by Shannon Kelly
It all began one lazy Sunday morning. My family and I had just finished eating breakfast when we saw a big cat in our field. Curious, I followed the cat from window to window.
I was at the den window when suddenly I had a strange, indescribable feeling, and bright rainbow colors began to pass in front of my eyes. Terrified, I turned
around to face my parents, who were still sitting at the breakfast table. “Mom, my eyes are going funny!” I called.
“Shannon? Look at Mom,” my mother said. But I was unresponsive. Mom called my name again as I suddenly blacked out and fell backward, my dad catching me as I slumped to the floor.
The next thing I remember was being wrapped up in a blanket in the car, held in my dad’s arms. Blinking awake, I softly said, “What happened?” My head hurt as if I had a migraine!
My dad answered, sounding relieved, “Honey, you had a seizure. We are taking you to the hospital now.”
I panicked and started crying, “No! No! No!” A boy in my class had a hereditary, potentially fatal disease, so I was afraid I had the same thing. We finally got to the ER and had to wait three or more hours before going to the back room, where the doctors could examine me.
The doctors wanted to keep me overnight to make sure I would be OK. I had Dad run home and get some stuff for my “sleepover.” Mom stayed with me the whole time.
When I had a second seizure a month later, a neurologist determined that I had epilepsy. I got on a medication called Keppra. For some people this may be a miracle medicine, but, frankly, I didn’t see how! I had a seizure while on this medicine, so we had to try another one called Lamictal. This turned out to be my personal miracle medicine, and I had to praise God for that!
There were some temporary restrictions until we made sure my new medicine would totally prevent my seizures. I couldn’t be more than three feet off the ground, which meant no horse trail rides or things like that. That was hard for me, because I live and breathe horses! I draw them, talk about them, and ride them.
Naturally, I signed up for a horse riding class at a summer camp when we knew my medicine was working. My neurologist gave me permission to ride, and that pleased me and my family to no end.
The camp director, though, was a little wary at first. “I don’t see why she can’t ride,” he said, “and we have the right equipment, but I have to talk to the horse director to make sure. She is a nurse, so it should be fine.”
I was very excited. Finally I could feel “normal” again! But the next day brought the hardest blow I ever thought possible: I couldn’t ride. “The horse director said that Shannon is a risk to everyone’s safety,” the camp director told us. “If she were to have a seizure on the horse, there could be runaway horses and injuries or death. We could be sued. I’m sorry.”
I cried all the way home. After all, my medicine was great, and I’d seen colors before my seizure, so I was sure I’d know when a seizure was about to start and be able to get down. My doctor had even said it was safe for me to ride!
That first week was miserable for me since I couldn’t participate in my favorite thing to do. I was also angry with God for allowing this to happen.
The last week of camp came around, and I dreaded it. I arrived for the trail ride day with the other kids in my class, but I didn’t see the horse director anywhere. Before we mounted up, the assistant horse director said that the horse director was sick. I found out that the other staff didn’t agree with the director’s refusal to let me ride. So I was allowed to ride that day. I even cantered up to the barn on the way back! From that day to the next, I thanked God more times than I could ever count.
I also learned another thing that bittersweet summer: our loving, amazing God is someone we can always count on through anything. He will do what is best for us, even though we may not like it. Now I am 13 and was baptized on my birthday. I gave myself to Jesus because I finally know that He is always there and cares about me more than anything in the universe.
My miracle medicine is still working. I now do my best to live by this text: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5, 6). Thank God for His everlasting love!
Shannon and her family work with the Epilepsy Foundation of America to educate government leaders about the needs of people with epilepsy. Shannon was chosen to represent Virginia at the Kids Speak Up conference in 2007, where kids with epilepsy meet with lawmakers. In April 2008 she and her mom met Congressman Bob Goodlatte from Virginia and presented a petition with 288 signatures they’d collected on behalf of a law to help people with disabilities.
“I wish people would learn that they don’t need to be scared to let someone participate in an activity or be their friend just because they have epilepsy,” Shannon said. “I want people to know that we are just as normal as they are. Just treat us like they would any other normal person.”