I was diagnosed with epilepsy as an adult. My wife and I were driving home from Las Vegas, and apparently, I had experienced a seizure while in the passenger seat. My wife told me I was yelling and shaking, which scared her, so she stopped on the side of the road to call 911.
While she waited for the ambulance to arrive, other cars stopped to help. One was a nurse, another an off-duty firefighter. Both told her that I was experiencing a seizure. When the paramedics finally arrived, they loaded me into the ambulance, where I had another seizure on the way to the hospital. After a series of tests and another seizure in the ER, the doctors diagnosed me with epilepsy.
Epilepsy wasn’t new to me. A year before, my daughter was diagnosed at the age of 2. When Emma began spacing out, my wife and I knew it was not the typical daydreaming. We felt something wasn’t right. We took Emma to a neurologist who diagnosed her with absence seizures. Emma would experience brief lapses of awareness unexpectedly many times a day. At that time, we didn’t know much about epilepsy, other than it had something to do with seizures. We thought a seizure meant someone fell to the ground shaking, but Emma’s seizures were nothing like that. Emma’s seizures often go unnoticed, and a lot of people don’t know she has them. But my seizures are the convulsive type, which creates additional challenges.
I get frustrated when I can’t remember something, especially when I must constantly tell my co-workers, "I don’t remember" and "Sorry I forgot." While I have been fortunate enough to work for managers who know about my condition and understand my situation, the industry I work in typically requires some driving for management positions. After 10 years with my then company, I felt I had hit a wall with advancement because of my seizures.
Although I now have fewer seizures, I feel there is something to learn from each one. I have learned to be more vocal about epilepsy and share our story whenever I get the opportunity to do so with the goal of creating awareness and removing the stigma surrounding epilepsy.
I sit on the Board of the Epilepsy Foundation Texas, and in this role, I have been able to create awareness and do what I can to remove the stigma surrounding epilepsy.