amy Mittinger has joined our blogging team and will be blogging about her life and epilepsy.  Amy is a recent OSU graduate, and we look forward to reading about her thoughts, feelings and experiences as she enters into her professional life.   In this Blog, Amy reminds us that we are in control of our medical conditions.  In sharing her experience she wishes to emphasize that she is not advocating any particular course of treatment.  Are you in control of your epilepsy treatment?  We invite you to share your experiences by leaving a comment to Amy’s blog.  For  more information about epilepsy visit our website:  www.epilepsyinfo.org

I was diagnosed with epilepsy during my sophomore year of high school in fall of 2005. Talk about a shock. I was an A student and healthy athlete who took care of my body via exercise, healthy eating, and abstaining from anything harmful or dangerous.

But my life changed that Labor Day weekend, when I felt “weird.” Weird is the best term to describe the temporary spurts of feeling physically astray from the world around me. These spurts turned out to be simple-partial seizures. They were classified as “simple partial” because they were just that: very faint, or simple, and only affecting part of my brain. (The left temporal lobe, to be exact.) They never caused me to lose consciousness, fall, or otherwise suffer from sickness or pain.

That’s the beginning of my story. The middle is a long narration of medications, medical trials, illness, and the continuation of seizures through it all. I was a patient at Cleveland Clinic four times total — the first three for a week of monitoring each time, and finally the fourth for surgery. After some consideration and debate, I went ahead with this procedure in summer 2008 after my high school graduation that spring.

The surgery was a left temporal-lobectomy, or the removal of my left temporal lobe — the part of my brain where seizures occurred most. And it was beneficial. It didn’t eliminate the seizures, but greatly reduced them to 1 or 2 per day, down from about 15 per day. So I wasn’t complaining. I was thankful as ever. But I remained curious of ways to reduce them further.

I remained on medications, and plenty of them, since the beginning. Probably 10 total, and up to four simultaneously. Medications were almost an entirely separate problem. I swallowed pills that caused nausea, fatigue, shaking, sensitivity to smells (which did, and still does, cause seizures in itself), and everything in between. I remained on two medications after my surgery. Luckily, they didn’t have side effects. But that’s where curiosity kicked in. Instead of increasing doses and/or taking additional medications, what if I did the opposite? What if I decreased medications to eliminate anything “epilepsy related” from my body?

I posed this question to my doctor, who — after knowing and trusting me for five years — gave me the okay be my own boss and go ahead. So I did. I said I would begin decreasing medications. I politely refused decreasing at the usual pace of once per week (too fast, if you ask me), and told him I would do this slowly in order to notice my body’s reactions. So the adventure began. Of my two medications, I began reducing the dose of just one at a time, at a rate of once per month.

It took a couple months to notice any effects (which was fine; it proved my theory to extend the process). But after the finale of this eight-month decrease, the effects were good! Great, actually. I noticed an increase in energy and a decrease in seizures. So I soon began decreasing my second medication. This took an additional eight months. And the positive effects continued.

The total decrease lasted a total of 16 months. And after it’s finale in May 2013, my seizures have nearly vanished. I’ve had one in the last three months. To top it off, I feel awesome. I’m energetic, alert, and most importantly, feeling seizure-free and healthy.

If you have epilepsy and are reading my story, the moral is not to order you to immediately stop taking any and all medications. The moral of this story is to oblige your own feelings.  If you’re convinced that your given medication is helping you, awesome. So be it. Continue helping yourself. But if you suspect the opposite, or just aren’t sure, do what I did. Talk with your doctor about your choices and desire to reduce the medication(s), either very slowly like me and/or at your own pace entirely, and to let nature take its course. It may have positive effects similar to my case. It may also have worsening effects. Just pay attention to these effects, and more importantly your own body, to determine your next course of action. If you think and act this way under any circumstances, epilepsy or not, I believe you will witness an increase in your health. Good luck!

Here’s What I Know (about Epilepsy)

Tabitha Johnson
Tabitha Johnson

From the blog editor: This week Tabitha Johnson has contributed her thoughts about living with epilepsy. We thank Tabitha for this reflective post about her experiences.

Here’s What I Know (about Epilepsy)

I was diagnosed with epilepsy when I was 15 1/2.

Since then, I’ve seen the ins and outs of emergency rooms for multiple reasons due to this thing. I’ve been down, but now I’m stronger than I have ever been because I know I can’t change this.

