Epilepsy - My Story

by John Howieson

Am I an Epileptic? Technically I would say yes. But I am one of the lord's luckier ones - it is totally under control. But this wasn't the easiest task. Let me explain:

As a youngster, about 3 years old, it was discovered that I would have staring spells - usually about 1 minute long. Our family physician forwarded us to a neurologist, and I was diagnosed epileptic.

Over the next 13 years, I was a guinea pig for many different types of epileptic drugs. There was one new one in the late 1960's which did work in a trial. However the manufacturers decided it was too expensive, and decided to put it to rest. But in 1971, my neurologist said he had an idea that my case would be curable by surgical means! And so I was forwarded to a neurosurgeon, at the Montreal Neurological Hospital.

I was admitted, and over a period of four weeks I was put through my paces. These included physical stress tests, different injections of chemicals, psychological examinations (I think I gave my psychologist her own tests:) One of the tests was to determine which of many bodily functions was controlled by which side of the brain. Through this, they determined for example, that my speech was controlled by the left side. And yes, when I had a seizure, I just "lost it" when speaking!

When all the tests were over and done with, I was released and told to come back in about a month's time. And when I came back, I was ready for some serious business. This visit took three weeks, the first of which they labored strenuously to control my acne, knowing that it might aid infections, which around surgery are dynamite.

And then came the surgery, a grueling 12 or more hours under the bright lights and scalpels. Then into the cold recovery room for five days! My father worked a short distance away from the hospital, and came in for a visit each and every morning. On the 4th day of post-op, things were not looking good. My father called Mom on the phone (no cell phones then, eh?) and my mother heard him cry for the first time ever. But in less than 24 hours, my mother got a "good-news" phone call! Things were on the mend, and life ahead just kept looking better!

Over the next few years I:Ketogenics

  • Headed to Agricultural College
  • Got a driver's license
  • Got off medication
  • Was told I could "drink" in moderation

Over the course of time now, I finished my Diploma in Agriculture, invested in land, cattle and machinery, and we were steeped in hard work, but a life we enjoyed which is unquestionably affiliated with all walks of nature and the universe. We spent eight full years on a farm where if there was a stone at all on it, it was probably imported! We learned many of the arts involved in growing quality, voluminous crops, and were beginning to see the results of our genetic selection and good nutrition of dairy cows, with healthy animals and high and profitable production.

And in the course of time nearing the end of those eight years, we had committed to selling that farm and buying another, about 60 miles away. And just weeks before the move . . . I had a seizure. This seizure was induced by my driving a pickup truck, which had holes in the floor but worse, had a hole in the exhaust manifold. My father & I were driving to the local agricultural fair one evening, when my father began shouting "what speed are you driving at?" To which I said "I'm doing 50 miles per hour." To which he said "you're driving too fast." I said "I'm not driving too fast." And the argument began to get heated . . . when suddenly I had a seizure!

It turns out that Carbon Monoxide while it's free of taste, smell or color, is difficult to detect. But it does cause tremendous mood swings, as illustrated there. As things turned out, I began to convulse, feeling as though I had hundreds of volts of AC electric current across my arms, and was able to pull off the road, and stop the truck.

So the epilepsy was back with fairly similar seizures. After a few months, I was able to see my original neurologist, who then introduced me to tegretol (carbamazepine) which handled the situation perfectly for the next 18 years! But when I went back to visit my neurologist one day in 1999, he wrote me another prescription but said "this'll be your last prescription."

I said "and what if . . . ?" He said "you'll just have to do like the rest of epileptics, and move to the city and take a bus." He explained that over the 18 years, we had reduced the tegretol med's to well below the lowest recommended level, and he felt there would be no problems. But I wasn't so sure!

In April 2000, my family physician & I conducted the appropriate research, where I stopped taking the meds. Well after 12 days without - BAM! I was at my dentist's, and where as luck would have it, while I was being looked after by a Registered Nurse who was familiar with epilepsy, in preparation for dental work - I had a huge seizure! The nurse said I was "out of it" for 45 minutes. And hence thereafter my family physician has prescribed the tegretol.

According to my family doctor (as was the case with my neurologist) the blood level of the drug is on the low side, but I never miss a beat or have any indication of seizures. And I'll likely be on it for the rest of my natural. It's not difficult to take, knowing the definite consequences. And so with all that behind me, I consider myself to be one of the luckiest epileptics alive! I haven't had a seizure since that time, in the year 2000 and currently drive an 18 wheel truck. As I applied for the commercial license, I learned I needed to be 5 years clear of seizures, which was just weeks around the corner ;)

So it just goes to show you, don't mess around when things are working for you smile!