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Faces of Epilepsy
Michelle SulloMy name is Michelle, and I have had epilepsy my entire life, but was unaware of it for decades. I had seizures as an infant, and had to have medication then. The seizures may have been the result of a high fever. Later, everyone thought I had outgrown them, but I was still having seizures - just the partial kind, which aren't as obvious to an observer.
For as long as I can remember, I had what I referred to as "strange spells." I would be awake, and I would suddenly sense an odd burning smell, and memories from a long time ago would come flooding in. I'd feel frightened. There were no changes in my vision or hearing. It was like an old recording was playing at the same time as a current song. If I had a pen handy, I could write down what the memories were about - and frequently wrote down, "games like monopoly." It would only last a few seconds. I would remember the strange spell had happened, but I couldn't remember any details. Afterward, I would feel tired.
In my late 20s, I started writing down when it happened, and noticed a pattern. They seemed to coincide with hormonal changes. It wasn't until I mentioned it to a doctor that I was diagnosed at age 27 with temporal lobe epilepsy. I was put on medication, which didn't do much to stop these partial seizures.
I became pregnant with my son a decade later, and the pregnancy hormones caused the problem to escalate. I had some grand mal seizures. Thankfully, they happened at home, and I wasn't injured. Doctors switched my medication to Keppra because there would be less potential impact on a developing baby than the old medication. Thankfully, this medication worked great - and I am still on it today. It also has kept me free of the partial-seizures after pregnancy.
After my diagnosis, I reached out to the Epilepsy Foundation of Connecticut, which sent me information on how female hormones can impact epilepsy. I have been a newspaper reporter for two decades, and I currently volunteer for the foundation, trying to help with publicity. I hope my story will help others experiencing partial seizures to recognize what is happening so they seek the advice of a physician.