“And when they came to the crowd, a man came up to him and, kneeling before him, said, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly. For often he falls into the fire, and often into the water. And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him.” And Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me.” And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was healed instantly.” Mathew 17: 14-20
It was Good Friday in 1993 when my mother found me in status Epilepticus- I was taken to the hospital by ambulance, they used life flight transport to get me to another hospital at which point I was put into a medically induced coma for several days. I had never had an episode like this, i’d never even been severely ill. There was no explanation for what had occurred and it left my family as well as my doctors baffled. I was only 9 years old when I received my diagnosis as an Epileptic and though I did not understand what the diagnosis meant I learned quickly that my life had changed forever.
In biblical times believers brought on the notion that seizures were caused by demon possession therefore the treatment of choice was exorcism. This is not the case today and I thank science for that. Though medication is the first choice, it is not the only one. Personally, I take two different anti-convulsants (Keppra and Lamictal) but in addition to that I have a VNS implant (Vagal Nerve Stimulation)… which has saved my life. In 2006 the frequency of my grand-mal seizures became debilitating so surgical options were brought to the table and tests were preformed to see what would be best for my situation. In December of that year I spent a week in the hospital having a video EEG- I was monitored 24/7, head covered in electrodes and weaned from my medication… just waiting to have a seizure. Amazingly during this week I did not have a single Grand-mal seizure, only petit-mal which did not provide adequate detail to the precise location of my seizures and therefore it was determined that VNS was the best surgical option for me. I am actually thankful that I wasn’t an ideal candidate for the other types, having someone cut into my brain and (gulp) possibly remove part of it was not something I had the guts to even consider.
So I opted for technology. The VNS implant became a permanent part of me on January 29, 2007. At first just the idea of it was overwhelming. I couldn’t imagine how a device the size of a cookie was going to stop my seizures, but as is often the case the more I read, the more intrigued I became. This was going to give me something I’d never had- control over my seizures. With the swipe of a magnet I would be able to send an electronic pulse up my Vagal nerve which would block ongoing seizure activity. With the help of my doctor I scheduled the next available appointment.
It was a quick outpatient procedure , required one incision and had only a few days of recovery time. The real magic came about two weeks later when the device was turned on for the first time. By using a wand connected to a computer they programmed my dosage and handed me a magnet. This magnet is now an everyday accessory for me as it is the only way to activate my stimulator if I fall ill. Typically Rich will have one as well, just in case I cannot get to mine in time. I will never forget the first time I felt the vibrating pulse up my neck… I just knew that my life as Epileptic was changing. And even though the combination of this device and my medication have not stopped my seizures completely I am now able to ensure a less intense seizure, faster recovery time and better quality of life. For this I am eternally grateful to science.
If I was superstitious or held belief in a higher power my journey with Epilepsy would be much different. It is easy to see how a believer might suggest some type of religious healing when it was on Good Friday that the demon first took control of my body. Thankfully I never saw it this way. I never viewed my condition as a punishment and my parents were right on board with finding a medical explanation, not the spiritual one. I still do not know what caused my first seizure and most likely I never will… what I do know is that there are scientific advancements at my finger tips to help ensure I never have another one.