Most people still don’t understand that epilepsy can be fatal and is actually a leading cause of death. Families like mine are very aware of the statistics. We know that we could lose our children while they sleep and that every seizure could be their last. Madeleine’s death was still a devastating shock though. She was a vibrant 16-year-old with her life ahead of her and a family that adored her.
Four times this month, the monster has won. Four times. Four mothers have been forced to bury their small children. Four kids are gone because of a disorder that most of the world still sees as non-life threatening in spite of the 50,000 people in the US who die seizure related deaths every year.
I was sitting on the couch a few days ago reading Facebook when another post stole my breath. A sweet girl was curled up in her daddy’s arms watching TV and then she was gone. No warning. No preparation. No goodbyes. Just gone. I looked down at my own little girl with her head on my shoulder and I felt my heart stop because as much as I try to pretend we’re OK, I know that monster lives in my house too.
I recognize that look in your eyes. It’s a mix of terror, despair, confusion and maybe a little bit of hope that this is all just a bad dream. Maybe you are still in the hospital waiting helplessly while the doctors try to stop the seizures. Maybe you are feeling broken having just received your child’s diagnosis. Maybe you are ready to curl into a ball and hide because it all feels so overwhelming. I’ve been there. I’m still there sometimes.
Many parents of kids with epilepsy are passionate about the push for medical marijuana because we understand the cost of every delay. Our children are dying while they wait for legalization. We have lost several children to seizures while they waited for their last hope to be approved by politicians who were more concerned with their own agendas than in letting us have access to a lifesaving plant. That is devastating and unacceptable. It is equally appalling that we would deny other parents the chance to save their children.
Alyssa was a foster child who legally belonged to the state and people of Texas. When Alyssa was abused, the state stepped in to protect her because as a society, we believe that it is our obligation to care for our children when they need us. When we refuse treatment that could give an innocent little girl a chance at normalcy and life without seizures or side effects, we are denying our responsibility to her, and other sick children in our country.