Shifting perspectives on Epilepsy

By Trevor Park October 2011

I have been dealing with my epilepsy ever since I was 13. I started getting grand mal seizures lasting anywhere from 30 seconds to a few minutes. I would black out, and the seizures would leave me confused, sore and usually lying on the ground.

Having seizures changed my outlook on life. I realized: stepping into the pool, bath or spa was now a potentially deadly activity. I wouldn’t be able to skydive, ocean dive or rock climb. And say goodbye to driving, that great leap from adolescence to adulthood. The only thing worse than being the only kid in high school who can’t drive is having gotten your license and then having it taken away.

You have to be seizure-free for one year to drive. I made it a year—but not much longer. When my parents were away, I took their car and was driving to a friend’s house when I had a grand mal seizure, lost consciousness and smashed into a lamp post at 80 kilometers an hour. Like that, my driving days were over.

I wanted to know: how can I fix this problem? How can I lead a normal life? The neurologists I saw said the [...] continue the story

Epilepsy: Replacing fear with calm

By Megan Kennedy October 2011

When I was seven years old, I began having seizures and was diagnosed with a large arteriovenous malformation (AVM), an abnormal connection between the arteries in the brain. Mine were usually complex partial seizures, impairing my awareness, although I also had one to three grand mals a year, which knocked me out.

I had brain surgery in 1990 to remove the AVM. During the surgery I hemorrhaged and lost 17 units of blood. My neurosurgeon induced a coma. When I came out of the coma, I was paralyzed on the right side, had difficulty speaking, and my vision was impaired. I was in rehabilitation for four months, though my actual recovery took more than a decade.

Tests showed that the malformation in my brain was gone. But I still had seizures, an average of three to five a week, depending on stress level, fatigue and other factors.

I tried virtually every anticonvulsant (12 at last count), including Dilantin, Tegretol, Lamictal, Vigabatrin, Topamax, Klonopin, Zonegran and Lyrica. In conjunction with the medications, I tried the Ketogenic diet, neurofeedback, Chinese herbs, acupuncture, transcendental meditation and other approaches. Nothing worked.

I felt anxious and afraid. Socially I felt isolated.

Then, in 2003—when I was 26 [...] continue the story