This is part of a month-long series that my teen daughter and I are writing about her life and learning to live with epilepsy. To start at the beginning, click here.
Beth's been living with epilepsy since she was five but there's still a lot of people around us who don't really know what that means. And I've noticed that when people hear that I have a child with epilepsy and haven't met her, some of them worry that she's wheelchair bound, cognitively impaired, or will never be able to hold a job. And they couldn't be farther from the truth! She is just like every other teenage girl you meet. She just has occasional seizures.
So what is epilepsy? And, also, what isn't it?.
The definition of epilepsy is pretty simple. It just means that you have a seizure disorder. If you have more than one seizure that's not caused by some other medical condition, such as extremely low blood sugar or a very high fever, you have epilepsy.
And that's it. It's that simple. We'll talk about what causes it and different kinds of seizures in another post, but basically, it's just used to describe someone who is prone to seizures.
What epilepsy isn't, though, is a lot of things. Outside of extreme versions of the disorder, it doesn't make you wheelchair bound, behave unpredictably, or cause cognitive disabilities. For most people it doesn't cause any other medical conditions, although for some with a severe diagnosis, it can. 1 in 26 people will develop it in their lifetimes so I'm willing to bet that you might know someone with it. You just may not know it because it's controlled by medications.
One of the coolest things ever to happen to us was finding out that one of Beth's teachers had epilepsy. It was a couple of years ago and he was a new teacher to the school. At orientation, we introduced ourselves and started into a lengthy explanation of epilepsy and he immediately interrupted us, stuck out his hand to shake hers and said, "Hey! Cool! I have it, too!" I still feel chills when I remember the look on her face and years later, we still go out of our way to see him. We've told him many times, but I hope he knows how very awesome that was for her and how much she loved that entire year in his classroom.
Beth's neurologist describes her medically as "an otherwise normal, healthy teenager." And I can attest to that - she is the queen of rolling her eyes at me or protesting with extreme irritation, "Mommmmmmmm. Stop embarrassing me." But you know what? We don't treat her any differently than the other kids. So if we're going to embarrass one, we're going to embarrass all.
We'll be back tomorrow with more. And, although I think it's pretty obvious, the lawyer in me can't help but point out that I am not a doctor. I don't even play one on TV. I'm just a mom who tries to make sure she's taking care of her kids so I research the heck out of everything and bug all of my doctor friends with questions. :)
*If you'd like to read all of our 31 Days posts about living with epilepsy, click on the button on the sidebar or start here. And if you're wondering what the heck is going on and who Beth is, click here. :)