Chris Horvath's Epilepsy Story
My name is Chris Horvath. I'm 35 years old and live in a little town called Ridgefield, Connecticut, USA. On the morning of July 5'th, 1977, I woke up in the morning and had the first of 13 grand mal seizures. My neurologist in town attempted all the known drugs at the time to try to control the seizure activity to no avail. These included various combinations of phenobarb, dilantin, and tegretol. None of these combinations worked.
I entered a facility that was being overseen by Dr. Mattson at the Veterans Administration Hospital in West Haven, CT. It had been set up for the sole purpose of dealing with stroke and epilepsy patients who could not be controlled using any of the standard medications available at the time. The procedure used by the facility to bring my seizures under control follows.....First, EEG wires were *glued* to my scalp so that I would be able to be monitored at anytime during my 5 day stay at the hospital. These wires were brought down into a box that was clipped onto my belt. Video cameras were mounted in front of the beds in my room. In the next room was a machine that showed a split screen. The top of the screen showed the eeg and the bottom showed the video. The purpose was to show whether a twitch, knee jerk, blink, or any other potential seizure sign was just a nervous reaction or indeed an seizure. When the doctors wanted to monitor me, they would have me lay down in bed, plug my eeg box into the wall, and start the video camera. The first time this was done, it showed that I was having between 25 and 50 petit mal seizures per hour. It is beleived that these seizures showed up due to the fact that I was removed from all medication 24 hours prior to my initial monitoring.
I was then placed on what was then a brand new drug that the FDA had just approved for use here in the states that had been used succesfuly in Europe for quite a while. It's now the familiar Depakene of the Valproic Acid family.There was a movie made about the use of Valproic acid featuring Jerry Lewis about the fight to bring it to the United States to use. I do not remember the name of it. Does anyone else? Anyway, the Depakene reduced the number of petit mal seizures down to around 5 per hour within 2 days. The dose at the time was 1000 mgs.This was combined with a 600 mg dose of Dilantin per day.I have not had another grand mal seizure since leaving the hospital.:) Since then, I have been taken off the Depakote and my dose of Dilantin has been reduced to 500 mgs per day.
I started and continue to operate a driving service based here in Connecticut whereby I drive cars all over the country for people who re-locate to or from this area and for people who spend their winters in warmer climates and would like their own cars with them during the duration of their stays. When I am not driving cars and rental trucks long distances, I am busy driving my customers, in their own cars, back and forth to the New York City area airports. Henceforth my screen name. Its what I do:) I am reviewed every year by the State of Connecticut to make sure that I still am indeed seizure free.
I have two beautiful daughters, aged 8 and 15, who I have tested every year for any signs of seizure activity. So far, none has shown up in either of them.
All my grand mal activity was at the same time of the day. Within the first hour of waking up. The auras were very short, but they were there and my parents learned to recognize the signs after the second or third seizure. A blank stare followed by an all out run followed by the collapse. I did remember the "blank feeling", but not the running or the collapse. We lived in a ranch house with stairs leading down to a basement. My parents watched me very carefully when I first got up in the morning for any signs of my aura. Once they saw the blank stare, my dad would run over to the door leading to the cellar, close it and stand in front of it. This, without a doubt, saved me from further injury during at least 4 of my seizures. I feel that it is very important that those around you learn to know, if at all possible, what kind of an aura you have. This is *just* as important as what they should know if you have an actual seizure in their presence. As I just mentioned, I only remembered the "blank feeling" during the entire course of my seizures.
The following is what I was told happened to me. Immediatly following my collapse, I would exhibit all the signs of a standard grand mal seizure. The actual seizure would last around 3 minutes or so. I would then remain totally unconcious for another 2 to 3 minutes. Then my eyes would open and I would look around "blankly". This would last around 20 minutes or so. During that time, I would not respond to any questions or statements from anyone. I do *not* remember anything during that entire time.The next thing I would remember, after the blank feeling during my aura, was lying wherever I happened to have the seizure and seeing my parents looking down at me. After the third or fourth one, I think, I would realize that I had another seizure.
Dr Mattson and his team, to this day, can not tell me for sure why I was seizure free for the first 17 years of my life if indeed I was. The major consensus seems to swing towards the fact that I was what is called a"forceps baby". This means that when I was delivered, the doctors used a set of forceps to remove me. The thought is that my head actually reached its mature size, around the time I turned 17, and possibly exerted some kind of pressure that may have triggered the seizures. In their opinion, this would explain the reason why I have not grown out of it and still require medication.
Someone asked me once how I felt about being an epileptic. Obviously a question that can not be answered that easliy. I guess it would be that it has taught me to appreciate the little things in life that I used to take for granted. It taught me how to *truly* live and not just exist. It taught me to take care of myself physically and emotionally. It has not been a blessing or a curse for me. It's been a learning experience like none other that I have ever experienced. To those who are not under control, I would like to offer this advise. Hang in there and do *not* give up on yourselves!!!
Thanks go out to all of those whom I have become friends with and who have shared their stories with me and I would especially like to thank Chris and Debbie Wilson for allowing me to tell mine.:-)
Best Wishes....Chris Horvath