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This is My Story
This is my story.
Horseback riding, skiing, hopes and dreams all seemed to have gone down the drain after being diagnosed with epilepsy at the age of 10 during November, 2003. The tears kept coming when I was further diagnosed with Juvenile Myoclonic Epilepsy and learned that I would have it for the rest of my life. Then the first day of middle school came around. All in all, I attended about 1.5 years of middle school, spending most of my time on the couch coming out of a tonic clonic seizure.
All that I had worked on towards with riding and skiing disappeared. My dream of going to the Oympics? I felt that I had to forget about it. Now, eight years later, I am able to tell a story that never existed in my life. With a supportive family with me every second of everyday, we found a solution so my Olympic dream would never be lost.
I've been jumping horses since I was five years old. A titanium helmet and an inflatable vest was all it took. Everyone falls off their horse, because of a seizure, an accident, or just because it's part of the sport.
The inflatable vest is connected to my saddle. If I fall off, it the buckle connecting it comes off and releases the air cartridge stored in the side of the vest. The cartridge inflates around me, protecting the back of my neck and all internal organs. I compete in what we call jumpers, which focuses on how fast an individual completes a course with no faults, such as a rail down or a refusal. The first time I had a seizure competing on a horse, it caused me to go blind in the middle of the course. I was unable to move and went over a few jumps before actually coming to. Fortunately I didn’t fall off the horse. It obviously was additional entertainment for the crowd as they wondered what the heck I was doing.
I've now had three Tonic Clonic seizures on my horse and she will usually sense when they are occuring and stop. In September 2010, I went to my first "A" horse show. It's a more advanced level of showing. There, I was the only junior rider in my class, competing against a group professionals. Perla, my horse, and I competed four days straight. We went for the money on the last day, and placed third and fourth in my divisions. Tight turns and the time of my life allowed me to become Reserve Champion. Even on a Bad Brain Day (BBD) I'll go down to the barn and give Perla a couple treats or just ride. This instantly turns my Bad Brain Day turns into a Better Brain Day. Perla and I are now jumping as high as 4'3" with hope to jump even higher in the future. Olympics here we come – eventually.
I learned to ski before I learned to walk, joining the freestyle ski program when I was seven. The early mornings were hard and I missed a couple years of skiing trying to get a hold on my epilepsy. The chairlift wasn't the safest place for me to be. Solution: a climbing harness, daisy chain, and carabineers. We cut off the legs on the harness and put it through the belt loops on my ski pants as if it were a belt. Attached to it was a daisy chain with a carabineer on the end. I take the daisy chain and throw it around the back of the chairlift, and then connect the daisy chain to the harness, just like a seat belt, but the buckle is the carabineer buckled into the harness. After countless years in the program, competing around Colorado, the program director asked me to be a coach in training. For three more years I interned as a coach and became a more aggressive skier in the moguls. For another two years I was an assistant coach. And finally, I became a paid coach, still learning everyday. In 2009, I received my Professional Ski Instructors of America Level One Certification. Every year, before the season starts, I participate in a parent-coaches meeting where I introduce myself, share my situation, and provide them with information. Some of the parents shake my hand, while others walk away. When I find out who my group is on the first day, I tell them about seizures, what to do when a seizure occurs and what my harness does. Most of the kids want to ride on the chair with me to see the harness. I've found knowledge to be the key to living with epilepsy. This past year I interned with a ski patrol. On my third day interning with them I had a seizure and fell into a patroler's arms as we were heading up to do avalanche control. Later I found myself in a toboggan with oxygen.
I stay away from the pool, the steering wheel, scuba diving and a couple other activities. Overall, there's a solution for every challenge you come across. It's just about having an open mind. If I snorkel, I wear a life jacket and there's always someone with me. When rafting, I always wear a life jacket. If I need time alone, I make sure my parents know where I am and what I am doing. Plus, we always have a "check in" time.
I recently received a service dog from Canine Assistants. Georgie is the cutest golden-doodle, with a wagging tail and wet nose that I wake up to after a seizure. Georgie’s definitely much better than an EMT stranger. She’s attached to my hip at all times, walking down the graduation aisle with me, coming to the barn, taking her up the gondola. Without Lady George, my life wouldn't be as independent as it is now. She turned my world upside down, providing me with freedom I never thought I'd have. Goodbye couch and hello Georgie! She has my back whenever needed, and not needed.
I hope to become a veterinarian technician and an Emergency Medical Technician. I ride along with a vet clinic and love it. In 2010, I became first responder certified as a start to my EMT. This Fall, I will start college and my EMT course. Next fall, I'll plan to start the vet-tech program.
There's always a solution.You only live once so be sure to not have any regrets because you were scared to do something. There is no such thing as normal. Everyone has something in their life to deal with, even if it's not health related. Go to www.channinggeorge.com to find out the solution for you.
- Channing Seideman