Working as a pediatric therapist with brain-injured children is sometimes agonizing, but, at other times, gratifying. Many of my students suffer from seizure disorders and from the side effects of anticonvulsant medications. As a professional, I feel most useful when I can offer support and encouragement by means of hugs and education to exhausted parents and their exceptional children. The endless visits to neurologists and therapists have caused these families to lose a great deal of time and various aspects of normal development.

One particular moment will always burn in my memory. Before class, I listened to a distraught teacher lament over her son’s decision to change his college major from premed to liberal arts. Several hours later, one of my students, Jimmy went into a blank stare, and then a major convulsion. For what seemed like an eternity, he thrashed around and made strange noises. When the seizure was over, Jimmy was gasping for air and briefly became unconscious.

Some very intense emotions occur after a seizure, even for caregivers. Once more, I had to face a duty that I dreaded-calling Jimmy’s mom. I heard her sigh over the phone with sad resignation. I remembered our last conversation, when she talked about the financial toll of taking off time from work, the emotional roller coaster of having a sick child, and the feelings of helplessness she had.

Jimmy’s mom soon arrived to take her sleeping child home to recover. She wrapped him in a blanket with heartbreaking tenderness and fatigue. The years of living with his seizures were etched on her face.

As I hugged her good-bye, I wondered what was so bad about liberal arts.

Epilepsy in Our Experience: Accounts of Health Care Professionals by Steven C. Schachter, MD, Oxford University Press, 2007, Amazon