Epilepsy: a blessing in disguise

Though+her+epilepsy+has+changed+her+life%2C+Eden+Fernandez+%28%2717%29+sees+it+as+a+blessing+in+disguise.

Photo Isabel Hanewicz

Though her epilepsy has changed her life, Eden Fernandez ('17) sees it as a blessing in disguise.

Morgan Felt, Staff Writer

The sounds of unsteady breathing, the beeping of the heart monitor, and the scent of latex gloves filled the air as Eden Fernandez (’17) laid in a hospital room.

“Everyone just kept telling me I was going to be okay,” she said.

But after having just been diagnosed with epilepsy and experiencing her first-ever seizure, she was unconvinced.

Epilepsy is defined as a neurological disorder that can be genetically inherited or can be caused by an acquired brain injury, and the main symptom is seizures. However, other more minor symptoms include fatigue, headaches and minor amnesia. At the age of 11 years old, Fernandez was unknowingly battling these symptoms.

“For a long time I was having what my family called ‘episodes’,” she said.

These ‘episodes’, as Fernandez describes them, were her primary symptoms of epilepsy. She would feel very tired and often just overall very sick, causing her to miss a lot of school in as early as fifth grade.

“Then I had my first seizure, and that’s when my family realized these weren’t just ‘episodes’; this was serious.”

I was just sitting in the bed, crying, telling [the doctor] he was wrong”

— Eden Fernandez

That happened in eighth grade. At home, during the day, she started having a seizure, and her parents immediately rushed her to the hospital, where she was examined via multiple blood tests and MRI scans and given the diagnosis of epilepsy.

“I was just sitting in the bed, crying, telling [the doctor] he was wrong.”

After being diagnosed she was in complete denial, until it started getting more serious and the seizures became regular.

“I came to a point where I was just pushing through the school day just hoping I wouldn’t have a seizure.”

When high school came around the seizures quickly became more frequent, from monthly to weekly and at their worst, daily.

I came to a point where I was just pushing through the school day just hoping I wouldn’t have a seizure”

— Eden Fernandez

Fernandez wasn’t able to go to school after the middle of her sophomore year, and left Robinson. She then became completely schooled online, although she was unable to move quickly because of the irregularity of her life caused by the seizures.

When the seizures began practically taking over her life, Fernandez and her family knew it was time for a change. They decided to opt for an invasive brain surgery in order to hopefully stop the seizures.

“I was laying in the hospital scared out of my mind, my mom and dad on either side of me both in tears,” she said of the surgery. “I was of course terrified, but I just felt like I had to be strong.”

Besides minimal memory loss and an occasional feeling of a loss for words, Fernandez has made a full recovery from her surgery. She had been seizure free for 15 months since the surgery until a few weeks ago when she had her first post-surgery seizure.

Fernandez returned to Robinson this school year and attends school for a half day. She is elated by all the positive support she has received from everyone in her life, and despite the difficulty her epilepsy has put her through, she continues to look at it in a positive way.

“I’ve had so much support from my friends at Robinson, and all the teachers,” she shared. “Just going from a seizure every few hours to not having a seizure in months is so incredible.”

Just going from a seizure every few hours to not having a seizure in months is so incredible”

— Eden Fernandez

Because of her experience, Fernandez is passionate about spreading awareness for epilepsy and speaks to other kids with epilepsy to share her story. She even helped a girl make the decision to get brain surgery very similar to hers.

“Before I found out I had epilepsy, I thought seizures were this weird freak things that only happen in movies,” she said. “But epilepsy is actually a lot more common than you might think, and people need to be aware of this.”

Even though epilepsy has undoubtedly impacted her life, Fernandez sees it as a blessing in disguise.

“It’s brought a whole new light into my eyes. Like yeah, having seizures isn’t fun, but I wouldn’t have made the amazing connections and gotten the opportunities I have received without it.”