Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Learning Experiences 1 - Epilepsy

Not quite sure where to start...I want to share an experience that has captured my life for the last seven months or so.  It has also turned the lives of my wife and kids upside down, and affected my faith family, extended family, and friends too.  It has been a medical condition that I have had for over 20 years, but has only recently become more than a footnote in my life.  In fact, most of you, as friends and acquaintances have only come to know about this condition in the past few months.
I had my first epileptic seizure somewhere in the neighborhood of 12 years old. This is not uncommon for someone with JME or Juvenile Myoclonic Epilepsy. Until I was about 19, my seizures only came about 1-2 times a year, and always within the first 30 min or so after I woke up. They were triggered by sleep deprivation. I saw docs, took meds, nothing fixed it; just got my sleep, and was pretty good. 

In NC, marriage, ME, kids, and moving to GA, for 12 years, my seizures decided to vanish. No meds, do docs, back to getting up in the middle of the night--GONE.

Guess I'm allergic to GA, because since since I've moved here, they have returned (along with having to take meds for acid reflux and high cholesterol). Went to Peru one time and boom, they were back. No other explanation.  I believe that it had to do with spiritual warfare and us working in an area of darkness and absence of the gospel, because they always centered around Peru trips. Anyway, similar very predictable circumstances and similar frequency--rare and early in the morning around Peru trips.  So, took my meds, got my rest, was extra careful around Peru trips, and I was good.

Then symptoms (myoclonic jerks that sometimes accompany JME, and sometimes precede grand mal seizures, although with me, 99% of the time they didn't) increased.  So, my doc decided to try an additional medicine to control those.  It was a good choice, except that I had a bad reaction, and the jerks got better, but the grand mals got worse.  They went from one per year to one per month to one per week!  And so began the experience of having epilepsy take a significant spot in my life, rather than simply a minor side note (one of those boxes you had to check on a medical history form when you change doctors).

So now I have been through two more meds and their side affects, while coming off of the bad one.  I have been to the doctor more times than I can count.  I have been to the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville (wonderful experience, I truly recommend it to anyone who needs specialty neurological care).  There I think I learned more about my condition (including a firm diagnosis of JME) in 40 minutes than I have in 25 years.  I have been through multiple advanced testings.  And my family and church family has seen more seizures than they care to, and hope that they've seen the last.  Although, we are still not done adjusting and changing all the medications.

So I have shared all of this to say that the Lord has been so faithful.  His mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-24).  What I have taught with my lips for years to those who are suffering, now I know by heart, even though my trial is so minor compared to most. I am learning to count it a joy (James 1:2) as I fix my eyes on the genuine Treasure in the field (Matthew 13:44) and realize that health and driving and self-sufficiency are not my treasures; Christ is.  I have learned who my family truly is (Mark 3:33-35, John 13:35), as many have surrounded me, picked me up when I have fallen (literally), picked up my kids and taken them to school, called, emailed, come by to check on me, given me rides, etc. The verses about suffering working for me an eternal weight of glory (2 Corinthians 4:17), and not being worthy to be compared with the glory that will be revealed in us (Romans 8:18) have taken on a truer meaning.

And these are just some of the learning experiences, and I am sure that there are many more to follow.  There are two more that I want to tell you about specifically in the next two blog entries, Learning Experiences 2 and Learning Experiences 3.  Maybe these will minister to you.

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