When I was 12 years old I was diagnosed with epilepsy. I originally found refuge with the Dan Marino Center. I was treated using Depakote ER, which worked for the time; however, I grew immunity to it at the age of 17. I had convulsive seizures in school and had to be taken to the hospital multiple times. It actually caused me to miss so much school that I was unable to graduate senior year because I was short 2 half credits. This issue was only the beginning of my struggle; I also lost my front teeth during a grand mal seizure when I hit them on my handlebars while riding my bike to work, as well as lost my job after having a seizure at work at Boston Market; my manager considered me a “liability” and laid me off. It was 2009, I went to search for help, I called the Dan Marino center for help. Unfortunately they only treat pediatric patients, but they pointed me in the direction to an organization in downtown Fort Lauderdale. This place was Epilepsy Florida, I went in a boy who had a damaged smile, unable to drive, without a job,  no high school diploma, with a younger brother to care for (also with epilepsy).

Epilepsy Florida started immediately to assist me on the road to overcoming the seemingly insurmountable odds. They helped me get a neurologist to help with my treatment, as well as opened my eyes to the realization that I am not the only one living with epilepsy. The organization had awareness walks, annual dinners, social youth groups, art functions, and other ways to bring people with epilepsy support and assistance. Their services helped me get EEGs, medications, lab work, and doctor visits both neurological and psychological.  I was paired with Dr Marissa Prego Lopez as my neurologist; she helped me get the right medication to help me get less frequent seizures with the goal to become ultimately seizure free. I was taken off Depakote and placed on Keppra XR, I was still having seizures, but admittedly wasn’t taking my medication properly, wasn’t sleeping well and was stressed the perfect storm to cause seizures. Dr. Lopez was very stern with me and made me realize if I do not only take my medication properly and practice proper daily living I would never become seizure free and could potentially die. 

Epilepsy Florida with their caring staff, with special regards to my social worker Rachel Stevens, helped me build my confidence and faith, and I went to an alternative facility to get my High School Diploma, which I did within just a few months and graduated. I continued pushing forward never giving up, I found jobs to make ends meet; I was forced to ride my bike long distances to get where I needed to go. I went to every function they held as much as I could, I even met my soon to be wife at an epilepsy youth group! I have been with her for over 6 years now and known her for over 9. Eventually, I went to college and became a medical assistant, and even earned an associate’s degree in health service administration with a 4.0 GPA. I wanted to be able to help others the way that Epilepsy Florida had helped me. I now work at a medical facility called Better Care of Broward Medical Center in Dania, Florida doing just that, and on July 16, 2019 I will be 5 years seizure free!  I am driving and I live with my younger brother still maintaining care for him.

As for my epilepsy, I realized at a young age that I will always have to deal with this disorder. I will have to maintain a careful low-stress life and continue to stay on my medication as directed. I’m now on an alternative to Keppra called Briviact, a similar medication with better side effects. I go to the future with a positive mind and strong-willed attitude, and also will be with Epilepsy Florida for as long as I can.   

Carson Pedraza

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