The teenage years can be difficult for anyone, as any teenager - or parent of a teenager - can attest. They were especially challenging, however, for Jake, now age 19, who was first diagnosed with epilepsy at age 14.
“All of a sudden, I passed out in the middle of my English class and had a seizure,” Jake says. “When I woke up, I was in a hospital bed with my parents beside me.”
That hospital bed was at Children’s Medical Center Dallas and marked the start of Jake’s now five-year journey as a patient at the Epilepsy Center at Children’s, the largest pediatric epilepsy program of its kind in the region.
His initial diagnosis left him in shock. Jake was previously a healthy kid, very athletic, with no prior symptoms.
“It made me very anxious,” he says. “I felt like I had my whole life ahead of me and had no idea what this meant for my future or what to expect.”
Fortunately, he soon met Dr. Rana Riyad Said. Dr. Said is a member of a passionate group of physicians at the Epilepsy Center at Children’s Health, dedicated to caring for patients with this complex condition. She, Jake and his parents discussed a number of treatment options, including controlling his symptoms with medication or through a specialized diet. They determined that medication would be the best route to take and began working together to determine the correct dosage and combination of medicines to get the best results.
“Dr. Said has been so great,” says Jake. “She made me feel like I wasn’t the only one going through this and constantly reassured me that we would find something that would work for me so I could get back to living my life.”
There’s no question he has faced his fair share of challenges over the years, but Jake has maintained a positive attitude and believes it’s given him a perspective far beyond his years - especially after attending Kamp Kaleidoscope, a summer camp designed specifically for teens living with epilepsy.
“At camp, nobody cared if you had a seizure - it was ‘normal’ to them,” he says. “And, as one of the older campers there, I wanted to be a positive influence to the younger campers to show them that someone with epilepsy can do anything they want to.”
Today, Jake’s symptoms are well managed. He still has twice yearly check-ups with Dr. Said, but hasn’t had a major seizure in several years, which he calls, “the best gift of all.”
He says he’s grateful for the care he has received at Children’s and has a few “words of wisdom” for others who may be going through the same things he did.
“Just take it day-by-day,” he says. “It’s easy to feel helpless when you’re going through it, but trust your doctors and they will do their best to work with you to find a solution; you’re going to be ok!”