Going to school with a seizure disorder

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Going to school with a seizure disorder: a teenage boy is sitting at a desk receiving feedback from their female teacher.

Going to school with a seizure disorder

When I entered high school, I had a full beard and a medical condition - a seizure disorder - that wasn't under control with medication. In junior high, I was called Abraham Lincoln because of the beard; however, no one knew about the seizures. I didn't even tell my friends about it. It was embracing when I had a seizure. I kept to myself and hid my feelings about it. 

I didn't want to go out in public much because I feared people's reactions if they saw me have a seizure. One time at home, I had just climbed a flight of stairs. When I reached the top, I had a seizure and fell down the flight of stairs (I didn't hurt myself then). On another occasion, I had a seizure and ended up scraping my head on the concrete sidewalk. I ended up with a cut to my head. The seizures usually only lasted for about 10-20 minutes. 

Read more: Dating someone with epilepsy

I had a driver's education class in my sophomore year of high school. I needed a note from my doctor to take the course (because of the seizures). In my state at that time, I had to wait one seizure-free year before I could get my driver's license. I didn't get my driver's license until I was 17, the same year I graduated from high school.

Years later, I would drive a bus part-time for a non-profit. I needed a seizure exemption from the Federal Motor Safety Administration as part of the DOT medical exam. I had one, and the doctor who performed the DOT medical stated that he's never seen one in the 25 years he's been practicing. He said they don't give them out too much, and I had one (that made me feel good). In 37 of driving up to that point, I had also never had a demerit point on my driving record. 

Without my teachers support, going to school with a seizure disorder may not have been possible

I had an English teacher, Miss Hartley, who I liked a lot during my sophomore year. She took an interest in her students. A local newspaper used to have a weekly football prediction contest during football season. I would make my picks during her class; sometime, she would give me a pick or two. Fortunately, I didn't have a seizure in her class (I would have felt so embarrassed if I had).

In my junior year of high school, the intensity and frequency of the seizures increased. I missed a lot of time from school then. One class was Paramedical biology with Mr. Sworgley. One day in his class, I had a seizure (I felt embarrassed and ashamed). I was sent to the nurse's office. As I was going downstairs, Mr. Sworgley said, "I didn't know." (I didn't want anyone to know about it). 

That year, two teachers I had were a bright spot for me. A Math teacher, Mrs. Greenwalt, and an English teacher, Miss Neidigh, both of whom took an interest in their students. One day in Mrs. Greenwalt's class, I had brought in a copy of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, and I remember asking her if she would wear one of the swimsuits in it. She replied that she didn't have the body for it (I felt so bad for her because I couldn't understand how she could feel that way. To me, she did have the body for it.). I also knew how having a medical condition made me feel about my body. One day in Miss Neidigh's class, she shared with me how she missed a school day when she was growing up to go to a Beatles concert. 

Read more:  Epilepsy and school - something people will never understand

On another day in Miss Neidigh's class, she shared with me that she would have arguments with her brother-in-law (who was a secret service agent) as to who had the more dangerous job. She said she always told him he had a gun (at that time, school shootings were unheard of)

My parents took me out of school for a couple of weeks in April of that year so that doctors could run several tests on me. Eventually, my doctor found a medicine that controlled the seizures.

My reworked lyrics "To sir with love"

I was truly blessed to have teachers that took an interest in you. I never got the chance to thank them and tell them how much they meant to me. I reworked the song "To Sir With Love" lyrics for them.

Those schoolboy days

Of drills and writing skills are gone.

But in my mind 

They will still live on and on.

How do you thank someone

Who has taken you from pretension to reading comprehension?

It isn't easy, but I'll try

If you wanted the sky

I would write across the sky in letters

That would soar a thousand feet high 

"To Miss Neidigh and Miss Hartley with love"

The time has come

For closing books and long last looks must end

And as I leave

I know that I am leaving my best friend

A friend who taught me from fractions to functions

That's a lot to learn

What, what can I give you in return?

If you wanted the moon

I would try to make a start

But I would rather you let me give my heart "To Mrs.Greenwalt love"

Belated gratitudes

Recently I went on Facebook to find my former teachers. I found Mrs. Greenwalt and messaged her about my thanks, but I haven't yet gotten a response from her. I did, however, find a relative of Miss Neidigh who passed on my version of "To sir with love"  to her. She liked hearing from me after 40+ years and finding out what a positive impact she had on me. She also liked the reworked lyrics. 

I still don't know what happened to Miss Hartley. She stopped teaching at my high school right after I graduated. Miss Hartley, wherever you are, I hope you are well and hope you know the impact you had on me (Thank you).

After 43 years of driving, I still don't have a point on my driving record. I still have the beard; only people call me Santa now (only the hair color has changed)


Without my teacher's support going to school with a seizure disorder may not have been possible | ©Valerii Honcharuk / Adobe Stock