Dear Friends and Family,
Since I was a youngster, I have always wondered about my challenges with learning. When the rest of the family was doing so well, even my younger sister, I just got by. Thanks to Mom, I slowly learned; she was a godsend. Mom recognized my struggles and got me help. Without a teaching degree, she had keen recognition and provided the supports in the areas where I struggled the most. Our daily trips to Children’s Guild helped me with reading, losing patience, math and writing. Mom was there with me every step of the way, and her belief in me made all the difference.
When I got older, and soon after Mom died, the seizures started. Those brain episodes changed my life forever. With endurance I graduated from community college with a degree in law enforcement. At the time I was looking forward to having a great career ahead of me! I landed a job as a police officer in Ocean City, Maryland, during the summer months. Due to transparency rules, officers must let all police departments know that I was dealing with medical challenges. The diagnosis of epilepsy put an exclamation mark on the fact that no department was interested in taking a risk on me!
I pivoted to a career in retail loss prevention. It took the same skill set in criminal justice, putting my college skills to the job. So many retail outlets lose merchandise out the back door, the front door and the cash register, the field has many former police officers and security guards. It was a new challenge for me to go after the bad guys and employees who were stealing. I was making progress in the field, as I spotted weaknesses in how customers and employees were monitored and rewarded. Then my epilepsy took a turn for the worse. My episodes escalated and my neurologist told me to stop working. That forced retirement hurt me most of all. Who was I when I stopped working?
Surrender? Soldier on?
As a private citizen and neighbor, I sometimes had seizures at our local park. Those are not only traumatic episodes for the victim, but also for the neighborhood families. They are not familiar with epilepsy. Kids would stare and wonder, what is wrong with that guy? Even friends, who know I have epilepsy, freak out when they actually see me have a seizure. One former friend actually ran away. He told Steph and me that the seizure scared him to death.
Steph helped me soldier on. After one hard array of seizures, she took me to our family doctor’s office. We found out that a substitute doctor was there for the day. I had a grand mal seizure in the waiting room. The substitute doctor jogged out to the waiting room and ordered “smelling salts.” He had never seen a seizure before and he lost his cool. He demanded that the admission nurses call an ambulance to take me to a full service facility. I am so glad that Steph was there, as I could not communicate. She explained to the doctor that I was having a seizure. Nevertheless, the ambulance was called and it came to take me to the hospital. Steph explained to the paramedics what was happening to me, but they only listened to the doctor’s orders, and they still took me to hospital. I stayed there for a couple of hours. Then the emergency room docs released me. Except for my diagnosis with epilepsy, there was nothing else wrong with me. Steph followed in her car and drove me home, as I thought about the public and medical system ignorance about epilepsy.
Throughout the years I have been able to deal with this condition and I have studied it! My various internists and neurologists are remarkable, and the truest blessing has been having Steph as my caregiver. She has supported me in my research and my brutal episodes. She has walked with me, driven me places, and cooked for us. My seizures are so unpredictable, I have needed a steady hand by my side. Step has been that person. Steph has had her share of challenges with work and family as well. I am so happy that we have been there for each other!
Even though I am not working, my time at home has given me a new job. Our home is our most valuable asset, so every day I make sure that I do different things to support us: taking care of my health and monitoring my episodes; caring for our grandchildren and neighbors; caring for our pets; washing dishes and pots and pans; caring for the yard. Steph praises me for every small thing that I do for the family. She is there for me. And with her work ethic and love for me, she is an inspiration.