Rachel’s Story

2021 Educational Enrichment Fund Scholar - University of Michigan

My brother, Steven, is 3.5 years older than me and was diagnosed with epilepsy at age 5. As a result, I’ve always known about the struggles people with epilepsy face because they were intertwined with my childhood. From his experience with the ketogenic diet and the family switching our own diets along with him, his strict medication schedule and planning family outings around that, having surgery for a Vagus nerve stimulator, and more I’m well aware of the journey of epilepsy. Overall, Steven’s experience with epilepsy has made me empathetic and extremely curious. I’ve learned to see the world from his perspective. I try to understand him being frustrated by daily seizures that interfere with his thinking and reading abilities while also preventing him from activities many of us take for granted such as driving. Steven is brave and positive, but I also know it must be scary to lose control of his body. Caring for him in these moments has made me a better caretaker for everyone in my life and makes me always alert and ready to help. In a more academic sense, Steven’s experience has shaped my interest in the brain.

As a Biopsychology, Cognition, and Neuroscience and Biology, Health, and Society double major, I constantly find myself putting my classes in the context of his life. The brain fascinates me, and I am passionate about studying it more. In high school, I felt a need to educate my school community on seizures and how to care for someone having one because I know the proper care is so important and I wanted to raise awareness. I also planned and held a Flywheel event where I raised over $1300 for an epilepsy program that helped treat my brother.

Now in college, I wanted to find a way to explore the brain and epilepsy more deeply, which led me to my interest in the Loddenkemper Pediatric Epilepsy Research Internship which I was accepted to for this summer. I must do it for course credit through college, so this scholarship would help me cover that cost. This research internship would allow me to gain a better understanding of epilepsy, and actively contribute to research that improves the lives of patients with epilepsy which would be incredibly meaningful personally. The lab’s mission statement is to create a world free from seizures for all children through early warning treatments and to further the understanding of epilepsy for the medical community, families, and patients through clinical data, while also reducing the stigma of epilepsy. By participating in this research, I would better understand epilepsy and be able to raise awareness more effectively in my community through more events than I’ve planned in the past. Additionally, I hope to use this internship to assess this work as my future career path where I would ultimately be able to affect the most change in the epilepsy community through directly caring for them and actively researching based on skills I will learn this summer.


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