I know I have to look to God for my strength, and keep going no matter what may come. I pray every day for more research on this disorder and cluster of disorders. The brain is such a complex and intricate thing, but with research and study a cure is possible. I mean, look how far they have come with cancer research.

One thing I always tell people is “I hate the word epileptic because we’re not epileptic.” We are people with a disorder that affects certain parts of our lives. Some people with epilepsy can drive – some can’t. Some can run and jump, skip and hop, and play; others are too medicated to do so. We are people … we’re just like anyone else. Calling someone epileptic is like calling someone Band-Aided because they fell and scraped their knee. When you define a person by something, they might feel they have to live like that. We’re just people with a little bit of a problem that won’t go away.

I know you can’t live in fear of epilepsy. You can’t live in what ifs, whys and possibilities. It’s boring and not fun. I live my life because quite frankly we’re not promised tomorrow or even the next ten minutes. I’ve had a seizure where I’ve stopped breathing. Now I know that life is temporary … that every breath I take counts. So I know to make my life count.

I know to live within the means of my doctors’ orders, but I don’t stay stagnant. I live it up, I have fun and I’m happy. At first, after I’d have seizures in public, I wouldn’t go out for a while, or talk to my friends. I would really beat myself up about the seizures. Sometimes when bigger seizures happen, which thankfully are not that frequent, I still beat myself up. But I’m not as hard on myself as I used to be. After a bigger seizure, I sleep for a while, then I try to bounce right back. I get back to work, go back to church and get back involved. As I’ve said, we’re not promised tomorrow or the next 10 minutes.

The past two years have been one heck of a journey because my body started rejecting different medications. I can’t even tell you how many doctors I have seen. I’ve lost two jobs. I lost my license, my apartment and my car. I’ve bounced around place to place due to losing everything and being sick. But one thing I can say – I know I’m stronger now than I’ve ever been. I know that I am the person I am today because of the hell I’ve faced during the past two years. So, yes, I count it all as a blessing. Do I know what’s to come? No. But I know I’ll live, I’ll smile and I’ll count every breath as a gift.

I know that I am incredibly blessed with the people in my life … my sister … my church … the Epilepsy Association. I’ve always had someone by my side calling me or texting me.

Finally, I know that we have to talk about epilepsy. We have to post about it. We have to make people more aware about epilepsy. I know people need to ask questions about epilepsy, so many questions, in fact, that it blows up Google. Will you help me talk about epilepsy?

Children are important too!

7-1 Lacey_son Ryan
Lacey and son Ryan

“A person’s a person, no matter how small.”
-Dr. Seuss

Epilepsy affects more than just adults – kids of all ages are diagnosed every day with epilepsy. Here in Northeast Ohio we are fortunate to have world class epilepsy centers to diagnose and treat children’s seizure disorders. However, even with these wonderful resources, the Epilepsy Association has noticed a gap in services available to meet the needs of families managing epilepsy.

Typically, 50% of the agency’s Information & Referral calls are from parents of children with epilepsy looking for the answer to the question “What do I do now?” Many of the parents who call are struggling with how to help their children manage the effects of epilepsy with each stage of development. Some of the issues parents tell us about concern the isolation their child is experiencing, meeting their child’s educational needs, or having a desire to meet with and network with other parents. In order to help families find the answers for these and other challenges, the Epilepsy Association has launched a new social service called
Kids and Family Program. For more information visit our webpage at http://www.epilepsyinfo.org/html/support.htm

The new Kids and Family Program provides services which help families find answers to their questions by identifying resources, and empowering the family to tackle the challenges epilepsy presents. The program is flexible, and family centered. We recognize that siblings and parents have their own hurdles when dealing with epilepsy. Family Centered means that the entire family has needs that must be met too.

There is no charge for these services. The service provides one-to-one consultation provided in a private and confidential setting by an Epilepsy Association social worker. The social worker will either come to your home or meet with you at the Epilepsy Association office. During the consultation, the social worker will help you understand the family’s needs as it relates to living with epilepsy, and identify community-based resources.

We are excited about offering a service that helps children with epilepsy, and their families. If you or someone you know might benefit from this new service, please call us at 216-579-1330 or e-mail lwood@epilepsyinfo.org. Please help us spread the word that help is only a phone call away!

Lacey Wood
Director of Community Programs