Sweat pouring, the flip of a card in the spokes, the wind hitting my face, I willed myself up that bridge. I had to build up speed to avoid encountering the shame of pushing my bike uphill. Finally, I was at the top, relief, and then my life changed forever. I obliviously rode my bike directly into a grade change in the side walk and then through an inconveniently placed hole in the fence. Almost fifty feet later I hit the ground. When I regained consciousness -- I knew something was wrong. I lifted my battered and bleeding nine-year-old body and walked as far as I could and blacked out again. Almost twenty years later one would never know because of that fall I have spent the majority of my life battling epilepsy.
The battles were hard and many times I considered giving in, because I felt like I was at war with myself—constantly battling something that was a physical part of me. My civil war began in 2001, my junior year in high school. Before then my seizures were few and far between small skirmishes that eventually evolved into an all-out war. The Fall of 2001 marked the first onslaught of my internal invader. Embarrassment, fear, pain, and insecurity plagued me. The stigma of epilepsy shrouded the understanding of people around me, my closest friends disappeared, and I was forced to take home bound classes because my episodes were “too much of a distraction”. After nine months of a home education, medication, and doctor visits my seizures subsided, and I was able to return to school. My invader slowly retreated but sporadically employed guerrilla tactics striking at the most inopportune moments. Despite the continuing seizures I earned a choir scholarship, received Pell grants, and took out loans to finance my undergraduate degree. I worked two jobs; attended school full time, contained my disease, and became a first generation college graduate. After three and half years of hard work my dedication, and hours of studying paid off.
Following graduation, I worked as a teacher and began attending graduate school. I knew in the back of my mind the disease was slowly gaining ground, but I could not deal with the encroaching reality; my epilepsy was waging war once again. That denial culminated in an epileptic assault on my body and mind that completely altered my life. I experienced multiple seizures a day for months. Countless hospitalizations followed, and an extremely long seizure that resulted in my heart rate dropping to 28 beats per minute, and eight days of hospitalization. The guerrilla tactics were over, and I was once again in the throes of a full scale civil war. I had to fight, call in reinforcements, and utilize every avenue at my disposal. I accepted indigent care, applied for and received social security disability, and lobbied a company on the cutting edge of epilepsy care to donate what would become my secret weapon. Cyberonics donated a state of the art VNS (Vagal Nerve Stimulator) and a local surgeon agreed to install the device for free. The device worked a slow and steady reduction in seizures occurred over a nearly two year period. As the seizures subsided I began rebuilding myself, physically, emotionally, and intellectually. The battles left my body and mind a war torn waste land. My vision was constantly blurry, I had to re-teach myself basic social and intellectual skills, and I had to regenerate the courage to move forward with my life. My reconstruction was difficult, and I took painfully small steps to recover. It took months to regain my mental facilities, I could not work for over a year, and it took even longer to regain my confidence and fervor for life.
A scar the size of a pen tip ripped my life apart, but made me who I am. I learned to persevere, accept help from others, and help those around me. Overcoming my disease was not easy, and I was admittedly extremely fortunate. The stars aligned for a poor, uninsured, epileptic from rural East Texas, and I survived because of help from others and personal determination.
(Personal Statement Examples, Advice, Critique, . . . )
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