Kaiti’s Story

By: Kaiti Valadez

As a 20-year-old student sitting in an Elementary Art Education class, the last thing on my mind was “Will I have a seizure tonight?” In fact, I’d never had a health problem in my entire life. Little did I know, my life would change that night—right in the middle of an art class.

The day my life changed was really no different than any other. I drove myself to work, worked eight hours, and then drove to my night class. I’d been doing this routine for over a month and was only two years from my teaching license. I still remember the lesson, and I still remember what I was so upset about that night…

Being an Army fiancé was something I’d become good at—until I got the call that he was leaving to help build hospitals in Liberia during the Ebola outbreak. Of course, I had to deal with it; that’s what a military spouse does. Three days had passed since that news, but it was still weighing heavily on my heart. When my professor started talking about losing a family member, my body had finally had all the stress it could take.

I woke up on a gurney, swearing up and down that I did not have epilepsy or a history of seizures. I was so confused and dazed that I couldn’t even tell my peers or the EMTs how to unlock my phone and contact my parents. At the hospital, it took me 10 minutes to remove all my piercings so they could give me a CT scan and then an MRI. Then it hit me—I could no longer drive until this was all straightened out and I was seizure-free for six months. That’s when I lost it. I was losing my partner (temporarily), my freedom, my health, and probably my mind.

Fast forward two months and a ton of seizures later… I fooled a very good neurologist. I did, indeed, have epilepsy. I wasn’t just “having seizures.” No driving until I could go six months without having an episode. My parents, grandparents, sister, aunt, or uncle got me to school each and every night. I adjusted to constantly being asked “Are you okay?” and depending completely on the people around me. My sister would have to babysit me in the shower; my aunt would babysit me when I had to resign from my job; and I spent many nights next to someone who would make sure I wasn’t having seizures in my sleep.

As if losing my freedom and independence wasn’t enough, I was looked down on for wanting to teach when I had epilepsy. I had dreamed of being a teacher since at least the third grade, and I couldn’t imagine giving that up just because my brain didn’t agree with the amount of stress I’d put on myself at times. I pushed through, no matter how many people thought I should give up. I’ve never been a quitter, and I was not about to start.

My first seizure was September 14, 2014. Today is January 25, 2017, and I have my teaching degree. I have my own classroom and 21 kids that know better than to give up on their dreams. Have I had a seizure at school? Sure—teaching is STRESSFUL! Am I going to let someone tell me I can’t do this job because of something that made me who I am today? Not a chance.

Epilepsy has changed the way I look at everything. It has changed who I am. If I had the chance to go back and reduce my stress, I wouldn’t. It may not be convenient, but this disorder made me who I am. If you ever feel like you should give up because of something standing in your way, don’t. Look that barrier in the face and say, “Not today. Not EVER.” There may not be a cure, but that’s just another reason to fight.