by Dan Dougherty~It is late spring of 1972 and I am in my mother’s dreams. On June 8th that dream was fulfilled as I came into the world, but gave my parents an unexpected shock of a lifetime by seizing the moment. I went into fetal distress and the doctors took their good old time in taking me by C-section. For four days straight, I was in the hospital with all these crazy tubes and wires connected to keep me going while I decided to have non-stop convulsions. It was my stubbornness and the grace of God that allowed me to survive.
For the first ten years I was a relatively healthy boy who loved to play! When I was ten years old, I contracted viral meningitis. A few months later I was sledding in the park and had a seizure at the bottom off the hill. The seizure was scary. The world was spinning, I was throwing up and screaming scared. After many tests, I was diagnosed with epilepsy.
I continued with seizures and the experience of the trial and error of medications. Dilantin gave me a rash. Phenobarbital made me very, very irritable. The years of trial and error of medications had been very frustrating, but a stubborn part of me never allowed this demon to knock me down totally. This internal strength and a supportive family allowed me to get through school until I finally graduated from Cheltenham High School in 1991!! A lifetime milestone that will never be forgotten!!!
I went on to take a few part time jobs until I landed a job at my church for seven years in 1995. During this whole period up to and including 2001 I lived a life of constant Grand Mal seizures. The medication mixes never could help the seizures to be milder until I was put on Trileptal along with two other anti-convulsive medications. Only then was I able to live with less severe seizures.
Now with the less severe seizures, I had the opportunity to go onto college. I entered Philadelphia Community College. I only lasted a week. My sensitive nervous system could not handle the stress of higher education. At the same time I was taking a medication for seizures that had a side effect that put me emotionally out of control and I landed in the psych unit! This experience forced me to start a journey of individual therapy and antidepressant.
I would like to begin by saying I was not happy making the decision to get therapy. I walked out of the therapist office a couple times. It is very hard to admit I need help from another person!! I used to say to Marianne (my therapist): “I am paying you to listen to what I can tell a friend. “ As years went by my weekly meeting with Marianne progressed to help deal with living with epilepsy, especially getting out all the crap to the point of crying a few times.
Here I am, forty years later at the end of 2012, fully accepting uncontrolled epilepsy as part of my life. What a peaceful feeling!! This could not have happened without Marianne’s help. The bonus of my past experience of thirty years: I am now an advocate and public speaker for epilepsy!! Only God knows what is next as my life’s story continues to unfold!!
Dan Dougherty is 41 years old, a resident of Glenside and a graduate of Cheltenham High School in Wyncote. He is a person with epilepsy and is a volunteer with the Epilepsy Foundation of Eastern PA.
As a member of Professionally Speaking Toastmasters in Jenkintown for 7 years in April, he is currently the Vice President of PR for the Club. Living with epilepsy over 30 years and using the public speaking skills from Toastmasters, Dan now is an Epilepsy Advocate to raise awareness to the public.
Dan has shared his experience with epilepsy on the Irv homer Radio Show & Internet TV show. In 2013, Dan spoke at several local Pennsylvania Rotary and Kiwanis Clubs. Dan also had the opportunity to speak to Jefferson Nursing students. He is now reaching out in his 2014 speaking tour to raise awareness of epilepsy. Recently was at a recording session at WHYY for a future Pulse radio Show.