May 4, 2014
After eating breakfast with my family, I sat down at the counter opening my computer. As I started typing, I felt a familiar sensation – stomach dropping, breath quickening, heart racing. My throat began to close, as though a sock had been stuffed in my mouth. I leaped from my chair for a glass of water to alleviate my suffocation.
Beginning in September 2013, I started experiencing this frightening sensation every few months, for about 30 seconds each time. Between then and May 2014, I visited an array of doctors, all of whom diagnosed me with anxiety. But this diagnosis was far from correct, as my family and I would soon discover.
I swooned as I stood up from my chair, barely catching the couch beside me as I collapsed. The cool, smooth leather of the couch on my cheek was the last thing I could remember before losing consciousness.
I awakened to being wheeled on a stretcher into an ambulance. From there, scenes of my stay at the hospital — getting an MRI, an EEG, and blood work, spending the night, speaking to doctors and nurses — remain ingrained in my mind.
Ultimately, these tests showed abnormality through temporal spikes in my EEG, resulting in my diagnosis of benign rolandic epilepsy and a prescription of a drug to prevent seizures. The prognosis was that I would likely grow out of the epilepsy in my mid-teens, and I was discharged from the hospital.
Only now we had more questions than answers. Although we now knew that the sensation in my throat was due to partial facial seizures and a grand mal seizure had landed me in the emergency room, we did not know why. Why was I experiencing epilepsy? Although I was told that my medication would prevent future seizures, that was not enough to calm my spiking anxiety. My family and I were determined to identify the cause of my unexplained condition.
Although I had long been fascinated by scientific research, now the field of medicine and healing moved beyond intriguing technical data. It had become personal. I was living through it all, experiencing the phenomenon in real time as I visited a neurologist, acupuncturist, chiropractor, and more. Fortunately, I never experienced another grand mal seizure and the partial facial seizures ended in July 2015. But even though my seizures had ceased, they had left me with something that has stayed with me to this day: an underlying uncertainty about what could happen and a curiosity to explore the neurology and neuroscience fields.
No one in my family held deep medical knowledge, but we were determined to seek the truth. Alongside my family, I practiced the process of research, searching for answers, pursuing unconventional paths, and reaching out to specialists. And if any of them provided unsatisfactory answers, I’d continue searching and developing a perseverance to uncover the truth. Along my personal journey, my interest for neurology, particularly in pediatrics, was ignited.
My seizures faded, but my passion continued to grow. Naturally, when I entered high school and was faced with the decision of what community service opportunities to pursue, I knew that something related to neuro would perfectly align with my personal experiences and budding academic interests. I knew I had always loved working with children, especially growing up in a large family. As one of the oldest cousins, I constantly played and spent time with my younger relatives, teaching me understanding, sympathy, and patience; all of which were crucial characteristics for my future community service.
Soon, I learned of Friendship Circle, an organization in which teen volunteers are paired with special needs children to support them in a variety of activities, such as sports, art and crafts, and cooking. It was in this environment that my passion for working with children with neurological disorders flourished.
Creating bonds with the children that I spent time with, I learned about how they behaved, what they liked and disliked, how to help and encourage, and how to manage difficult situations.
With all of my experiences, I decided to create the Explore Neuro project (this website) in order to provide a resource portal to support children facing neurological challenges. Through interviews with experts and informative articles on current research and effective strategies for understanding neurological disorders, Explore Neuro aims to provide an educational, supportive, and interactive platform.