Cumberland Teen Discovers Epilepsy No Barrier to Finding the Super-Hero Within
If this video is representative of her ability, there can be little doubt that Cumberland High School senior Amy Irons has a future in speech and debate at whatever university is fortunate enough to enroll her. Her mastery of construction, vocal modulation, and audience engagement are evident as she launches into a vivid presentation revolving about the story of someone who inspired her.
Amy, who was diagnosed with epilepsy in her sophomore year, discovered all at once that her brain activity is four times faster than what is considered normal, making her sort of “like the Flash.” Except instead of engaging in fabulous adventures in her own comic book, Amy found herself experiencing horrifying seizures. “Zone-outs,” as she termed them, the absence seizures characterized by brief lapses of awareness and often accompanied by blank staring, led to a loss of confidence, a terror of participation in school activities, and a fear of having constantly to explain herself to others.
Giving a shout-out to one of The Matty Fund’s many invaluable endeavors, Amy describes volunteering at Camp Matty, and how an “optimistic” five-year-old girl became her own personal super-hero, teaching her a lesson about self-confidence, self-definition, and inner strength. And in the tradition of the best of such inspirational anecdotes, Amy provokes and emboldens each of us as well.
Amy Irons’ Oratorical Full Transcript
Before I tell you my story, I want to ask you one question. Have you ever had someone who has inspired you? For many people, this could be their parents, teachers, older siblings, or maybe even someone famous. I have been extremely fortunate to have my family, friends, and teachers to support me through my struggles. However, the person I look up to the most happens to be a five year old girl. This proves that you don’t have to be more experienced, or even more knowledgeable to make a difference in someone’s life.
At the end of my sophomore year, my life was forever changed when my doctor confirmed something I knew deep down was true. I was diagnosed with Epilepsy, a neurological disorder where brain activity moves four times faster than normal, causing one to have seizures. I often joke that my condition is similar to the Flash, aside from the fact that I can’t run fast. I will never forget the night I had my first seizure, waking up to five EMT’s sitting on my bed, watching me like I was a goldfish in a tank. That year I had four full body convulsions, something that makes you feel so sick, even dizzier than coming off one of those simulator rides at Universal. But what I experienced during my junior year was even worse. Epilepsy also causes absence seizures, something I had multiple times each day before they found a medication for it. For someone witnessing it, it looks like the person is staring into space. And for the person, it is as if time stops. I would often have these while walking to class. My brain would shut off, and my legs would usually take me to the wrong location. I would also have them during conversations, which was even more embarrassing. These absences, or “zone outs”, as I would call them, hindered me from participating in conversations and completing my schoolwork because of how often I was having them. Due to this, my confidence plummeted, making me terrified to participate in school activities, anxious that I would have a seizure and have to explain myself. There were also many tasks my doctor thought would take forever for me to do. Driving was number one. My mom noticed how my confidence slowly disappeared and knew that something had to be done. During that same year, we reached out to a foundation called the Matty Fund for Epilepsy, where they were hosting a day camp for kids that April vacation and needed volunteers. I knew that this would be a great opportunity for me to meet some kids living with the same disorder. Little did I know how impactful this experience would be.
During my first day of camp, I realized that these kids were living with more than just Epilepsy, but with numerous developmental and physical disorders on top of that. But, this didn’t stop them from participating in arts and crafts, horseback riding, and outdoor activities. This is the camp where I met my role model, a sweet 5 year old girl, living with Epilepsy almost her entire life, causing her to be delayed in speech and fine motor skills. I was immediately drawn to her, the smallest kid there, who wore a bright, contagious smile on her face the entire time, even through the cold, rainy days at the camp. She is also one of the most optimistic people I have ever met, not letting her disabilities get in her way, and someone who I became very close with during that week.
On the last day of camp, all of the kids and counselors like myself played a large game of kickball. After making it all the way to the third base, the little girl watched the next player up to the plate. It was after he kicked the ball that instead of running, she looked up at me and moved her arms frantically, in a motion that meant “up up up!” I then realized what she wanted from me. I scooped her up in my arms and sprinted as fast as I could, not as fast as the Flash, of course, but fast enough to avoid the ball hitting us. Her giggling, cheering, and smile only made me run faster and faster and before we knew it, we stumbled over home plate. This girl had just scored a run for her team, and I was honored to aid her in this accomplishment.
And that’s when it hit me. Not the ball, thankfully, but this idea. This little girl, someone with multiple disabilities had successfully played in a game of kickball and she did not let anything get in the way of what she wished to do. Imagine this girl in a few years from now. What will her first days of school be like, or her first dance? What about driving or college? Everything in her life is a little more difficult because she has to overcome her delays. For a while, I was terrified to do the things I loved, in fear that my seizures would hold me back from them. A year ago, I wouldn’t have been able to do something like this, speaking in front of close to 700 people. This little girl proved to me that I can’t define myself as “Amy with Epilepsy”, but just Amy, because it is possible to overcome my fears, and just have a little more confidence and faith in myself.
This was the best gift I ever received, and I got it from a 5 year old girl, someone who may not even know how much she means to me. She taught me that our disorder does not define us, and that it is possible to be in control of it.
So, through high school, college, and life in general, there will be hardships, and times that will catch us completely off guard. But, you have to remember that nothing is impossible and that deep down, you are much stronger than you know.