Epilepsy Treatment Gives Ontario Woman A New Lease On Life
Prevention and Treatment Young Ontario woman finds purpose in coping with epilepsy
It’s been four years since Katelyn Lewis had the unsettling dream, but she can still recall it in vivid detail. Katelyn dreamt that her boyfriend asked her to marry him. When she said yes, he dipped her low and told her she would never regret it. The dream was bittersweet.
Cody had suffered a seizure while sleeping a few weeks before and suffocated in his pillow. Katelyn, her father, and two of the young man’s friends found him face down in his bed.
“His friends told me Cody had been planning to ask me an important question,” she says. “I found out he was about to ask me to marry him. If he had lived, we would have been engaged two days later.”
The couple had been dating for three months, united by common interests and a common experience. They were both among the 300,000 Canadians who suffer from epilepsy and they faced unique challenges because of it. “At certain points in our lives, we had both been told that we would never lead full, well-rounded lives,” she says.
About 16,000 Canadians diagnosed each year
Epilepsy can begin at any age. Katelyn was barely a year old when she had her first seizure. Her situation worsened and, in time, she was suffering dozens of tonic clonic (grand mal) seizures daily. Seizures are brief episodes caused by a temporary disruption of regular brain activity and typically last from seconds to a few minutes. She was one of the unfortunate few for whom medication didn’t work.
“Epilepsy had a lot to do with my career choice. I’ve spent a lot of time in hospital and I’ve been treated by many wonderful nurses. It’s their care and compassion that made me decide to make a difference in people’s lives.”
When she was 15 she suffered status epilepticus — a condition in which a seizure lasts too long or when seizures occur so close together the person doesn’t regain consciousness between them — and spent some time in a coma. Her prospects had never looked more bleak.
But, a year later, in 2009 surgeons removed the right temporal lobe of her brain, where her seizures originated, and her life changed. She is now seizure-free and is a student at Confederation College, near her home in Thunder Bay, Ontario, where she is studying to become a personal support worker.
The surgery diminished her memory to an extent but she has found a way to cope. “Watching and listening isn’t enough for me to retain the information,” she explains, “so when it comes time to prepare for exams, I read aloud or use flashcards.”
Katelyn, 22, takes anti-seizure medication as a precaution. Medication is the first line of treatment and about two-thirds of people become seizure free with it.
Epilepsy Inspiring career change
Katelyn, who is also taking nursing classes, plans to devote her life to helping others, including some of the 16,000 Canadians who are diagnosed with epilepsy each year. She attributes that decision to the disease that almost took her life.
“Epilepsy had a lot to do with my career choice,” she says. “I’ve spent a lot of time in hospital and I’ve been treated by many wonderful nurses. It’s their care and compassion that made me decide to make a difference in people’s lives.”
Katelyn will never forget the young man with whom she shared a unique bond. “To meet Cody and have his love and support was wonderful,” she says. “I don’t believe in coincidences. He came into my life for a reason.”