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Epilepsy Blog Relay™: Changing Stigma to Education

IMG_2658(1)This post is part of the Epilepsy Blog Relay™ which will run from June 1 through June 30. Follow along and add comments to posts that inspire you!

Rachel’s Story

First of all, I’d like to thank you all for reading this. It truly means way more than you know. Second, I’d like to introduce myself, for those that I have not met yet. My name is Rachel Ehrhardt. I’m from Houston, Texas and I am 30 years old. I began with febrile seizures as a baby until age four, and then they reared their ugly head again at age 16. I come from a family where three in my immediate family have epilepsy (father, sister, and myself) and a few in the extended family line as well.

One of my first memories I have of being treated differently others believing a stereotype/stigma was in high school. I had my first seizure in front of others at the age of 16 years old in the middle of debate practice after school. No one there had seen a seizure before. No one knew not to put things in my mouth. No one knew who or what to call. While I was in the ER the doctor continually asked and assumed that I was on drugs and would not listen to the fact that I had a history of seizures. That experience allowed me the opportunity to educate others what the disorder is–that no one regardless of a seizure can swallow their tongue; therefore this leaves no need to stick items in their mouths. This opportunity of my debate teacher not knowing (don’ t worry she knows now—I love you Mrs. Bell) what to do led me to having the full staff of my high school brought in for a seminar of what seizures are, the things to look for in their students, and what to do if a student does have one. After that seminar (with over 200 teachers) I found out that I had not only helped myself but there were 20 others students in the population of our school that had epilepsy as well and did not have a platform to be able to tell the staff of the school about their disorder.

Changing stigma

The second time I remember was a very big life changing experience. In 2012 I was driving my car back to Houston from a work trip in Dallas. I had felt off all day but did not listen to my body. About half way home I began seizing while driving going 80 MPH and went from the far left hand lane to the grass median on the far right side. The only thing I remember was waking up in a pool of blood. I will let you know first off that I sat in that pool of blood for over an hour. The state trooper refused to break open the window to get me out. They did not take me to a hospital and left me on the side of a road inside of an IHOP. This cop assumed I was on drugs and went ahead to report me to the Texas Department of Transportation, even though I was left on the side of the road in a pool of blood coming out of a seizure alone. He assumed I was on drugs and did not know my rights. I spent over 6 months with a suspended license. I had to go in front of a judge to prove to him that I really had not had a seizure in over 10 years and was medicated/ under medical care. I was given my license back thankfully and believe me I learned so much during that time about our rights and laws in Texas. I still fight this issue every single time I try and get my license. I have to prove to them that I truly know what I’m talking about and I am not on drugs. This has been one of my biggest passions the past few years is getting Troopers and Cops educated on what our disorder is and truly how to help them in times of crisis so this will never happen to someone else in Texas.

Thank you! I will not deny this road has not been an easy one, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I will also say that I don’t think I could ever get through this without the love and support of not only of my friends and family, but also mostly from my mom who is the only one out of our family that does not have a seizure disorder. She selflessly drives us to every appointment, Emergency Room visits, every test we have run, hospital stay, and the list goes on and on. THANK YOU!


NEXT UP: Be sure to check out the next post tomorrow at https://www.facebook.com/oheytherecutiexo for more on Epilepsy Awareness. For the full schedule of bloggers visit livingwellwithepilepsy.com.

DON’T MISS IT: Don’t miss your chance to connect with bloggers on the #LivingWellChat on June 30 at 7PM ET.

Rachel Ehrhardt
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Rachel Ehrhardt Streelman is from Houston , Texas. She has been a writer and contributor to Living Well with Epilepsy for two years. Rachel has had epilepsy since 9 months old. She comes from a family where her father, sister, and herself all have different forms of epilepsy. Rachel is married to Casey and they have a Cavapoo named Sheldon.

  1. Nathan Burling
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    Thank you Rachel!!! My brother and I have epilepsy… Ur blog gives us hope!! Big love from Australia!