Everyone has a different story about someone who changed their lives for the better or worse. I am no different. Honestly, I’m not supposed to be here today. My life expectancy was 25 years and now at 33 all I can do is reflect on the past on how my life could have ended.
It was a snowy day back in January, 1993. School was cancelled, and my older brother David Baxter was driving me home from middle school. The roads were slick with ice and I simply remember we were afraid. As I sat in the passenger seat of his emerald green 1988 Monte Carlo, I thought how wonderful it would be to finally arrive home, but I never made it home that day.
A mere 3 blocks from our home a nameless woman was carelessly speeding. And as she approached the ice covered bridge she inevitably lost control of her vehicle ramming into us multiple times. Our car began to spin, turning right then left sliding in multiple directions as we collided with multiple cars. I simply recall the endless spinning, wondering how long this could possibly last. The rest is only bits and pieces of my fragmented memory. I remember at one point my passenger side door flying open. The look of death in my brother’s eyes. The jerking motion as we spun out of control. My head hitting the dashboard as her vehicle hit us again and again and finally waking up with the missing glass and my head bleeding on a light pole.
My brother escaped the crash without a single scratch and I was grateful for that but I had a new problem. My brain swelled and I was diagnosed with partial brain damage, post traumatic stress syndrome, and two different types of epilepsy. My mother was told I would be dead by 25, or a brain dead vegetable.
Over the next few years I was in and out of multiple hospitals, one year in a wheelchair another trying for four hours to read one paragraph. I had to learn to write, read and walk all over again and at times those basic things were unable for me to do. My teenage years are not even a memory. They are just years gone. From 1993 to 1998 I tried over 40 different medications to stop my seizures with all of them causing multiple and life altering side effects. Although the number of seizures per day was killing me my mother and team of doctors never gave up hope.
The details and pain I endured through my teenage years can not be put into mere words and I apologize for not being able to do so, but also I don’t remember most of them. All I know is that now at 33 years old I am labeled disabled, but I am here. Today I have grand mal seizures, petite grand mal seizures, anxiety, and depression. I can not work a full time job and every day is a struggle, but again I’m here.
Although enduring all this I have to come learn a few greater truths about life in general. One is that all beings are subject to suffering. No one escapes; suffering is universal. But also we can overcome suffering. You must have faith and a source of strength. No matter what it is.
My personal strength came from St. Jude hospital and LaBonheur Hospital located in Memphis, Tennessee. Even to this day when I return home for a checkup every three months, I am blessed to have a team of on call neurologists that believe and encourage me. Everything from Chinese herbs, yoga to hanging upside down. We’ve tried it all, but we continue to fight together.
Honestly, most people living with epilepsy are not able to work and the various drugs taken to control the seizures cause such detrimental effects from blurred vision, inability to operate a vehicle or any machinery, dizziness, and fatigue that many people are unable to live a normal life. Life will never be perfect or a fairytale for me or anyone. And I can deal with that. I am just grateful and happy to be here.
Dr. J.T. Jabbour and Dr. Shiva Shankar Natarajan helped me find my hope and strength. And although this is a battle I will fight for the rest of my life, I’m willing to fight it, and I will never be alone.
So, thank you to St Jude, LaBonheur and Memphis Neurology. Life is what you make it people, and I choose to FIGHT and be HAPPY. Namaste…..
To learn more about Epilepsy CLICK HERE
(And yes, Dr. Natarajen I know I’m overdue for my next appointment.)
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