Seizure Alert Dog (Photo credit: certified su)By Barry R Knights
My story begins at age 8 after my little brother had been given a wooden billy cart for his birthday. Being the more extroverted one, I was keen to try out the new "vehicle" and see how it performed.
At the end of our street, the intersecting road rolled down off the hill in a slightly more than gentle slope, culminating in a sweeping right turn at the bottom - excellent for testing my brother's new billy cart. Of course, he was too young to ride such a sophisticated piece of machinery, so I rode while he ran behind!
The theory of the ride was great: take the cart to the top of the hill, cascade down the footpath (sidewalk) to the bottom and hang a screeching right turn just before we catapulted across the intersecting street.
It was on one of these runs that things went horribly wrong. A small, unpaved laneway crossed the street on which we were playing. We set off down the hill in the usual way when I noticed a car travelling down the road in the same direction.
He made a left-hand turn into the laneway, so I focused my attention on the end of the course. Unfortunately, the drunken driver then reversed across the road into the laneway which I was crossing!
The aftermath of the accident saw me spending twelve months in hospital and rehab, which severely impacted on a critical learning period of my life. Fortunately, I had no permanent external injuries, but was left with a learning "lag" that took me my entire school life to make up. I was also left with a lingering condition that drifted me into periodic "absences" of consciousness.
In the early years, I don't remember being particularly aware that my condition was a problem, except for the fact that I periodically ended up in the women's toilet, but couldn't remember how I got there, or why!
My condition was annoying, but not debilitating, until I reached my 15th birthday. Something, (maybe male hormones) triggered a sudden increase both in severity and number of what had by this time, become seizures.
I had always struggled with school, but Year 10 was a total disaster, since I spent more time being dragged out from under the toilet door after smashing myself to bits on the toilet bowl, than I did in the classroom! The result of this "year of disaster" was that I left school before my 16th birthday.
The years that followed, saw me in and out of multiple jobs as I had seizures and systematically destroyed the display shelves of the businesses I worked for, and tarnished their reputations by repeatedly being discovered in the ladies toilets!
By the time I had reached the age of 20, I had lost my driver's licence, my job, and many of my friends. By this time, however, I had also come firmly to the conclusion that I had two choices in life; I could either curl up in the corner and cry "poor me" and hope to die, or I could take this "monster" head-on and determine to beat it.
I'm not afraid of many things in life, and I'm certainly not afraid of failure; the thing that scares me most, is being accused of not trying! With that in mind, I determined that I would take control of the situation (at least to the extent to which it was controllable) and beat this "thing".
The day that I announced that I was planning a round-the-world research tour to study education of Deaf children, my family decided that I had gone completely mad! My father was horrified, a sentiment which was not helped by the fact that on the day I collected my passport and tickets, I had a seizure on the way home and casually handed all my documents to a perfect stranger in the street!
I now have the unenviable record of having had an Epileptic seizure in almost every country on the globe! But, I did it! Despite all the limitations, I conquered the "beast" and spent 9 months travelling through America, Europe, Russia and Asia and completed the most comprehensive report on education of Deaf children internationally, that had ever been undertaken.
Following my tour, the succeeding years saw my condition deteriorate rapidly until the point where I was having 20 seizures a day and was completely dependent on others for my safety. I was unable to go out alone for fear that I might fall off a railway station or lie down in the middle of a busy street. I became a danger to myself, frequently falling down stairs or catching busses to places, having no idea where I was.
I met a woman and fell in love (as one tends to do); it was a rude awakening for her though, since on my first visit to her house, (on a cold, rainy night) I had a seizure and wandered outside. She found me trying to climb in through the toilet window - looking for the ladies toilet again, of course! Guess I should have told her!
We decided to get married and she began to discover what I was really like. On the day before our wedding, I had an appointment with my neurologist. It was a rainy day - again - and after I left the appointment, I ventured into town (alone) to buy a gift of perfume for her to wear the next day.
The smell of the perfume at the perfume counter must have affected me, and I had a seizure right there in the store. I placed my bag of medication on the perfume counter, turned around and saw myself in a mirror. "That's me", I thought. "What am I doing in there? How did I get into that mirror?"
This confused me no end, so I turned and walked out into the street. Unfortunately, I didn't know that they had dug a big hole outside where the street was being repaired. Oh, did I mention that it was raining? You have no idea what an idiot I looked as I pulled myself out of that hole, covered in mud and perfume and dressed in my best suit!
As the years went on, I began to lose any sense of hope for the future. I was a pensioner, with no money, no future and no hope of ever having a future. We were so poor, that my then wife and I used to do the rounds of the shopping centres looking for those free give-aways and cooking demos so that we could collect enough food to feed the kids at night! This was an endlessly hopeless cause for me, but I didn't know what else to do except to keep on battling.
One day, after having been rescued from a fall from our local railway platform onto the tracks, I determined that I need to do something radical. I called my neurologist and asked to be part of a new experimental surgery that had had some minor successes with patients with my condition.
The surgeon carefully explained to me that the surgery was not guaranteed and the risks were that I might be a vegetable or worse. I explained to him that I was already a virtual vegetable and that another fall off the railway station might mean death anyway. Basically, I had nothing to lose.
It turned out to be the best decision I ever made. The last seizure I ever had, was just as they were closing the incision in my head! Ten days after surgery, I was in the front yard, swinging a pick! I'm completely cured and these days, don't even take an aspirin.
Since then, I have completed university degrees, lived and worked in Japan and started businesses. While living and working in Japan, I made another important decision and married the woman who is now my right hand in the business. I've been everywhere and done everything including taking a position as the CEO of a remote Indigenous community in the middle of the Australian desert.
My surgery was only 15 years ago, so my life is basically only 15 years old. Now, I'm doing all the things that a pensioner with no hope, could never have done, making up for all the lost years.
Because of my condition, all the focus of attention throughout the years has been on me. One of the regrets I have is that my younger brother (whose billy cart we were riding and who witnessed the whole accident) was left with profound emotional scars from the whole affair and was allowed to slip through the cracks of emotional support, to struggle with his own "monsters".
This story is not just about me though. It's about what can be achieved by the human spirit when you make the choice to not let the "monsters" beat you.
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Barry Knights is the owner/manager of Australian Regional Business Development Specialists (ARBDS). ARBDS helps to build efficient regional businesses by automating procedures and providing training and mentoring. Our business-building process employs a holistic approach, dealing with every aspect of your business from your processes and systems, to you team culture and customer service protocols.
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