A junior living with epilepsy.
Katie Stewart, refuses to be limited in and out of school.
March 30, 2017
Filed under Features
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As past demons haunt her present, a junior here at BHS struggles with recurring epilepsy with no explanation why.
Katie Stewart is a seventeen-year-old active athlete. She participates in softball and goes to workouts two days a week, but on October 18th 2016, Stewart experienced a grand mal seizure while working out leaving her barely conscious and unable to control her own body. While the seizure only lasted for about three minutes, Stewart’s mind was practically paralyzed– not remembering where she was, how she got there or even who anyone was.
“It’s like in the movies when you wake up and everything is fuzzy,” said Stewart. “I remember being carried out on the stretcher and being taken to the hospital.”
At the age of four, Stewart was diagnosed with epilepsy but only experienced absence seizures. This type of seizure generally develops in younger children and causes them to remain in an unresponsive state for a short period of time.
“When I had epilepsy as a child, I would stare off into space for a minute or two,” said Stewart. “But with these biggers one’s, it’s much more worse and has a bigger impact on my life.”
However, seizure free for four years, her doctors believed she ‘d grown out of it.
Fast forward to present time, Stewart has had six seizures in a five month span, including two grand mal, which is a state of convulsive movement and often memory loss. She also had four myoclonic seizures, which is a more tamed and involuntary twitching of the body. Unlike grand mal, Stewart is somewhat able to detect when a myoclonic seizure is about to happen.
“With the myoclonic ones I had a couple weeks ago, I would get this really intense feeling of deja vu and feel very panicky,” said Stewart. “I didn’t know if it was me making a big deal or it was actually happening.”
Stewart is currently driving again and has gone three months without a seizure. She fears for others being in the car with her because she knows the risks. Allowing their daughter to be on the road again has been one of the hardest things her parents Cheryl and Scott, have ever had to do.
“If Scott had his way, she’d never drive again,” her mom said.
Stewart refused to let the seizures be a setback for her. She re-entered the Sports Performance Center where she felt vulnerable once before and continued her daily activities hesitantly but eventually confidently.
“When I first started working out, I was scared to death because that’s the place where I had had my first seizure,” said Stewart “Now it’s all in the past, and I am ready to start making better memories on the turf again.”
As someone who has overcome adversity, Stewart urges others who also may be struggling with epilepsy to not put their lives on hold.
“Just take your time getting back into things,” said Stewart. “It’s very scary at first, but once your medication is regulated, you just figure out how to live life again.”
As a parent, Stewart’s mom believes the medication system is the most important part when dealing with an epileptic child. Strict alarms are set for Stewart to take her medication every night .
Developing a strong support system is essential in the event a seizure were to happen at school. One of her close friends Lauren Mccallum, voluntarily drove Stewart to school in the morning and also advises students who may know someone struggling with epilepsy.
“Just know how to handle the seizure,” said Mccallum. “Don’t freak out because that will just make the person seizing a lot more scared.”
Stewart’s parents are learning to be more comfortable with their daughter becoming independent again. Not everything can be prevented in her life and a trusting relationship is crucial.
“I can’t have concerns for the rest of my life, “ said her dad. “It’s probably going to happen again, with some people it’s years.”
Life is about overcoming obstacles. Stewart’s priorities are on being active and happy. Living in the dark waiting for another seizure to happen is the last thing on her mind.