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Epilepsy Blog Relay: Maureen’s experience taking the SATs

March 8

This post is part of the Epilepsy Blog Relay™ which will run from March 1 to March 31, 2018. Follow along!

Over one million students take the SAT each year. This is my story of the SATs with epilepsy.

Every American teenager dreads the SATs. We learn the test format, memorize test makers tricks, and even review previous years questions. Despite preparing months in advanced, I never felt 100% ready and thoughts of the test day sent adrenaline pumping through my veins. Some say that your future depends on this test as it ranks us against our peers determining university choices. Scholarships are given to those that do exceptionally well and 4 years later this will make a difference in our career options.

Teachers drilled these messages into our heads, SAT study groups parroted the importance, and my peers had already determined what score they needed to attend their university of choice. It’s fair to say I was nervous to take the SATs! There is a ‘before the test’ regime that we all learn: be well rested, eat a healthy breakfast, don’t inhale copious amounts of coffee, etc. I followed this advice meticulously. Arriving early to my testing center at East High School on University Ave. and checking in with hundreds of other grim, zombie teens also following this advice. I was miserable for the forced punctuality on my Saturday morning and unfortunately at the time I had no idea that stress, fear, and fatigue were dangerous seizure triggers.

It started while I was walking up the marble staircase to the second floor. I could feel myself slipping out of consciences and beginning to fall but I flashed back to reality fast and attempted to catch myself. But before I could regain power to catch my fall, everything was black again. Dark to light to dark again, like a strobe light. My fall felt like an eternity, like slow motion, and the world around me seemed to be paused. Finally, my chin hit the floor and I was back in reality out of my time warp.

My TI82 Calculator went flying down the hall. A girl retrieved my bulky (hopefully not broken) calculator and placed her hand on my back as I got to my feet. “Are you ok?” She asked with concerned eyes. “Yeah, I’m fine. Thanks.” I blushed and lumbered down the hall to find my room. “How embarrassing,” I thought as I ducked into my room rubbing my scratched chin.

I placed my three #2 pencils, two erasers, and my TI82 calculator neatly on my desk. The proctor was a young teacher that looked almost as melancholy as the exam takers. She closed the door and began to read the instructions in a monotone, nasal voice. I watched her pace back and forth and that’s the moment that I felt myself slipping back into slow motion. “Not again…” I thought. A humiliating fall to the floor flashed through my mind. But this time was different. I didn’t flash back into conscious. My head fell back and I slipped right out of my desk onto the floor and started convulsing uncontrollably. And I assume 30 students watched paralyzed as I lashed back and forth.

I imagine some thought, “Is this a joke? Will she get in trouble?” And others thought, “how do I help her?” Unprepared students probably felt relieved thinking; “hopefully this gets me out of the SATs today!”  I don’t know if they took the test that day. I woke up in the hospital over 24 hours later unaware that I had attempted to take the SATs, unaware of where I was, and unable to answer what year it was. It makes me ponder all the terrible possibilities of how that day ended for me.

It’s possible I stood up and ran out of the room in a postictal psychosis state (psychosis after a seizure.) My behavior could have reflected a person with severe schizophrenia. I could have been wandering around the city for hours unaware of who I was or what was happening. Or, what I hope happened, is that the proctor called 911 and did her best to make sure I didn’t hit injure myself. But, I have no idea. That time has been lost and deleted from my memory. Which may be for the best!

I also share this story to encourage those with epilepsy to speak up and ask for test taking modifications.  Something as simple as having the test in the afternoon could help thousands of students. I also share this story to encourage people to learn and teach seizure first-aid. I want to emphasize the confusion, humiliation and time loss seizures can cause. Seizure first-aid should be something everyone is familiar, after all 1 in 10 persons will have a seizure in their lifetime.

What would you do if a peer had a seizure during class or a meeting?

NEXT UP: Be sure to check out the next post tomorrow by Rachel at livingwellwithepilepsy.com.  For the full schedule of bloggers visit livingwellwithepilepsy.com.

TWITTER CHAT: And don’t miss your chance to connect with bloggers on the #LivingWellChat on April 2 at 7PM ET.


Follow Maureen Knorr:
I’m Maureen, and I have epilepsy. You’re probably reading this because either you have epilepsy, or you love someone that has epilepsy. Whatever sparked your curiosity, I am happy to be sharing my experiences with you. From having seizures in foreign countries to begging pharmacists that don’t speak English for medication, I can definitely say that it's been an interesting journey. Hopefully reading about my ups and downs, and my everyday and not so everyday adventures will inspire you too! Welcome to my life of living well with epilepsy!

  1. Jane
    | Reply

    Maureen, you make such important points. Thank you for telling your story. The standardized tests are a big part of a high schoolers experience and when you have epilepsy it is truly even more difficult.

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