My life changed dramatically five years ago. I woke up in the middle of the night to a room filled with emergency medical personnel. My husband lovingly told me that I had a seizure and we were going to the hospital.
After being admitted, doctors determined I had experienced a grand mal seizure, or what is medically known as a tonic-clonic seizure. Over the next few months, I had some recurring impaired awareness seizures, and I was diagnosed with epilepsy.
I was the mom of a six-month old baby and worked full time in a career that I loved. Now because of the seizures, I couldn’t drive. I needed to step away from my job so the medical personnel could determine the best course of action for me.
I felt alone and wondered how I would navigate all this. The fear of having another seizure was always on my mind. It turns out this is a very common concern for those with epilepsy. Sometimes you’re reluctant to do certain things because of that fear. For example, kids who have epilepsy may not want to go to their church’s youth group because of all the flashing lights that are sometimes used.
But that was not all that was happening. A few months later, my husband experienced some headaches and underwent a sinus surgery right before an anniversary trip we had planned. We went on the trip but he started to feel bad and had some numbness in his arms and then his face. We flew back immediately. After two ER visits, he was placed in the ICU and doctors determined he had an infection on his brain. It seems his sinus infection had leaked into his skull and caused swelling in his brain. This infection nearly took his life.
Talk about a tsunami of issues: I’m having seizures, my husband is in ICU with a brain infection, I’m unemployed and we have a six-month old baby at home. We were two very healthy people who had both faced life-threatening situations. We had to rely on our faith in Jesus to get us through.
We were also determined to turn our pain into purpose. We are not promised an easy life as a Christian. I feel we are here to glorify the Lord for however many days He grants us here on earth, and to point others to Him. He is the one that provides peace despite what we may be going through. So we wanted to use our experiences to point others to Jesus.
And here is where God provided a way that neither of us saw coming.
Several months later, God put me in a place where I happened to meet someone on the board for the Epilepsy Foundation of Alabama. It turned out the Foundation was looking for a new executive director for the state of Alabama. I was encouraged to apply, and I got the job! And now, several years later, I’ve become the eastern regional director, overseeing the directors of all the eastern United States.
There are so many misconceptions about epilepsy and I enjoy helping educate the public and those that deal with seizures. Seizures occur when electrical activity in the brain is misfiring, and epilepsy, or recurring seizures, is the fourth most common neurological disorder, touching people of all ages. People don’t realize the significant number of people that are affected by seizures and epilepsy: 1 in 10 people will have a seizure at some point in their life, and 1 in 26 have epilepsy.
I look at my personal journey with epilepsy as a big mission field for me. I tell anyone touched by epilepsy that they are not alone and to not give up hope.
I once saw my epilepsy as a tragedy. But God turned it into an opportunity for me to walk with others and encourage them through their own journey of epilepsy. I trust in the Lord as He is the One that provides peace, no matter our circumstances.
Sometimes it’s hard to understand why we go through certain trials and tribulations. But Jesus told us that our life as a Christian will not be easy. When you look back on your life, you can see how God wants you to use these challenges to help others in a way that will glorify Him. I can certainly see how the Lord did this with me.