tough on epilepsy

Written by Kaitlin Hardy

The most important thing to me in the world is being tough. I was never the best gymnast, and never the best student but I’ve always been able to do a good job of faking it by gritting my teeth, burning the midnight oil and powering through. I had just struggled to regain my place on Cornell’s gymnastics team after a fall that resulted in seven fractured vertebrae when the tonic-clonic seizures began, assumedly from the concussion I suffered in the accident. After several ambulance rides, medication changes, and extended hospital stays I was left with no choice but to take a medical leave of absence from campus.

Because of the seizures I found myself stuck at home without school and gymnastics and in need of a babysitter at nineteen. My entire identity depended on being a successful student athlete, but instead, I was alone and teetering on feelings of depression.

Eventually, I began pulling myself out of the hole. I slowly started to work out again. That small step towards regaining my identity as an athlete was just what I needed to get my life back in order. By the end of December I had nearly caught up with school work and was almost back into gymnastics shape. I made up my mind to return to school three weeks early, in the beginning of January and, with the rest of my team, start practicing again, and take all of my final exams before the next semester started. Having these goals in mind was the final push that I needed to stop letting epilepsy win.

Before I left school one of the doctors had mentioned something about a hockey player also having epilepsy. One evening I tracked down his name and contact information and sent him an email. Together, we worked to set up FACES: Facts, Advocacy, and Control of Epileptic Seizures. We set up fundraisers for the Epilepsy Foundation, and formed a support group for other students going through similar struggles. Epilepsy is a lot more common than most people think, affecting about 1 in 100 people. As fate would have it, I learned that one of my professors that semester has a son with epilepsy. She eagerly signed on to be our faculty advisor, and through a lot of hard work FACES is finally starting to take off.

I still have good days and bad days, and I struggle with both school and gymnastics on a daily basis, but I finally feel like myself again. Watching FACES grow and flourish and getting the chance to make things just a little bit easier for other families going through the same thing that I did has helped me heal. I also feel like a changed person now that I’m out on the other end of the tunnel. I have a whole new perspective on what being strong and resilient is all about.

Please share.
Give to cure epilepsy: http://www.calvinscure.com
Visit FACES: http://www.facesepilepsy.org

Kaitlin Hardy in true form with teammate Ashley Maher

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